The legend of Swift's silver mine is based on accounts given in the journal of an Englishman named Jonathan Swift. Swift claimed to have preceded Daniel Boone into Kentucky, coming to the region in 1760 on a series of mining expeditions. The journal recounts how a wounded bear led Swift to a vein of silver ore in a cave, and how that for the next nine years, he made annual treks back to the site of the mine, carrying out "silver bars and minted coins." An article in an 1886 edition of Harper's Magazine tells how Swift supposedly buried a good deal of the treasure at various locations.

Later, amid numerous obstacles that included Indian attacks, and a mutiny by his crew, Swift walled up the cave and discontinued his mining operation. However, before Swift could again return to the mine, he was stricken blind and was unable to locate it again.