Jellico to host a lost treasure forum

More Than A Day Away by Mike Steely

On Saturday, December 9, I’ll travel up to my hometown, Jellico, to be part of a forum about a lost treasure tale there. Years ago I published “Swift’s Silver Mine and Related Appalachian Treasures” and the book became a hit with treasure hunters and history buffs from West Virginia to Georgia.

Most of the book focused on the 1760s legend of claims made by Jonathan Swift, an Alexandria, Va., historic figure. His cryptic “journal” had many variations and contained landmarks and clues to the locations of silver mines and hidden coins.

Jellico plays into the legend because of Pine Mountain there which stretches from Scott County to the West Virginia line. I wrote of living and dead treasure hunters who combed the region, including the Jellico area, for the lost treasure.

I’ll be joining my long-time friend and fellow researcher and community leader Roy Price. Roy and I will be joined by Ed Henson, the former Kentucky State Parks Director, and also a treasure researcher and book author. Several other Swift buffs have said they hope to attend.

Jellico’s legend centers on the Clear Fork River area south of town in an area known as Primroy Hollow. That section in the famed “Narrows” has tall bluffs, rock shelters, and an old tale that Swift mined and camped there. The area also has tales of stolen Union payrolls, lost Indian loot, moonshine stills and family wars.

I became interested in the Swift legend after my late grandmother told me of family men finding lead in Pine Mountain while searching for the treasure. They never found the silver but the idea that my family had looked for it interested me.

While editing the Pineville Sun newspaper in 1970, I found myself in the middle of the Swift legend there as well. So I began researching the main character, his associates, and the many, many places in Appalachia with a related legend.

As the newspaper guy in Jellico years later, Roy discovered an odd carving on Pine Mountain near the Frakes community east of Jellico. When Roy and I spoke about the legend here and there I was always the skeptic. Together we researched the legend and then sponsored a “Swift Silver Mine Weekend” in Jellico for a few years. The effort got noticed by WBIR’s Bill Landry who brought his crew there and did several Swift features on “The Heartland Series.”

My finds in the search and research included a surprising find with a metal detector just outside a cave. I didn’t think about finding an arrowhead with a detector but decided to give it a shot. Turns out the arrowhead is mostly silver. While still a bit skeptical, I still have the relic and I’m proud to own it.

The Swift event will be held at the Jellico City Hall at 10 a.m. and the public is invited. It’s a free event being held by the city as that little town tries its best to promote itself and various events.

My book did very well for several years and is still available online and from Overmountain Press in Johnson City. You can also follow the Swift research on Facebook on the Swift Silver Mine page.