Joseph "Rich Joe" Vann
February 11, 1798|
Spring Place, Georgia
|Died||October 23, 1844
near Louisville, Kentucky
|Occupation||Chief Vann House Owner, Cherokee Leader|
|Spouse(s)||Jennie Springston, Polly Blackburn|
Joseph H. Vann (11 February 1798 – 23 October 1844) was a Cherokee leader who owned Diamond Hill (now known as the Chief Vann House), many slaves, taverns, and steamboats that he operated on the Arkansas, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers. He 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). Young Joseph was his father's favorite child and primary recipient of his father's estate and wealth.
Death of James Vann, Joe's inheritance
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 (8.1 km2) 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.
Eviction from Georgia and afterward
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, where 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. The participants in this slave revolt received physical punishments, but none were killed. 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, Joseph Vann.
- 1839 Cherokee Constitution
- Vann, Joseph H., Cherokee Rose: On Rivers of Golden Tears, 1st Books Library (2001), ISBN 0-7596-5139-6.
- Malone, Henry Thompson, Cherokees of the Old South: A People in Transition, University of Georgia Press, (1956), ISBN 0-670-03420-7.
- McFadden, Marguerite, "The Saga of 'Rich Joe' Vann", Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 61 (Spring, 1983).
- McLoughlin, William, Cherokee Renascence in the New Republic, Princeton University Press, (1986), ISBN 0-691-04741-3.
- Perdue, Theda, "The Conflict Within: The Cherokee Power Structure and Removal," Georgia Historical Quarterly, 73 (Fall, 1989), pp. 467–91.
- Young, Mary., "The Cherokee Nation: Mirror of the Republic", (American Quarterly), Vol. 33, No. 5, Special Issue: American Culture and the American Frontier (Winter, 1981), pp. 502–524