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Clement Vann

Clement Vann

The Chattanooga Sunday Times

Magazine Section

July 26, 1936

by: Penelope J. Allen

State Chairman of

Genealogical Records

Tennessee Society


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The Vann Family


Vann family, prominent among the Cherokees in Tennessee, was of Scottish ancestry tracing its descent from the reign of King David I of Scotland, 1124- 1153.

The seat of the Vann's was at Barnbarrack, near Wigton, in Galloway Scotland.

The Coat of arms used by the Vann's since the year 1124 is:


Arms -- Argent a bend gules

Crest -- A lion rampant holding scales in dexter paw.

Motto -- Be Faithful

Recorded in Scotland since 1124

The ancestor of the Vann family among the Cherokees was Clement Vann who, in a deposition given by him at the head of the Coos River on December 1, 1829, stated that he was then 82 years old, and that he had come into the Cherokee country about fifty years before and that he had lived there ever since.This would place Clement Vann's birth about the year 1747, and the year of his coming among the Indians about 1780.In his deposition he said that the boundary line agreed upon between the Cherokees and the Creeks in 1806 was to begin at Vann's Old Store on the Oakmulga, formerly called Alcovy, which would indicate that the Vanns at one time lived much lower down in the Georgia part of the Cherokee country that the location that they occupied at the time of the removal of the tribe.

Clement Vann married WA-WLI, a full blood Cherokee woman, and they are mention in the reports of the Moravian missionaries, as their proximity to the mission brought them in touch with the white man stationed there.

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Home near Spring Place, Georgia known as

The Chief Vann House

In 1819, WA-WHI baptized by the Moravians and her Cherokee name was changed to Mary Christianna. She was removed from her home near Spring Place, Georgia with the rest of the Cherokees to the West, and is said to have attained the great age of 130 years.

Clement Vann and his wife WA-WLI {Mary} had issue among other children:

1. James Vann, born 1769, died February 1909, a powerful half-breed Chief of the Cherokees, who married several times. The names of three of his wives are Jennie Foster, Elizabeth Thornton, and Margaret {Peggy} Scott.

2. Avery Vann married Margaret McSwain and from his descendants Vann's Valley in Floyd County, Georgia, takes its name.

3. Nancy Vann, married John Falling {or Fawling}, killed in a duel by Chief James Vann in 1807. Nancy lived on the federal road near Spring Place, Georgia.

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James Vann, son of Clement Vann and WA-WLI, was the most powerful man of his time among the Cherokees. A person of strange character, seemd to have had a strange mixture of "good" and "bad" traits in his makeup.

In 1793 Governor William Blount wrote to the Cherokee agent, Leonard Shaw, who was then at the old council ground at Oestanaula:

"Speak to James Vann and tell him I depend on his exertions to restore peace and good order, which is the earnest wish of the United States."

James Vann was then only 25 years old, but evidently a person of importance. He appears to have risen rapidly as a leader among the Indians, for by 1800 he was dominant Chief in the council of the tribe.

He possessed a genius for trading and created a large fortune that he left to his descendants. His plantation, called "Diamond Hill," located near Spring Place, now Murray Country, Georgia. There he ran a large trading post and tavern.

It was thought the good offices of James Vann that the Moravian Missionaries secured a location for their mission at Spring Place, and in many ways Chief Vann befriended the institution. Wilkins says in his book "The Tragedy of the Cherokees" that James Vann build the school for the Moravians, and a $10,000 brick home for himself.

Sally Vann, the Chief's youngest daughter, was the first scholar at the school that the Moravians established.

James Vann was very intemperate, and his death was the result of a feud in which he killed his brother-in-law, John Falling, and in turn was killed by relatives of Falling.

James Vann was sitting in a room of his home, the door was ajar. James Vann was drinking with a bottle in one hand and cup in the other, the mussel of a gun was eased through the door and he was shot dead. No one ever knew who did it, but several had cause.

All the three wives mention were half breed daughters of Indian traders.

James Vann and Jennie Foster had issue:

1. James Vann, listed in the Cherokee census of 1835 as a resident of Hamilton country, Tennessee owning fourteen slaves.

2. John Vann, son of Chief James Vann, married Martha Denton, a white woman who was a native of Tennessee. The had issue:

1) James D. Vann, who died in Oklahoma in 1889, married to Rosannah Ketheart, a daughter of Joseph Ketheart, who came from Ireland, served eight years in the Revolutionary War and settled in Tennessee. Issue:

1. David W. Vann born April 20, 1857, Murray Country, Georgia, resident in Fairland, Oklahoma.

3. Sarah <Sally> Vann, spoken of by the Moravians and James Vann's youngest daughter, who was the first pupil in their school in 1802. She was born about 1797, married first Evan Nicholson, lived in Wills Valley, Alabama. Evan Nicholson died about the year 1836, and Sarah Vann married second, Colonel James Lamar, and lived in Guntersville in Marshall County, Alabama, after the removal of the Cherokees. Several of the families lived in Alabama in 1851. Sarah Vann and Evan Nicholson had issue:

1) Isaac Nicholson, born 1818

2) David Nicholson, born 1819

3) Jack Nicholson

4) Jennie Nicholson

5) Mary E. Nicholson, born 1834, married James Peebles of Alabama. Issue.

1. Sarah L. Peebles, married WS. T. Jackson, resided in Nashville, issue:

1) Charles C. Jackson

2. Charlotte B. Peebles, married Walter West of Nashville, issue:

3. Bell K. Peebles, married Robert B. Spain of Nashville, issue:

1) George A. Spain

4. James L. Peebles

5. Edgarinna Peebles

Sarah Vann and Colonel James Lamar had issue:

6) Charlotte Lamar, born 1837.

7) James Lamar, Jr. Elizabeth, resided in Guntersville, Al. and in 1851 had one child:

1. Mary Elmira Lamar

Chief James Vann and Elizabeth Thornton are said to have had only one child:


Marrage of Delilah Vann and David McNair

4. Delilah Amelia Vann, who was born in 1795, died November 30, 1838, married December 30, 1801, license issued in the Knox Country Tennessee. Husband Captain David McNair, born 1774, died August 15, 1836. Both Delilah Vann and her husband Captain McNair are buried in Polk Country, Tennessee, in the family grave yard at the old McNair homestead.

Chief James Vann married as his last wife, Margaret Scott, born August 20, 1783, daughter of Walter Scott, one time British agent among the Cherokees, whose home was on the old path a short distance below the present town of Ringgold, Georgia. Mrs. Margaret Vann, after the death of James Vann, married Joseph Crutchfield, who had been overseer of the Vann estate.

Chief James Vann and Margaret Scott Vann has issue, one child:

5. Joseph Vann, born 1798 and called "Rich Joe" by the Cherokees because of his enormous wealth.

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Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann

Joseph Vann, the son of Chief James Vann and his wife Margaret Scott Vann, was a lad of 12 when his father was killed, in 1809. In writing of him the Reverend John Gamble, a Moravian missionary said:

"Mrs. Gamble and I love him as our own child and have not a complaint against him. He is indeed of warm temper, but who can gain his love, which is no hard task, has gained all, and we have no doubt that with reasonable management, he may be made a very useful man."

Joseph Vann inherited the "Diamond Hill" estate from his father and from him he also inherited the ability for trading by which he increased his fortune to a fabulous size. He was called by his contemporaries "Rich Joe" and many legends of his wealth ware still told among the Cherokees.

He builds the large brick mansion house at Spring Place, Murray Country, Georgia, which stands today as a monument at its owner. Its massive walls and hand-carved woodwork show excellent workmanship, and its unique hanging staircase is a marvel that piques the interest of many visitors.

On his extensive plantation some 800 acres were under cultivation. The beautiful brick house was surrounded by kitchens, slave quarters and mills, with apple and peach orchards covering the adjacent hills.

This valuable property became a prize for the white man when the laws of Georgia were extended over the Cherokee Nation. After a bloody fracas in 1834, Colonel W. N. Bishop established his brother, Absolom Bishop, on the premises and Joseph Vann with his family was driven out to seek shelter over the state line in Tennessee.

"Rich Joe" owned a large plantation on the Tennessee River near the mouth of the Ooltewah Creek. He moved his family to this location and resided there two or three years, until he could establish himself in the west.

A town was laid out on his Hamilton Country farm which was called, Vanntown. In 1840 the town of Harrison was developed on an adjoining property, and the county seat of Hamilton County was moved south to the Tennessee River to this location.

Joseph Vann is listed in the Cherokee census of 1835 as a resident of the Cherokee nation within the chartered limits of Hamilton County, Tennessee, his family consisting of fifteen persons. He owned 110 slaves and on his plantation there were thirty-five houses, a mill and a ferry boat.

Joseph Vann removed to the West in 1836. He located at Webbers Falls on the Arkansas River and operated a line of steamboats on the Arkansas, Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers.

He was accidentally killed in the explosion of one of his boats, the "Lucy Walker" which was blown up near Louisville, Kentucky on October 26, 1844.

5. Joseph Vann, son of Chief Joseph Vann and his wife Margaret Scott Vann, married first, Jennie Springton, born December 23, 1804, died August 4, 1863. She married as her second husband, Thomas Mitchell.

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Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann

Born 11 Feb 1798 Died 26 Oct 1844 Aboard the "Lucy Walker"

Joseph Vann and Jennie Springston Vann had issue:

1) James Springston Vann, married Araminta Ross, daughter of Lewis Ross and had issue:

1. Fannie Vann, married Florian Haraden Nash, born 1837, New Orleans. Issue:

1) Lewis Ross Nash, of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, born April 15, 1864, married Emma Book, May 15, 1890; second marriage Bertha McSpadden November 24, 1897.

2) Mary Vann, died without issue.

3) John Sheppard Vann, married Elizabeth <Fields> Coody.

1. Jennie Vann, married William Wilson Harnage.

2. John Vann, died without issue.

3. Richard Fields Vann married Mannie Cunningham.

4. Charles Edward Vann, married Ada Raymond

4) Sarah Vann, married Major Israel Vare were the parents of:

1. Sophie Vare Brooks, of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma.

5) Ruth Vann and Oliver H. Perry Brewer had issue:

1. O.H.P. Brewer of Muskogee, Okla-homa.

2. Mrs. Jackson, of Muskogee, Okla-homa.

Joseph Vann Married a second wife by whom he had issue:

6) William Vann married and was murdered when he was 22 years old, leaving a son 6 weeks old who was the father of Dr. Wade Hampton Vann of Cement, Oklahoma.

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Avery Vann, married Margaret McSwain. Margaret McSwain is said to have been the daughter of Nanny Downing and a white trader named McSwain. Nanny Downing, in turn was the daughter of Major Downing whom tradition places as a Major in the British Army who married a full blood Cherokee woman of the Wolf Clan.

This family of Vanns resided in that part of the Cherokee Nation which is now in Georgia, and the Vann's Valley in Floyd Country takes its name from this branch of the family

Avery Vann and his wife Margaret McSwain had issue:

1. Joseph Vann, born February 11, 1798, called "Teaultlo" to distinguish him from his cousin "Rich Joe," died May 3, 1877, in the old Indian Territory, was Assistant Principle Chief of the Cherokee of the West in 1854. Was Assistant Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 1839, and 1859; married two sisters, Catherine and Elizabeth Rowe, left issue:

2. David Vann, born January 1, 1800, a prominent Chief of the Cherokees, was Treasure of the Cherokee Nation 1839, 1843, 1847, 1851. He was killed by the "Pin" Indians December 23, 1863. His home before the removal of the Cherokees to the West was near Cave Springs, Georgia, where he built a large mansion house and lived in elegant style. David Vann married, first Jennie Chambers, by whom he had two children. His second wife was Martha McNair, daughter of David McNair and Delilah Vann McNair. Issue seven children.

3. Margaret Vann, married David Webber.

4. Andrew J. Vann, was a resident among the Texas Cherokees in 1833, returning to the old Indian Territory where he was elected assistant principle Chief in 1840; married Margaret Lasley and Susie Alexander.

5. Nannie Vann, married John Chambers.

6. Catherine Vann, married John Rogers and William Rogers.

7. Mary Vann, married William Lasley. She attended the Moravian School at Spring Place.

8. Keziah Vann married Robert Webber.

9. Charles Vann, married Eliza West.

10. Clement Vann, no issue.

11. Sallie Vann, married Robert Rogers and had two children:

1) Margaret Lavinia Rogers, married Allison Woodville Timberlake.

2) Clement Vann Rogers, who married first Mary A. Scrimsher: married second, Mary Bible. Clement Vann Rogers and his wife Mary A. Scrimsher Rogers were the parents of William Penn Rogers, famous comedian, and actor, who was born November 4, 1879 at Rogers homestead near Oolagah, Oklahoma; married November 25, 1908, at Rogers, Arkansas to Betty Blake, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Blake. (He was better known as "Will Rogers".)

12. Elizabeth Vann, married George West, and David Rowe.

13. Eliza Vann, married John Martin.

14. Claire Vann, no issue.

15. Jennie Vann, no issue.

The forgoing was written by Miss Allen in 1936, and we find it correct in many respects, but several variation when compared with other sources.

The book by Emmett Starr, written about 1890, shows most of Miss Allen's findings to check, but he says that David Vann and his wife Martha McNair Vann had a son, Joseph Lewis Vann, who married Caroline Sixkiller, daughter of Redbird Sixkiller, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs say that these were the parents of Clement I. Vann. According to the Tulsa Newspaper at the time of Will Rogers death, Clement I. Vann was Will Rogers cousin, and they wrote several statements Clement made concerning Rogers boyhood days.

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Not much is known about the origin of the name Vann. Some have expressed the opinion that the name was German while others wanted to see the descendants of Scottish nobility, but it is known the Clement Vann entered the Cherokee territory at some time during the second half of the 18th Century, and that he came from Charleston, South Carolina. It is believed that the trading posts of Gainesville, Georgia, at the border line of Hall County, may have been his first establishment. Its exact location is not known, but was very likely on the Chestnut Hill Road (from Dr. J.F. Goff, "Some Major Indian Trading Paths Across Georgia.", Mineral News Letter, Vol. VI, No. 4, winter of 1953). The area between there and the Chattahoochee was for a long time a disputed territory, until the Chattahoochee River itself was designated as the border. One should expect that it was "after" Clement Vann established friendly contact with the Indians that he went into their territory beyond the mountains, and adventurous and not necessarily lucrative undertaking, inasmuch as he took as his spouse a chieftain's daughter, thus making him, according to Cherokee law, a member of his wife's clan and therefore, her tribe, he had good reason for settling in his wife's town. Here he founded a trading post and finally became Town Chief.

His son, James Vann, was born in 1768 and he became the most important figure in the Vann family. He had several wives as polygamy was generally accepted among the Cherokees, but on the other hand he supported our Christian civilization as a means of progress for the Cherokees. He is described as good- natured, but violent and a heavy drinker, but a shrewd trader with a very enterprising mind.

March 24, 1805, the Moravian Missionaries of James Vann helped establish near his plantation in Spring Place, wrote in their diary, "Vann moved into his newly build house today."

In 1808 he shot his brother-in-law (Falling) in a political duel that was fought with pistols. In 1809 he was killed by some relative in accordance with old tribal law, and probably as a the result of some secret condemnation. He was shot at Buffingtons Tavern south of Spring Place on the old Federal Road. The Moravian Diaries (Feb. 21, 1809) record his death; "Thus ended the life of one who was feared by many and loved by few in the 41st year of his life. No one knows how deeply this crime depressed us and made us appreciate the forbearance of a merciful God for his children. For Vann had been an instrument in the hand of God for establishing our mission in this Nation. Never in his wildest orgies had he attempted to harm us. We could not but comment his soul to God's mercy. Almost frightened to death, Mrs. Vann and her parents-in-law (Clement Vann and Wa-Wli) fled to Buffington's at the crack of dawn. Mr. McNair, Vann's son-in-law and his wife (David McNair and Delilah Vann McNair) spent the night with us."

James Vann had expected to leave his vast holdings to his young son, Joseph Vann, but the council of chiefs intervened and divided the property between his widow and all of his children, nevertheless Joseph Vann acquired the Vann House and much of his father's other property. An even better businessman that his father, he soon became known as "Rich Joe Vann" by the Indians and whites a like.

I am sorry but this is the best I could do in tring to copy the above.Marriage Bond of DAVID McNAIR and JOHN McCLELLAR

For Marriage of DAVID McNAIR and DELILAH VANN, 1801


State of Tennessee

Know all men by these presents that we DAVID McNAIR & JOHN

Knox County McCLELLAR, our heirs ETC are jointly and Severally held and firmly bound unto his Excellency Archibald Doane, Esquire Governor of the Sessions in __________ in the final sum of Twelve Hundred and fifty Dollars to be levied on conditions that there be no Objection why David McNair and Delilah Vann may not be joined together as man and wife, in the estate of Matrimony Witness our hands and Seals this 30 day of December 1801 and XX5 years of Independence. <25 years after 1776>

SS David McNair

SS John McClellar

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