Joseph Vann (1798-1844)

Joseph Vann was a Cherokee leader who owned a plantation (as well as many slaves), taverns, and steamboats that he operated on the Arkansas, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers.
Born on February 11, 1798, in Murray County in northwest Georgia, Vann was the son of Chief James Vann and Margaret "Peggy" Scott. His grandfather was Clement Vann, a Scottish trader who moved from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Cherokee lands in northwest Georgia and married Wa-wli, a Cherokee Indian. Wa-wli was baptized by Moravian missionaries, and they changed her name to Mary Christiana.
Vann's father amassed a fortune through his trading post and tavern business. He was equally successful in the political sphere. By 1800 Vann's father was the dominant chief in the Cherokee tribe's councils.
In 1808 Vann's father killed his brother-in-law in a duel. A year later, at a tavern near his home, Vann's father was murdered, presumably in retaliation. Vann was eleven years old at the time and was present in the tavern when his father was shot and killed.
At his death Chief Vann left behind an impressive house on 400 acres at Spring Place Plantation in Murray County. (The house, which still stands, is today known as the Chief Vann House.) The elder Vann stated in his will that he wanted Spring Place Plantation to be passed on to his son Joseph. However, Cherokee law stipulated that the home go to his wife, Peggy, while his possessions and property were to be divided among his children. Eventually, Vann did inherit the house and property.
Vann possessed his father's talent for shrewd trading. He accumulated great wealth in trade, and the two-story mansion at Spring Place made him the envy of many settlers. Among the visitors to the Vann house was U.S. president James Monroe, who in 1819 spent the night at Spring Place during a trip from Augusta to Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1827 Vann secured his political place in the Cherokee Nation. He was a successful candidate for the National Council, the lower house of the Cherokee legislature. However, neither Vann's power among the Cherokees nor the respect he enjoyed among whites could protect him from losing his property. In 1834 the Georgia Guard evicted Vann from his property under the pretext that Vann had broken a state law that prohibited whites from working for Indians. (Vann had hired a white man as overseer of his plantation.) This eviction was permitted under the dictates of the Georgia land lottery, which led to the final removal of the Cherokees from the state in 1838. Vann filed a lawsuit over the dispossession of his property and was eventually awarded $19,605 for the loss of Spring Place Plantation.
After the eviction Vann moved his family to Tennessee, where he owned a large plantation on the Tennessee River near the mouth of Ooltewah Creek. In 1836 Vann again moved west, this time to Webbers Falls on the Arkansas River. He died on October 6, 1844, when his ferryboat exploded during a race near Louisville, Kentucky.
close

Loading

Further Reading
Henry Thompson Malone, Cherokees of the Old South: A People in Transition (Athens: University of Georgia Press, [1956]).

William McLoughlin, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986).

Theda Perdue, "The Conflict Within: The Cherokee Power Structure and Removal," Georgia Historical Quarterly 73 (fall 1989): 467-91.
Cite This Article
Williamson, N. M.. "Joseph Vann (1798-1844)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 21 November 2013. Web. 23 August 2014.
From Our Home Page
Geographic Regions of Georgia: Overview

The diverse landscapes of Georgia result from geological and climatic forces working throughout time, with some recent direct influence from human activities.

Read more...
James Brown (ca. 1933-2006)

James Brown, who grew up in Augusta, was one of the most influential musicians of the last half of the twentieth century.

Read more...
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with headquarters in Atlanta, has been a key factor in combating many of the hea

Read more...
Atlanta Campaign

The "Atlanta campaign" is the name given by historians to the military operations that took place in north Georgia during the Civ

Read more...

Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries