According to the legend of John Swift, in his own words, claimed he was a captain of a ship and owned a company of sailing ships. He says he was a successful business man transporting merchandise from both England and the seas around Cuba. Though he never claimed to be a pirate there are some modern day Swift researches that believe he may well have been a one.
In one version of the supposed journal Swift wrote down himself he gives a brief description that he and some others in his company sailed to Cuba. Now Swift worked off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts and though the so called golden age of pirates was several decades before this time, piracy on the high seas has never stopped even until this day. Swift never actually states under which flag he sailed but it would likely have been the British or Colonial flag. His venture to Cuba also meant that he was comfortable sailing into Spanish waters. The British and Spanish, though hostilities had been resolved between the two nations, still moved in their separate domains. The Spanish having taken control of South America and the British moving to take North America. Britain by Swift's time had become enemies with France. This resulted in the French and Indian alliances trying to hold back the westward expansion of the British via colonial expansion.
Though this is a much simplified description of the times, Swift claims to have lived actually during these times. These were also the beginning times of the American revolution. In fact, John Swift says by his account to have found out about the rich silver mines from befriending a French prisoner captured by the troops under the command of British General Braddock. Daniel Boone and John Finley both were in this army as wagon team masters. At this moment of our history colonist and British troops fought a common enemy, the French and Indians.
It has always been an amazing concept that one day a French man is a POW to the British and in a few years this same man is leading the American born British citizen to silver mines. And beyond that, instead of smelting the silver into ingots and moving the silver out, Swift devises a scheme to counterfeit the newly smelted silver into coins. He says the coins were English Crowns created under the skillful hands of former mint worker Seth Montgomery who joined Swift on his adventure. The idea, of course, was that British money was the money for the colonies.
Strangely enough, most of the larger treasure discoveries of the Appalachia country actually turn out to be Spanish silver coins, the ones like found on so many ship wrecks of the Spanish ships that ferried the riches from Columbia and Peru. Some of the finds have be quite impressive. These coins were the type most commonly captured by pirate ships marauding the American coastline all the way to the Florida Keys.
Bill Gibson of Elkhorn City, Kentucky made an astonishing discovery several years ago. While searching, following clues and by pure chance Bill stumbled upon a cache of buried coins somewhere on the Pine Mountain in that region of the state. The coins are not British counterfeits. They are Spanish pieces of eight and some think they are counterfeit. Whether they are or not, the fact that real coins of silver were discovered hidden in a rock shelter/cave somewhere in the very region that Swift says he was during the mid 1700's is truly amazing.
One thing we all seem to forget about in the drama and excitement in following the Swift legend is that Swift and his party of men were certainly committing a high crime. So one can logically conclude that perhaps Swift, if he really existed, was not a very truthful person and capable of other crimes beside this obvious one. Perhaps Swift and his company of men acquired their silver from Spanish ships and simply escaped into the mountains to hide their plunder and not be hanged. Of course, we will probably never know about this and perhaps I and others are simply over extending our imagination regarding the Swift lore. One thing is for sure, Bill Gibson found buried treasure and those silver coins never got there by themselves!
If you are new to this blog site, I invite you to take a look around in the archives of previous posts located over here on the right side this page. You will find lots of great information and photographs. The subjects are varied and not all Swift related but are uniquely Kentucky.
And if you would like to read my novel based on the Swift legend you can get your copy here. It's a fun and adventurous romp through history and modern day Kentucky.