THE HERALD Grayson, Ky., Friday, Nov. 27, 1903 Col. John Thomas Ratcliff an old citizen of Carter County, died at the home of his son M. K. Ratcliff near Carter on the 15th last aged eighty three. He was born in the county of Greenup in the year of 1829, moved to Carter county about the time it was formed. In that era he was a saddler, many of his saddles are still in existence which were made by him from the stump. He was an active man always engaged at something laudable. In 1849 he represented the counties of Carter and Lawrence in the Legislature of Kentucky where he was _____ the interest of his constituents. He was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of Jacob Kibey by whom he had several children of whom M. K. Jacob and Mrs. French Gilkerson are still living. In 1861 he went to Prestonsburg, taking with him a company of soldiers and joined the southern confederacy with which he stayed until the surrender at Appomattox. Returning home he spent the remainder of his life in hunting silver of which he was thoroughly convinced the mountains of East- ern Kentucky abound in. He and his friends spent a large fortune searching for a silver mine and passed away before finding the coveted metal. He had a long and eventful life, always surrounded by devoted friends and bitter enemies. A positive man in all things, naturally gave him both. Peace to his ashes.
Submitted by: David Tucker
Winchester Kentucky, February 4, 1904 The recent death In Carter county, Kentucky, of Col. John T. Ratcliff, a lifelong searcher for the famous “Swift silver mine,” re-moves one more of the many people from all parts of the country who have spent their fortunes and their lives in a vain endeavor to locate this mine, which is almost like a mirage in a desert, so far as finding it is concerned. Through most of the counties in Eastern Kentucky have these tireless searchers gone, and today there are people in these mountains searching for this long-lost mine, as their ancestors searched before them. If they ever find the mine they believe they will be richer than they ever dreamed of being. The mines have been searched for in Bath, Menifee, Rowan and Carter counties, but very few traces of them have ever been found. Certain it is, though, that there is such a mine located in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and each of the searchers has though the perhaps would be the lucky one, and weeks, months and years have been spent, hoping and almost fearing the next day would see them wealthy. The history of Shift’s silver mine reads like a romance. Your correspondent has received the following information from old inhabitants and older histories regarding’ this mine: John Swift was a native of North Carolina and came to Kentucky about 1765. His journal, secured by an early Kentucky settler, says: "On Sept. 1, 1760; we left between 22,000*and 23,000 dollars and crowns on a large creek, running near a south course. Close to the spot we marked our names—Swift, Jefferson, Munday and others—on a beech tree, with compass, square and trowel. No great distance from this place we left 115,000 of the same kind, marking three or four trees. Not far from this place we left the prize, near a forked white oak, and about three feet underground, and laid two large stones across It, marking several stones close about it. At the forks of Sandy, close by the fork. Is a small rock which has a spring on one end of it. Between it and a small branch we hid a prize under the ground; we valued It at about $6000. We like- wise left $3000 buried in the rocks of the rockhouse." And this is the treasure that has lured thousands of persons from home ,family and friends to the Kentucky mountains. Swift was driven from his Kentucky mines by hostile Indians, and returned to North Carolina. He had considerable money with him. and this his neighbors thought suspicious. They caused his arrest on a charge of counterfeiting. Swift was tried, but made an effort to prove that he had not engaged in manufacturing money. He produced some coins which upon examination proved to contain more silver and to be better than regular United States money. There was no United States mint at that time, and the circulating test was the purity of the metal used. Swift then returned to Kentucky and attempted to relocate his mine, but without success. Cinders were found in Carter county which, upon examination, showed a large percentage of silver. About the beginning of the nineteenth century three Indians vame to Wolfe county. Ky. They stayed around their camp several days »'nd finally went into the mountains. Men who attempted to follow them were warned away. The Indians returned to their camp after several days’ absence, laden with heavy canvass bags. They left immediately. People of that section followed their trail into the mountains and at length came to a large pit in which were twenty-seven large pots in three rows of nine each. An unused road three feet deep led to the basin containing these pots. In this road were trees apparently 100 to 125 years old. This is believed to be the famous mine.
Submitted by: Glen Haney - grhaney at gmail.com