The legend of the Jonathon Swift Silver Mines is well known in Kentucky. Thousands of Kentuckians have spent time and money in search of this legend. Numerous books, maps, and interpretations of the Swift legend have been studied by amateur prospectors, hobbyists, and folklorists in search of the lost mines. Versions of the Swift maps are probably in the hundreds, and based on the ambiguous descriptions, every county in eastern Kentucky could probably claim to be the location of the Swift Mines.
The Swift legend reports that a vein of pure silver ore existed in eastern Kentucky and was mined by an Englishman named Jonathon Swift during the late 1700's. Some ore was supposedly smelted into coins and taken to Virginia, while the remainder of the ore and coins was hidden in caves in the vicinity of the mines.
Reported maps and journals of the mine and travels of Swift were first chronicled by John Filson, a noted early Kentucky historian, surveyor, and biographer of Daniel Boone and Jonathon Swift. Filson was an eloquent, creative writer; but he apparently had some personal and financial interest in the promotion of these mines, which calls into question his motivation for extensive writings and glamorous promotions of the reported Jonathon Swift Silver Mines. It is very unlikely that there is any natural occurrence of gold, silver, or any precious metals in the Paleozoic rocks of eastern Kentucky. Based on geologic studies, the surface rocks in eastern Kentucky are not a favorable site for gold or silver exploration. The Kentucky Geological Survey has had hundreds of inquiries on the Swift Silver Mines from every county in eastern Kentucky, and our investigations of these claims found nothing to substantiate this legend.
For more informtion on gold and silver, see Minerals page.