Monday, February 11, 2013

Joseph Vann, born February 11, 1798

Joseph Vann
Joseph Vann was born at Spring Place, Georgia on February 11, 1798. Joseph and his sister Mary were children of James Vann and Nannie Brown, both mixed-blood Cherokees. James Vann had several other wives and children. The grandparents were Joseph Vann, a Scottish trader who came from the Province of South Carolina, and Cherokee Mary Christiana (Wah-Li or Wa-wli Vann). 

Joseph was his father's favorite child and primary recipient of his father's estate and wealth. Joseph, 11 years old, was in the room when his father, James, was murdered, in Buffington’s Tavern in 1809 near the site of the family-owned ferry. 

Before he was killed, James Vann was a powerful chief in the Cherokee Nation and wanted Joseph to inherit the wealth that he had built instead of his wives, but Cherokee law stipulated that the home go to his wife, Peggy, while his possessions and property were to be divided among his children.

Eventually the Cherokee council granted Joseph the inheritance in line with his father's wish; this included 2,000 acres of land, trading posts, river ferries, and the Vann House in Spring Place, Georgia. Joseph also inherited his father's gold and deposited over $200,000 in gold in a bank in Tennessee.

Joseph Vann died 17 years before the Civil War began.

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 being evicted from his father's mansion home "Diamond Hill" in 1834, Joseph moved his large family (he had two wives) and business operations to Tennessee.  He established a large plantation on the Tennessee River near the mouth of Ooltewah Creek that became the center of a settlement called Vann's Town (later the site of Harrison, Tennessee). 

In 1837 prior to the main Cherokee Removal, he transported a few hundred Cherokee men, women, children, slaves and horses aboard a flotilla of flat boats to Webber's Falls on the Arkansas River in Indian Territory. There Vann constructed a replica of his lost Georgia mansion. This building was later destroyed during the American Civil War.

In 1842, 35 slaves of Joseph Vann, Lewis Ross, and other wealthy Cherokees at Webbers Falls, fled in a futile attempt to escape to Mexico, but were quickly recaptured by a Cherokee posse.

Some of these slaves served as crew members of Vann's steamboat, a namesake of his favorite race horse "Lucy Walker." On October 23, 1844, the steamboat Lucy Walker departed Louisville, Kentucky, bound for New Orleans. Below New Albany, the vessel blew up when one or more boilers blew up, killing the majority of the passengers and among them the owner and captain.

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