25 September 2011

Chief Vann House, Chatsworth, Georgia

James Vann's house in Spring Place near Chatsworth, Georgia
Fast forwarding a few centuries, we visited James Vann's house, a 2-1/2 story brick house built in 1804. Known as "Chief Crazy James Vann," he was more of an economic leader, but was involved in Cherokee politics and was influential among Upper Cherokee towns at the dawn of the 19th century. He's definitely not a moral leader. He had nine wives and owned his own whiskey distillery. Historians have used phrases such as "one of the most intemperate characters in the nation," "a thoroughly godless man," "homicidal," or "when drunk... became as deadly as water moccasin" (McLoughlin 40). He invited Moravians to built a mission school on his land, yet they still called him "a long-standing enemy of Christ" (40). After he was shot to death in a tavern in 1809, a makeshift wooden marker was placed on his
portrait of "Rich Joe" Vann in dining room
grave reading: "Here lies the body James Vann/He killed many a white man./At last by a rifle ball he fell,/And devils dragged him off to hell" (McLoughlin 72). And he's my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

The house is extraordinarily well-built and was the first brick home in the Cherokee Nation. The exterior walls are 18" thick. The Georgia Guard seized the house from the Vann family in the 1830s during Cherokee Removal. Several individuals lived in the house until 1920 when it was sold to the Georgia Historical Commission. The house was restored in 1958, which included repainting the interior to its original fairly wild color scheme of sage green, sea blue, warm yellow, and Georgia clay red.

The museum, Robert E. Chambers Interpretive Center, contains a wealth of artifacts and information about the Cherokee Nation, the Vann family, and Cherokee forced removal, known as the Trail of Tears. The site also houses several historical Cherokee log cabins, salvaged from other locations in the Old Cherokee Nation.
  • "Chief Vann House Historic Site." Georgia Department of Natural Resources: State Parks and Historic Sites. 2011.
  • McLoughlin, William Gerald. The Cherokee Ghost Dance: Essays on the Southeastern Indians, 1789-1861. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1984.


Ms. Woody Vann (Smith) Thomas said...

I believe that I am a decendent of Chief Joseph Vann. My maternal grandfather was William Elbert Vann born June of 1888. According to records I found, he died November of 1968. My mother was never able to find him after she was four years old when he disappeared from Vernon, Texas.

Ms. Woody Vann (Smith) Thomas
Gainesville, Texas 76240

ahalenia said...

If you are interested in finding out more about Cherokee genealogy, the staff at the Cherokee Heritage Center are an amazing resource. You can reach them through the Cherokee Family Research Center.

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