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James Vann

Born in February 1765, James Vann was part Cherokee and part Scot, his father being a Scottish trader possibly named John or James, and his mother being a full-blooded Cherokee called Wah-Li.

James Vann was one of the richest men in the southeast and the most influential of the young chiefs of the upper towns of east TA NI SI (Tennessee) and North Georgia who formed a triumvirate, the other two being Charles Hicks and The Ridge.

These younger chiefs were not happy with the older chiefs and what they considered the old ways and old ideas. One of the old chiefs was named Doublehead and he and Vann had been antagonists since an incident around 1788 known as The Brown Affair. Doublehead had captured two boats containing the family of Joseph Brown and Doublehead called for the mass slaughter of all the whites. Bob Benge, a feared warrior, negotiated the whites' surrender on condition no one in the Brown Party was harmed. When the whites surrendered, Doublehead people started killing them despite Benge and Vann's protests. Benge managed to save one boy putting him on the James Vann's saddle but before Vann could ride off with the boy, Doublehead pulled the lad from the saddle and killed him with a tomahawk. Enraged Vann grabbed Doublehead and called him baby-killer. This was the beginning of the feud which influenced Cherokee politics.The chief Doublehead was killed for selling land to the white settlers which was against Cherokee law and carried with it the death penalty which was exacted in 1807 - some say instigated by James Vann.

Joseph Vann

As mentioned earlier, James Vann was rich by any standard and in 1804 he built Vann House at Spring Place, Georgia. It was on the federal road and saw much traffic and it was here that Vann built a store, a tavern and a ferry across The Conasauga River. He also owned a ferry near Atlanta that crossed the Chattahoochee River and in time opened a trading post near present-day Huntsville, Alabama. He also owned land at the mouth of the Ooltewah Creek in modern day Hamilton County, Tennessee. The county seat is now called Harrison but was originally called Vann's Town where Vann owned yet another ferry.At Vann house it's reported that he owned 800 acres, 100 slaves, 42 slave cabins, 6 barns, 5 smokehouses and a trading post. If this were not enough there was a peach orchard with almost a thousand trees, 147 apple trees, and a whisky still.

For all his wealth, Vann's character was less than golden. Sober he was a pleasant man, even-tempered, generous with one and all. His down side was "drink" which changed his character from daylight to dark. When drinking he was mean and vengeful. His "wives" loved him but he gave them and his slaves much reason to fear him since he was quick to use the whip when drinking. It was reported that he killed his brother-in-law in a duel and even fired his pistol at dinner guests. There is a story that when a man seduced his sister, Vann caught him, tied him to a post, and gave him seventy lashes. A white person who stole from him was strung up by the thumbs until he confessed.He was both hero and rogue. He helped establish the Lighthorse Patrol - "mounted regulators" who patrolled the roads of the Cherokee, keeping things in order. He helped bring in the Moravian missionaries to build schools and churches for the Cherokee and he was extremely generous with his money to those in need.

In 1809 after riding with the Lighthorse Patrol for a week he was shot dead at Buffington Tavern. No one saw who killed him and some say it might have been one of his wives' brothers, a relative of someone he had killed, a Cherokee, a white slave or even a free man. To this day no one knows.

Vann House

The heir to his fortune was his son Joseph also known as "Rich Joe." In 1834 Joseph and his family lost all their holdings at Spring Place, Georgia because a state law forbade any Indian to employ a white man and Jopseph had in fact taken one on to oversee his plantation and holdings.

James Vann is buried in Forsyth County, Georgia and Vann House is administered by the State Parks and Historic sites division of The Georgia Department of Natural Resources.





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