In the early part of the 1800s, the area now known as Floyd County, Georgia was still Cherokee Indian territory. The Cherokee, a peaceful, agrarian people, had established their own democratic government, the Cherokee Nation, and were considered one of the five “civilized” tribes.
David Vann, Cherokee sub-chief and treasurer of the Cherokee nation in the 1840s, was born around 1800 in the valley where Cave Spring, Georgia was settled. The valley was named Vann’s Valley after his father, Avery Vann.
Avery Vann, was the son of a Scottish trader named Clement Vann who married a full-blooded Cherokee named Wa-wli Gam. Avery is believed to have been Clement’s son by his first marriage to an unknown white woman. Avery married Margaret McSwain, daughter of a white trader named Alexander McSwain and a woman named Nancy Downing. Avery’s step-brother, James Vann, was a powerful, wealthy Cherokee chief known for his fierce temper. His home, Spring Place in Chatsworth, Georgia, is now open as a museum.
Like his uncle, David Vann was also a very wealthy Cherokee planter. Vann was a slaveholder and owned a large plantation consisting of several hundred acres in the area which now comprises downtown Cave Spring.
In A History of Rome and Floyd County, Vann is described by the author as “very well educated” and having “a pleasing hand with occasional misspelt words, like most of the Indian leaders.”
A letter found in the 1960s in a city vault in Calhoun, Georgia contained a description of a visit to Vann’s home. The letter, written by Herman S. Gold on May 22, 1830 to Gen. D. B. Brinsiade, was a record of Gold’s travel to Creek Path. The letter reads in part:
“Tuesday; We visited John Ross, the principal Chief, his house is a long two story building, inside has the appearance of neatness and elegance, here we crossed the Coosa, and passed the tomb of the Cherokee, who was so barbarously murdered by the Georgians. We went along Vann’s Valley, to David Vann’s; his house is elegantly painted outside, and in, and is beautifully clouded and furnished with the nicest kind of furniture, his wife amused us in the evening by playing most charmingly on her Piano, They are both descendants of Cherokee’s.”
It was shortly before the time of this letter that gold was discovered in Georgia.
As miners rushed to the state seeking to stake their claims on the land, the pressure to rid the land of Cherokees mounted. In 1829, the Indian Removal Act was introduced in Congress. Senators Daniel Webster and Henry Clay delayed passage until 1830.
Vann, along with other wealthy Cherokee planters as well as the rest of the members of the Cherokee Nation, suddenly found themselves facing the prospect of losing their lands.
In December of 1831, legislation was enacted in Georgia to create Cherokee County, a vast area covering most of the northern part of the state.
Cherokee chief John Ross decided to fight the legislation within the court system. David Vann was initially a member of the Ross party. Eventually, Vann joined other prominent Cherokees including the Ridges in their efforts to negotiate a treaty with the United States government and end the persecution of their people at the hands of Georgians.
Ultimately though, Vann disagreed with the treaty terms that Ridge and others negotiated at New Echota. Vann refused to sign the treaty—a decision which would save his life when other treaty leaders were brutally executed in 1839.
Ross fought the federal government’s efforts to remove the Cherokee until 1838 when he finally realized his efforts were futile. Ross accompanied his people on the “Trail of Tears”. His wife was one of the many Cherokee that died as a result the grueling conditions of the forced march westward.
It is not known at what point David Vann relinquished his land to the state of Georgia and moved west. In 1835, Vann was listed in Cherokee Census. According to the census records, in addition to Vann, there were three males under the age of 18 in Vann’s household and two females over the age of 16. Vann owned seven male slaves and six female slaves. His estate was valued at over $11,000 in the 1835 Cherokee valuations.
Vann’s plantation would be divided up as part of the fourth section of the third district of what was then Cherokee County. The lots which would become part of the William S. Simmons Plantation were part of Vann’s estate.