Skip to main content

Swift People

     By now you know I have fond memories of the Swift legend and lore. Whether it is ever found or ever even existed is not the point to me. The point is basically in two areas and one of the main reasons I choose to write a historical fiction. My aim was to do basically two things. First, I believe this legend of lost mines of silver ore and hidden treasure in counterfeit coins worth millions to be the oldest known, recorded and kept continually "alive" passed down through the generations. It likely predates our countries independence and most certainly predates the formation of the state of Kentucky. Isn't it worth keeping alive for the next upcoming generations? I think so. Secondly, the searchers and dreamers of recent years and today are interesting and amazing people. Those who live in Eastern Kentucky will likely know or have known someone who searched for the lost treasure. I have met many over the years and can easily find hundreds on Facebook, TreasureNet and other online resources. I am listing here some of those folks that have impacted me the most in keeping this story in the back of my mind-always. Some I met in my childhood; some I have only had the pleasure to meet recently. All have an amazing amount of knowledge about both Kentucky history and the variations of the lost silver mine stories. Some here are now gone from us while others are a "new" generation of seekers and buffs that carry the famous legend forward to yet new generations to come.
Michael Paul Henson 
    So I write my book based on the best historical evidence of the real people of the time and the activities of modern day treasure hunters. Of course, I speculate my own personal theories throughout the book. We will never know the minds of the early pioneers and why such a story of riches was uncovered or contrived. Either way it absolutely makes for a great story.
    Most of my posts that relate to the Swift treasure and obviously promoting my book deal with various aspects of Kentucky history, places and landmarks. But those people, those wonderful and driven people who were not and are not afraid to follow their dreams if for nothing more than the pure pleasure of the hunt, they are worth mentioning as much or if not more than the story itself. The Swift hunters, as they are often called, study, evaluate, and scrutinize documents, clues and field sites testing their theories. They are not crazy or nuts as some skeptics and disinterested person have been known to say. They are providing the rest of us the service seeing this legend remains alive past our days. I think that is a nice thing and I hope you do too. 
    I would like to devote today's entry to a few that I have had the honor and pleasure to have met or been in contact with over the years. This is by no means an exclusive club. There have been thousands over the years to take up this strange chase or hobby, call it what you want. These are just the few I have encountered and I wanted you to meet them.
    Perhaps to the Swift hunters themselves, the "Dean" as they often refer to him, is Michael Paul Henson. Paul followed after the treasure tale for many years amassing a huge amount of information including about every variation of the "Swift journal" that was around. He published books ( the first books) on the subject and numerous articles for various magazines. Paul was the go to man for nearly every Swift hunter and was known all across the country. Also, Paul was my cousin. His books are still sought out in libraries today by people looking for confirmation and clues to their own search efforts. Since Paul's first books several others have written and published books on the topic and there are more coming out every year. So far as I can tell my book Swift is the only novel written with the Swift tale as subject matter for the fictional account.
Mr. Tipton and his mine workings on the South Fork of the Red River
   My dad and I were driving around the headwaters of South Fork of the Red River and happened upon Mr.   Tipton. He had excavated half the side of a mountain and told us on this visit he was pretty certain he had found the vein of silver ore that John Swift had mined. He certainly had moved a lot of dirt and rock. I can't say for sure whether he did or did not find any silver. He showed us a rock that looked to me to be galena (lead.) It was shiny like silver but I did not think is was the real ore. I never heard anymore whether or not 
     Back in 1992 I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with Reverend Charles Allen of Sand Gap, Kentucky.  Sand Gap is located in Jackson County.  I met Mr. Allen at his home and spent most of the day with him hiking back to an area he believed he had discovered the silver ore that Swift and company mined. Charles Allen was not your average silver mine hunter, though he had claimed to have found the workings.  He had carefully identified the correct light houses, various rock landmarks and creeks.  The area he  identified was, indeed like many areas, located under and around one of the many sandstone rock houses that exist all along the escarpment of Eastern Kentucky.  It was an enjoyable day to be sure and and he was remarkably fit. This man, in his 70's, nearly walked me to death that day and I recall having a difficult time keeping up with him. 
Charles Allen, claimed to be descended from Swift and to have found the mine
     Charles Allen was a silver mine hunter to be sure but his special gift; his uniqueness among all the rest of us was his claim to be a descendant of John Swift.  Yes, that's right, Charles Allen claimed to have very accurately traced his ancestry back to John Swift and beyond.
     OK, I know, this sounds like a wild tale and I have no way to confirm other than the paper he gave me that day when I departed, very tired and with samples of iron hematite-no silver on this visit.  Now the serious researcher can easily find that John Swift married a Virginia woman named Ann (Nancy in some accounts) Roberdeau.
  Charles Allen claims  John Swift married a Cherokee woman of the Red Cherokee Tribe living in the area that is now Jackson County, Kentucky.  Without going into a list of genealogy records, Mr. Allen claims that his great, great (I think four greats) grandmother was one Theina Renfrowe.   Theina, Allen insists, was the daughter of John and Dandelion Swift.
Mike Steely, author of books and articles about the legend
    Anyone these days should not go searching for any treasure in Kentucky, Tennessee or Virginia without taking along a copy of Mike Steely's great book, Swift's Silver Mines and Related Appalachian Treasures. Mike published this work back in 1995 and to this day is one of the best collections of treasure stories of the region to be published and one can still get copies from and other online sources.
    Mike also worked with others in the community of Jellico, Tennessee to put together a weekend devoted exclusively to the John Swift Silver Mine. It was not a festival, but rather an event that brought Swift searchers together in one place to share ideas. Sadly, the event is no more.
     During this past winter Mike and his son were in the process of filming the documentary      
Roy Price, well known researcher in the Jellico/Pine Mountain area
at Cumberland Falls State Park. Mike had invited Roy Price to be filmed telling about some of the early history and Swift information he had around Southern Kentucky and Northeastern Tennessee. This was the first time I had met Roy Price even though I was acquainted with some of his research and experience on the subject of Swift. I listened to Roy speak about the early history of the Falls area and realized Roy was a treasure of knowledge about the Swift legend. Now days I follow Roy's posts and adventures into the cliff country of Tennessee. 
Timithoy Belcher, historian and Swift  researcher in the Breaks area on Pine Mountain
    If you are ever near the Breaks in Pike County, specifically Elkhorn City and there is an event that Timithoy Belcher is attending and speaking, go see him. Tim is quite amazing in all the knowledge and information he has on the Swift legend as well as other lost treasures in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. I met Tim at a book signing in Elkhorn City a few months ago and had a most learned and enjoyable experience ever on the subject of treasure. The fact of the matter, Tim pointed out to me that more mysterious treasures have been found along the Pine Mountain than in any other area of the state.

Albertson Search Party 1960 searching in RR Gorge 
    Back in the sixties there were Swift hunters  from Virginia under the leadership of Eddie Albertson searching heavily in the Red River Gorge. This particular group spent several seasons and tremendous expense exploring the region on the headwaters of Chimney Top Creek in Wolf County, Kentucky. In fact they discovered what they claimed to be one of the furnaces prepared to smelt the silver ore. Present day Silver Mine Arch near the Koomer Ridge Campground takes its name from the fact it was discovered near the supposed silver smelting furnace was discovered.
Kiowa Scott Muncie searches in the Red River Gorge 
      One of the new generation Swift lore and treasure hunters is Kiowa Scott Muncie. Kiowa's primary search area is the Red River Gorge. He actively explores the cliff country, retracing every landmark and clue that is available. Kiowa has even posted some very interesting articles on this very blog site and I must say has come up with some pretty unique twists and ideas on the possible location of the mines. He also has a Facebook page devoted to the silver mine legend.
    There are many more of you out there and some of you I am friends with on Facebook. I do apologize for not listing you here and this listing by no means is an attempt to represent anything other than some of those hunters, researchers and dreamers I have had the good fortune to come into contact with over the years.
     If you have questions or wish to make contact with any of these fine people, just leave a comment below and I will be happy to forward to them. Perhaps you can share and learn from them or if this is all new to you  then join in the search and help us keep the legend alive!


  1. I am the son of Eddie Albertson and will be making a trip to Red River Gorge very soon and would like to meet with you. Please contact me if this is possible.


  2. Amazing! Your father was one of the modern era of the Swift searchers. I recall them coming to the gorge area and talking to my dad about the many rock formations of the area. The silver mine arch is named in honor of your father and fellow treasure hunters.

  3. Bill pointed out to me that the photograph on this post associated with the Eddie Albertson party did not appear to be any of the folks he recognized from those days. I used this photo from the collection of my father but perhaps it was mislabeled. It is one group of silver mine explorers from that time period. I do apologize to readers of this error in identification but let it represent the many who have searched.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Flint Types of Eastern Kentucky

For those folks interested in archaeology and/or geology you no doubt have considered the flint (called chert by geologists) that all those arrowheads you've seen or in your collection are made from.  The colors, textures and behavior of the amazing substance various greatly and for many years, in fact up until the early 70's only the major identified primitive quarries type of flint were recognized in archaeological research. Little effort or attention was paid toward the raw material of those beautiful and finely crafted tools. Geologist performed little better simply noting in their field work that some beds of lime stones contained chert though sometimes the chert was described in detail.
    That all changed in the early 70's as the result of pioneering work on flint classification for sources found in the eastern part of Kentucky. This undertaking was done by Larry Meadows, Garland Dever and Ed Henson. Yes, yours truly was fortunate enough to know these two very …

The High Rock Petroglyph

What do you think the strange symbols carved on this sandstone boulder represent? The High Rock Carving is certainly one of the most mysterious antiquity found in the Red River Gorge country.  We did a previous post  about this strange rock in August, 2012. Discovered underneath a small rock shelter near the High Rock fire tower, the carvings were discovered on one loose boulder in the shelter. In the late 70's the boulder was removed from the rock shelter by the Red River Museum and Historical Society placed at the museum in Clay City, Kentucky. It was felt that vandals and artifact collectors would soon end up destroying the unusual carved stone. In fact some of the surface appears to have been chipped away, perhaps portions already removed by vandals.    The carvings have many varied, curved shapes including concentric circles and shapes that may represent animals. Additionally, there are numerous holes and other features. Some of the rock has been lost likely by the weathering …

Broke Leg Falls

For sure one old landmark in eastern Menifee County Kentucky is Broke Leg Falls. The Falls has been a tourist stop along US Hwy 460 since the 1940's and before. It was a place for picnics and adventures into the rough rocky terrain the likes of the Red River Gorge. It's location on once a major highway along with the pristine beauty of the box canyon that the stream formed no doubt contributed to the popularity of the Falls.
    The Falls is about 80 feet in height but much of the year has a small water flow. But over eons of time the Falls and stream have carved out a magnificent canyon retreating nearly to the crest of the ridge.
    Located in Menifee County Kentucky, Broke Leg Falls has been a popular tourist spot for travelers of the US Highway which is located only a few yards from the falls. A popular landmark since the 1940's, the Falls was privately owned. Visitors could pay a dime and get to hike the short distance down into the box canyon to view the Falls…