Joseph Vann (1798-1844)
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.
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.
Henry Thompson Malone, Cherokees of the Old South: A People in Transition (Athens: University of Georgia Press, ).
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.
N. Michelle Williamson, Rome
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