My Vann ancestors



Wai-Li (Elizabeth - second daughter of Go-Sa-Du-Is-Ga) B: 1710 Virginia, D: 1815 Spring Place, Cherokee Nation (Georgia).  History of The Cherokee Indians, Chapter XIX, Continuation of Old Families, shows her married to James Vann (who was her son - James was born in 1765).

John Joseph Vann

B: 1730 Scotland,  M: Wai-Li Princess of Cherokee - 1763,D: 1780 Tennessee, shot by son James (Chief Crazy James) John Vann. He was descended from Robert The Bruce, King of Scotland.  A Scottish trader came to Cherokee Territory in 1755, married Wai-Li and became a licensed trader-interpreter for the Queen of England.  After marrying Wai-Li, he became Chief of Tellico in Tennessee.  He was accused of killing a Cherokee and sentenced to death.  He was accidentally shot to death by his son Crazy James.

Clement Vann

John Vann’s brother journeyed into the Cherokee Nation several years after John.  They lived together in Tellico (Tennessee) where John was a local Judge and successful trader.  They all lived in a pile with Wai-Li and several other ‘wives’.  Several other visiting traders were ‘adopted’ into the extended family.  It has been very difficult for later-day genealogists to determine which children belonged to who.

Chief Crazy James

Chief Crazy James Vann; B: 1765 Tennessee, M: Elizabeth Hicks 1795, M: Margaret Scott 1797 Tennessee, (a bigamist by American standards), D: 19 February 1809 Georgia.  His mother Wai-Li was 55 when he was born.  Wai-Li was born in 1710. His father was John Vann.  James was quite a wealthy trader and owned a large estate with over 120 black slaves. Friend of George Washington, District Judge of Chickamaunga, became wealthy in planting, trading, and making whiskey. But because of his heavy drinking, parties and many incidents caused by this, he was called "part devil" by the missionaries who was nearby. In 1805-07 James Vann built the home that you speak of-- actually overlooking the Moravian Mission that had been built in 1801 and named "Spring Place" near Chatsworth (east of Dalton) Georgia, the Vann House. In 1809 while James, his twelve year old son- Joseph and a slave were on a business trip and stopping at Buffington's Tavern for the night, a lone shot was fired from the shadows of the darkened yard which killed James Vann. He discovered gold in Georgia in 1804, he was murdered for a chest full of gold (which turned out to be full of rocks).  His body was dug up by grave robbers looking for his gold.  His son Joseph spent years hunting down his killers. Reportedly, his grave is marked with a head stone, inscribed:

 Here lies James Vann

He killed many a white man

At Last by a rifle ball he fell

And Devils dragged him off to Hell

Chief Rich Joe Vann

Chief Joseph (Rich Joe)Vann

Chief Joseph (Rich Joe) Vann; B: 11 February 1798 Spring Place, Georgia, M: Jennie Springston 1820, M: Polly Blackburn 1826 (another bigamist), D: 26 October 1844

Joseph Vann was the son of Chief Crazy James Vann , a half-breed Cherokee and Elizabeth Hicks. Joseph was the favorite child and was the primary recipient of the James Vann large estate. In the years following his father’s death, Joseph added to this estate. When "Rich Joe" Vann was 20 years old President James Monroe paid him a visit in 1819. Through the 1820's Rich Joe proved every bit as shrewd as his father James and expanded the family wealth. Golden Star of the Cherokee, considered by the Council of Chiefs to be the one to achieve a lasting peace between the Cherokees and the Americans.  He rode 300 miles to attend college in Charleston, South Carolina when he was 12 years old.  When his father died in 1809, Rich Joe inherited 2000 acres of land, trading posts, river ferries, and the Vann House mansion in Spring Place, Georgia.  It is reported that he dug up his fathers gold and deposited over $200,000 in gold in a bank in Tennessee, a fortune worth well over $2 million by toady’s standards.  Rich Joe explored the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers on a keel-boat when he was 15 years old.  He fought in wars, bought, sold and hauled freight, he built his own freight wagons and roads.  He bought and operated several steam-boats.  He bought a sailing ship which his business partners operated between Charleston, SC and France.  He bought and installed a cotton gin at Spring Place, organized the Cherokee in producing cloth, wool, corn liquor, furs, skins, corn, and smoked meats.  He traded much of his products to Andrew Jackson during the “Indian Wars” with the Creeks and collected over $1 million in federal IOU’s in return.  His freight wagons were protected by a Cherokee escort when traveling through hostile territories.

After the Georgia Gold Rush Joseph hired a white man to run the plantation.  Although the man never actually worked for Vann, the Cherokee had unknowingly violated a new Georgia law forbidding whites from working for  Cherokees without a permit. The infamous Georgia Guard tried to take over the house. A man, Spencer Riley, who claimed to have won the house in the Land Lottery of 1832 also tried to take over the house and Rich Joe, his wife and family were caught in the midst of the struggle between the two. Col. Bishop, leader of the Guard, took a smoldering log and threw it on the cantilevered steps and smoked Riley out.

The Vann's were finally forced out of the house in March, 1835. In November of that year Col. Bishop imprisoned John Howard Payne for 13 days on the grounds. Payne, noted as composer of "Home, Sweet Home" had been charged with sedition for supporting the claims of the Cherokee over the state of Georgia.”

It is reported that when the Cherokee were being forced off their native lands to Oklahoma, that Rich Joe took a party of surveyors to the Oklahoma territory.  He discovered that the land was dry, rocky and not capable of supporting crops or game.  He surveyed the surrounding area and discovered that the land on the east side of the Mississippi was far superior.  He went to Washington and inquired through official channels to purchase the good land.  When the commission gave him the price of $1 million in gold, he opened his bags and counted out $1 million in federal IOU’s signed by Andrew Jackson.  He transported several hundred Cherokee men, women, children and horses on his steam-boat to the new territory.

Because his various business interest and his (inherited) love of drink left him little time for tribal affairs. His trip over the Trail of Tears was quite different-- it was by his own steamboat, which (years later) exploded during a drinking party and an impromptu steamboat race on the Ohio river, killing Joseph and all but one of the persons who had been on board. They were falling behind in the race, were almost out of fuel to stoke the burner and Joseph gave the order to throw on some of the fat sides of pork that were nearby. The stoker-- a freed-slave, protested, but in his drunken state, Joseph ordered it done, and displayed a pistol for emphasis. The stoker did as he was told-- and then jumped overboard.  He was the only survivor.  Hair, teeth and eyeballs dotted the river bank, and the left arm of Rich Joe, still wearing his purple silk sleeve, and a huge diamond ring, was found dangling from a tree 1/4 mile down-river from the explosion. 

Rich Joe and Jennie Springston had 4 sons and 4 daughters.  Their third son was John Shepherd (Se La U Le) Vann  B: 24 July, 1826 Spring Place Georgia,  M: Elizabeth Pack Fields Coody in 1846 Oklahoma, D: 30 April, 1877 Webbers Falls, Oklahoma

John Shepherd Vann

He was one of the first delegates to the Cherokee Constitutional Convention, a minor chief, and as a 8th order Mason, he helped establish the Masonic Order in Cherokee Country.  In 1862, Beth died and John remarried a ‘white woman’ to take care of his children.  John and Beth had 4 children.

John Vann

B: 8 July, 1854 near Fort Smith Arkansas,  M: Sarah Matilda Hines (Choctaw) Texas, D: 1899 Kaufman Texas. 

In 1862, during the Civil War, John’s father (Se La U Le) was a ‘Big Chief” when his mother ‘Betty’ (Beth) died.  Se La U Le married  a ‘white woman’ who made little John do “women's work” around the house to help out with the other kids.  Other Cherokee children made fun of him, so he decided to run-away.  He had several Aunts and Uncles living in the next county near Shecotah and Eufaula.  He packed a sack of corn pone and bacon, went on an errand down to the river, and never returned. 

He headed for an old wagon trail going West.  After a few days on the road, he came across a Dutch family named Van Horn.  They were driving a covered wagon to Texas from Pennsylvania.  Due to his features, they thought he was a ‘white’ child and treated him kindly.  They had several children about his age, so John told the biggest lie of his life and joined them on their trek to the Promised Land. 

The story he told -- When John was a baby, his folks were traveling West in a covered wagon and were ‘set-upon’ by a band of hostiles.  His parents, John and Betty, were killed and his brothers and sisters were left to die.  A kindly band of Cherokees came across the children and took them away to live on the reservation.  So, when John was big enough, he ran away from the Cherokee Nation.  Most likely, he just bent the truth a bit, and the Dutch family ‘filled in the blanks’ to flesh out the story.

John Vann told his children “We located on a small farm in Navarro County, near Corsicana, Texas.  They were kind to me, and I worked the farm until I was 13 (~1867).  Now the war (Civil War) was over, but times were real hard, I tried my hand at wheat harvesting around Waxahachie and Kaufman.”

Times were very hard, farmers had no buyers for their produce, because no body had any money.  Banks were foreclosing on the overdue loans, and the carpetbaggers were buying land for the balance of the loans and back taxes.  You could work for food, and if you were very lucky, a roof over your head, usually in the barn, the stables or the smoke-house.  There was no work for freed slaves, they were left to fend for themselves in the woods along the rivers or in shanty-towns.  Native Americans off the reservation were in constant peril of being murdered for the color of their skin.  No work, no housing, nothing.  So John kept up the premise and ‘passed for white’ so he could continue to survive in the post-war countryside.

In 1879, at the age of 25, John had become the jailer in Kaufman, Texas.  Now that he was a prosperous man, he could afford to build a house and take a wife.  He married Sarah Matilda Hines, a full blood Choctaw, and they had 10 children, 5 of them died in infancy.  John ran the jail, and Sarah cooked for the prisoners.  John continued to help his farmer friends harvest their wheat, and in 1899, he was run over and killed by a farm wagon in the next county. 

Joseph Daniel Vann

B: 2 February, 1886, Kaufman, Texas  M: Myrtle Maybell Vaughn 1 January, 1909, D: 30 August, 1967 Dallas, Texas

Joseph was 13 when his father John died. He had several younger brothers and sisters to help support, so he worked in his fathers shoes, harvesting wheat across the mid-west, and for a while at the Texas and Pacific Railroad dock in Grand Saline, Texas.  He took a job in Dallas at the Swift meat packing company, as it was not seasonal work and would better support a family.  

In 1930, he and his brothers tried to ‘prove’ their Cherokee ancestry, but because his father John never had a birth certificate, as this practice was not popular until about 1940, any record of his birth was destroyed in a fire in the Fort Smith Court House in 1900, there is no record of his birth at the State level, because the State of Arkansas did not start recording births until 1929, and there is no official record of his death, because the State of Texas did not start this practice until 1915, he could not produce ‘official’ documents. In order to ‘prove’ Cherokee ancestry, the Cherokee Nation requires that you supply ‘official’ documents showing direct decent from a person listed on the Dawes Rolls.  

Joseph Harold Vann

Joseph Harold Vann, born 31 May 1920 in Canton Texas, passed away on 24 December 2003 in Fort Worth Texas.  He was the son of Joseph Daniel Vann born 1886 in Kaufman Texas, and Myrtie Maybel Vaughn born 1886 in Norcross Georgia.


Joseph Harold Vann was the Great Grandson of Major John Shepard Vann of the First Cherokee Mounted Rifles during the Civil War, and a Great Great Grandson of Rich Joe Vann, of the Cherokee Nation. He was a published author of “Cherokee Rose on Rivers of Golden Tears”, and a Charter Lifetime Member of the First Families of the Cherokee Nation.


In High School, during the Great Depression, he was a member of the Drama Club and was the leader of the Political Debate Team.  He was a member of the Literary Club and always had a way with words, not to mention his good looks and his charm.


His love of music drew him to the sounds of the steel-guitar, at which he excelled, and led him to form a band during the Big Band Era.  On many occasions, his small band was the lead-in act for some of the biggest names in the field, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Guy Lombardo, Coleman Hawkins and many others.


In the late 1930's, his band had landed a contract to play for the summer at the Grand Ballroom, the Swing Hot Spot of the era, a floating dance hall on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. One of the band members had an old rag-top Buick that would just about get them there, but on the drive down from Dallas, the old car caught fire.  The young men jumped out while it was still rolling, landing in a ditch half full of water at the side of the road.  The car, with all of their instruments, burned to a cinder, along with their hopes of fame and fortune.  They walked the rest of the way, hoping to borrow enough to buy some more instruments and take the job. But by the time they arrived, another band had taken their place.


By 1940, he was leading a local band at dance hall Hot Spots in Dallas and Forth Worth, and playing solos on his double necked Stella steel guitar. He was a strikingly handsome man and his only flaw was that he walked with a pronounced limp.  When he was a small boy of 4 or 5, he was playing a game of King of the Mountain with his siblings, on top of an old steamer trunk in his parents home.  During the game, he fell off the round top of the trunk and broke his back.  As a result of the accident, he had a pronounced limp for the rest of his life.


When the War broke out, his brothers marched off to battle and he was left behind, "4 F" because of his childhood injury. His brothers wrote home about the battles they were involved in and always had the same complaint; there was never enough equipment to fight efficiently.  He helped the war effort and his brothers, by organizing logistics for moving freight by train and truck, across the country to the factories to manufacture war materials for the soldiers in the Front Lines. 


After the war, he struggled to keep his job with so many able bodied young men returning home.  He stayed with the trucking business for the rest of his life, and when he was forced to retire from the freight business, he opened a private school to pass along his knowledge to the next generation.


He was married twice, had 4 sons from his first marriage of 12 years, a daughter and son from the second marriage of 50 years, as well as 12 grand children and 9 great grandchildren.    He was a very patient man, always fair, always firm, and most often, soft spoken.  He lived every day in a way that would have made his forbearers proud of him.