Category Archives: –MURRAY COUNTY GA–

Chief James Vann House, 1804, Spring Place

[This replaces a post by the same title originally published on 19 February 2019.]

James Vann (1765, or,1768-1809) was the son of a Cherokee mother, Wa-wli, and Scottish father, Clement Vann. By 1800  he became a principal leader of the Cherokee, due to his wealth and influence as a planter, tavern keeper, trading post operator, and general entrepreneur. In fact, he was thought to be the wealthiest of all Cherokee.

Chief James Vann House, Front Elevation

This home, the first of brick construction in the Cherokee nation, was built between 1804-1806. It served as the seat of James Vann’s extensive plantation on Diamond Hill. It was called the “Showplace of the Cherokee Nation”. Its success was dependent upon the labor of over 100 enslaved people, who were housed in 42 dwellings on the property. Vann was known to be quite cruel to his slaves, or to tolerate cruelty among his overseers, and this is rightfully reinforced through interpretation at the property today. Sometimes described as a “hard drinking business man”, he nonetheless encouraged cultural and educational opportunities for the Cherokee, through his assistance in the establishment of the Moravian mission and school at Spring Place. James Vann was murdered in 1809, presumably as retaliation for killing his brother-in-law in a duel the previous year. He left his home and property to his son Joseph (often referred to as Rich Joe). Joseph was also a Cherokee chieftain. An overnight visit by President James Monroe, traveling from Augusta to Nashville in 1819, was indicative of the prominence of the family and the quality of the house.

Chief James Vann House, Rear Elevation

It is believed that a man named Vogt [possibly James Vann’s brother-in-law Charles Vogt] and Dr. Henry Chandlee Forman were involved in the construction of the house.

Stairway, Chief James Vann House

Diaries of Moravian missionaries at Spring Place indicate that Byhan and Martin Schneider were also instrumental in the construction. It incorporates both Federal and Georgian design elements.

Foyer, Chief James Vann House

A Moravian settler named Robert Henry Howell is believed to have been the brick mason. The stylish interior elements were added during the ownership of Joseph (Rich Joe) Vann and may have been the work of John and James McCartney. Further documentation of this is needed.

Dining Room, Chief James Vann House, with portrait of Joseph Vann

After the Cherokee were driven west on the Trail of Tears, the house was sold and over the next century would have 17 different owners.

Drawing Room, Chief James Vann House

By the time Dr. J. E. Bradford, who had purchased the home in 1920, sold it to the Georgia Historical Commission in 1952, it was in a state of serious disrepair.

Bedroom, Chief James Vann House

An historically accurate restoration of the interior began in 1958 and was completed circa 1964.

The Slave Experience at the Chief Vann House

Re-creation of Kitchen/Workhouse, Chief James Vann House

The historic site uses three-dimensional models and the words of Moravian missionaries to interpret the slave experience at the Vann House. North Georgia was not a stronghold of slavery, so the example of the Vann plantation is exceptional. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, focuses on this subject, and incorporates previously overlooked primary sources.

Patience, a woman enslaved by James Vann

While the kitchen is very stylized and includes typical interpretive aids related to work, it stands out for the figures representing specific slaves who lived on the property along with brief anecdotes about their lives. The Moravian missionaries wrote in the their mission journal on 25 November 1810: “...a person named Patience caused us to feel much pity. She arrived in Charleston with some other Africans some years ago in the wintertime and afterward came to Vann’s plantation barefooted. She lost both of her feet because of the frost and now has to scoot on her knees…

Pleasant, a woman enslaved by Moravian missionaries John and Anna Gambold at Spring Place

Though the Moravians frowned upon individual members owning slaves, the church could purchase and assign them to missionary families as needed, and their views were ultimately aligned with those of other whites of the time. A middle-aged woman named Pleasant (1758?-1838) was purchased in April 1805 by the Home Church in Salem, North Carolina, and came to Spring Place to serve the missionary couple John and Anna Gambold. She was pregnant at the time. On 21 December 1805 Christian Lewis Benzien wrote to the Unity Elders Conference of the Moravian Church: On Sept. 29 on the way to Spring Place [Pleasant] gave birth to a mulatto infant which was baptized in Spring Place on October 20 with the name Michael…

Michael, son of Pleasant, enslaved by the Gambold family at Spring Place

Michael was given the honor of learning to read and often read the Bible to the Cherokee children at the Moravian school and was highly regarded by his owners, but typical of teenagers, he grew restless. In 1819, at the age of 14, he ran away from the Gambolds and when captured was sold away from Pleasant.

Reconstructed Historic Structures of Chief Vann House State Historic Site

Coahulla Creek corn crib (reconstruction), representative of an early 1800s Cherokee corn crib

To illustrate the contemporary vernacular architecture that would have been present on the Vann property, the Georgia State Parks division has reconstructed representative structures from the area, and built at least one from the ground up [kitchen], for this purpose.

Little Scarecorn Creek Cabin (reconstruction), representative of an early 1800s Cherokee dwelling

The vernacular architectural forms and the use of available material are representative not only of the Cherokee of the area but of the increasing numbers of white settlers, as well.

Sugar Creek Cabin (reconstruction), early 1800s Cherokee building

National Register of Historic Places

CCC Fire Tower, 1935, Fort Mountain

In 2014-2015, the iconic stone fire lookout tower constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps camp 468 (SP-6) was restored by the state as part of the interpretive plan at Fort Mountain State Park. The tower was used until the early 1960s when it was replaced by a steel tower on a nearby mountain. In 1971, the cupola burned and the tower fell into disrepair.

National Register of Historic Places

Rock Formations, Fort Mountain

As you make your way up the short but vigorous trail to the top of Fort Mountain you will encounter scattered rocks of varying sizes. It helps you aunderstand the availability of material that lead to the construction of the rock wall the mountain is known for.

It has an otherworldly feel and I found it as fascinating on a recent trip as I did when I visited as a child.

National Register of Historic Places

Rock Wall, Fort Mountain

Located near the summit of Fort Mountain, the rock wall which gives the mountain its name remains a mystery. Its origin has been attributed to everyone from Hernando de Soto to the Cherokee. The de Soto connection has long been disproved but the specific use by the Cherokee is still being researched. Some believe it was ceremonial while others consider it territorial.

Cohutta Mountains, Murray County

The drive up Georgia Highway 2/52 to Fort Mountain State Park affords several breathtaking overlooks of the Cohutta Wilderness, the largest such area designated in Georgia. This southwestern chain of the Appalachians is striking for its natural beauty.

Murray County Courthouse, 1917, Chatsworth

Begun in 1916 and occupied in 1917, the Chatsworth courthouse remains the only such facility built after the removal of the county seat from Spring Place in 1913.

National Register of Historic Places

Historic Commercial Storefronts, Chatsworth

North Third Avenue

East Market Street

Chatsworth Downtown Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Cohutta Bank Building, 1914, Chatsworth

Located on the corner of East Market Street and North 2nd Avenue across from the Wright Hotel, the old Cohutta Bank Building is one of the nicest intact commercial structures in downtown Chatsworth. It was most recently home to the Murray County Arts Guild. It is presently available for sale or lease.

Chatsworth Downtown Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Wright Hotel, 1909, Chatsworth

The Wright Hotel was one of the first in Chatsworth. It was owned by Thomas and Laura Wright, who also lived on the property. After Mrs. Wright’s death in 1948, the hotel was leased to Lester Quarles and later the Keeter family. Its name was changed to the Chatsworth Hotel during this time. One of the Wright’s daughters, Kate Raine, returned to Chatsworth in 1969 and continued in the business  begun by her parents many years earlier. The Whitfield-Murray Historical Society inherited the property upon Mrs. Raine’s death in 1986.

National Register of Historic Places

Dennis Mill, Circa 1869, Murray County

The Dennis community which grew up around this historic gristmill was one of the earliest settlements in this section of Northwest Georgia. It was named for Dennis Johnson, who was an early mill operator and postmaster. One of the grindstones indicates that it may have been originally known as Cohutta Mills but this is unclear. Electrified in the 1940s, the mill operated on a limited basis until the 1950s. The original structure survives and is the centerpiece of a property that today includes two wonderful rental cabins on the banks of Rock Creek, known as Dennis Mill Cabins and Events.