Legends of a lost silver lode in Jackson County, West Virginia, may be more than a rumor, according to a former resident whose claims are backed up by historical accounts, and he says he has a nugget to prove it.
"I've always said that there's something to these legends," says William Byrne Mollohan, who grew up a stone's throw from the Silver Valley, one of several areas in the region in which silver was once believed to exist.
In the late 1800s, Jackson County attracted numerous prospectors who believed silver-bearing stratum was present in the hills just east of the Ohio River near both Ripley and Ravenswood and in the surrounding valleys.
Geologists denounced the rush, though Mollohan and others say silver may be present, and he keeps a glistening stone he found in 1980 as evidence, though it wasn't until recently that he says it was confirmed.
"I know that they say there's no silver in Jackson County, but the silver I found gives me every reason to believe it's there and that there's a substantial amount of it," he says.
While about 14 years old, Mollohan was walking along a road through a rural construction site near Ripley when he spied a silvery shimmer in a clod of red clay. He reached down and picked out the stone, admired it, and stuck it in his pocket as a memento.
He moved to Florida after high school, and he thought seldom about the stone until a few years ago when he asked a geologist to confirm its constitution.
"He said that it was not only silver but that it was also a very high grade," Mollohan recalled. "He said, 'This isn't a nugget—this is an ore sample that's been broken off of a much larger deposit.
"It wasn't a piece that had been washed there by the water. If it had been, it would be smoother and more rounded. It was chipped off a larger piece of rock."
Mollohan said the silver stone was deeply imbedded in the clod, and only the tiniest fraction was near enough the surface to catch his eye, as if by chance.
"In another few days, I'm sure a vehicle would have passed over and pushed it into the ground," he said.
To this day Mollohan has declined to provide specific directions to the site where he found the silver for fear of causing a commotion, but when he found articles about the silver rush published at West Virginia Explorer Magazine, he decided to reach out.
For more information on silver in Jackson County, West Virginia, or to report any similar discoveries, contact the Ripley Convention and Visitor Bureau at 304-514-2609.
Wandering the pastures along Skull Run, a traveler would have no idea of the dark tales connected with that section of Jackson County. Apart from the ominous name, "Skull Run," the vale with its grazing cattle seems a world away from warfare, but according to one historian, red clay isn't the only substance that turns the stream red after a rainstorm. Read the full story here.