Aroused Suspicion in Settlements
By Dan Graybeal
Back in "civilization" there were those who were growing suspicious of John Swift s
company. For several years now, Swift and his confederates would disappear for months at a
time only to return with considerable wealth.
Swift sensed a threat of claim jumping and did not return to the silver mines during
the summer of 1767.
Assembling the largest pack train they had used thus far, the men departed Munday s
for the mine on October 1, 1767. Swift considered this a successful year
and departed the mine on April 1, 1768, for Alexandria. His party chose to go by the way
of Sandy Creek and Fort Pitt, meeting with no major problems.
Apparently less concerned about the threat of claim jumping, Swift s party departed
Alexandria on June 4, 1768, and arrived at the mines on July 11, 1768. This was a successful
year but the Indians were troublesome. Swift and some of his companions
departed the mines on October 26, 1768. They went out by way of Sandy Creek and were
ambushed on the Big Sandy. Campbell was killed and Hazelett and Staley were badly
They arrived at Munday s house on December 14, 1768. Hazelett died December
24 from his wounds. Two horses were stolen from them by the Indians and their lading had
to be concealed at the mouth of a large creek running generally east.
They marked some beech trees so they could locate it on their return trip. He made a
trip by places where he had buried treasure in 1763 and 1768 and found everything as they
had left it. He made no mention as to whether he retrieved the treasure.
It is not known whether they were headed to Alexandria or to Munday s house.
This could be a vital piece of information. After the ambush they may have gone to
Munday s house because it was closer and the wounded needed medical attention. However,
the upper mines may be located in Kentucky, if they had previously planned to go to
Munday s by the way of Sandy River or one of its tributaries prior to the ambush.
In January, 1769, they had to make settlement with the "Scotch Company", the
company that controlled their shipping interest. The settlement was not easily made since the
Scotch Company saw that Swift s Company had prospered in all their enterprises.
The Scotch Company took advantage of the nature of their business and extorted a
great sum not their due. Swift s company reluctantly paid the amount, fearing worse to
come upon them. They settled their business with the Scotch Company, never to deal with
The British government owned and controlled the colonies. Nearly all the land
west of the Blue Ridge belonged to the colonial government. Therefore, if the government had
known that silver was being mined illegally, they would have taken over the operation, by
force if necessary. Subsequently, the king of England would have extracted a large sum of
taxes from the colonial silver mines. Swift s people and the Scotch
Company knew this. Swift entrusted the protection of the Scotch Company for the
disposal of the silver bullion.
From The Dickenson Star, March
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