Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 28, 2013

Mystery explored

Book proves truths about Jonathan Swift, silver mine

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — Author Robert A. Prather has found a treasure in the legend of Jonathan Swift and his silver mine.

Prather, a part-time writer, part-time editor a full-time business owner, won the Reader’s Favorite Silver Medal Award in the historical/cultural caetorgy from the National Book Foundation for his book, “The Strange Case of Jonathan Swift and the Real Long John Silver.” He also received a Silver ADDY Award from the American Advertising Federation.

The story of Swift was that the Brit discovered the silver mine in 1760; the location was less definite but believed to have been somewhere between North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Many believed it to be in eastern Kentucky and Swift did own 10,000 acres of land near the Big Sandy River.

The Meade County resident said he believes his book sheds light on much of the legend.

“Anyone who reads “The Strange Case of Jonathan Swift and the real Long John Silver” will discover, through archival documentation, that not only was Jonathan Swift real, but so was his silver mine,” Prather said. “Chapter Three is titled ‘Jonathan Swift’ and it is a biography of a remarkable man.

“If you would like to dissect ‘The Strange Case...,’ you will note that every single claim proposed is based upon a multitude of indisputable archival evidence.  It is also backed up by a number of noted historians, such as William Elsey  Connelley,” Prather said, noting evidence shows the silver mine was between Alexandria and Leesburg, Va.

 The book also contains some irony and interesting stories related to Swift and the mine.

‰Many know the name Jonathan Swift as the writer from the late 1600s and early 1700s. The silver miner is thought to have been a descendant of the “Gulliver’s Travels” author.

“It is almost a certainty that Swift was named for him (Dean Swift),” Prather said.

‰Records show a family of Gullivers living in Milton, Mass., which is where Swift lived.

Among those who have sought the mine are:

‰John Filson, who disappeared after a search in Virginia.

‰James Harrod, founder of Harrodsburg, Kentucky’s first settlement, who went in search of the mine in 1793 and was never seen again.

Prather became fascinated with Swift in the mid-1980s after reading works written about him by Michael Paul Henson and found an exciting hobby in treasure hunting using a metal detector.

“I’ve found many collectible relics, such as silver coins and other collectable coins, and have found tons of old farm relics such as axes and plow points and more aluminum cans than I care to talk about,” he said.

He also enjoys archeological digs and, in 2003, was at a dig at an Indiana ghost town called the Prather Site, another irony.

“During lunch one day, the topic of conversation turned to Swift’s mysterious silver mine,” he said. “The president of (Falls of the Ohio Archaeological Society) suggested I ‘get my thoughts on Swift down in writing’ and present it to the group; therefore, the book process began in a 90-page thesis.”

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.