James Vann was one of the richest men in the North America at the beginning of the 19th century. He owned over 200 slaves and operated a large plantation that encompassed nearly 1,000 acres of land. As his wealth and power grew, so did his enemies. He was murdered by an unknown assassin that still causes controversy as to whom it was 200 years later.
His son soon took over the family plantation and increased it in size and wealth in a relatively short time. Joseph Vann or “Rich Joe” as the locals called him, was an even better, all be it shrewd, business man than his father.
When the Georgia gold rush hit, Rich Joe hired a white man to run the plantation. He had not realized that he had broken a new Georgia law forbidding a Cherokee to employ a white without a permit. The Georgia guard tried to take over the mansion as retaliation for violating the law.
At the same time, a Spencer Riley claimed to have won the home in the Land Lottery of 1835. Rich Joe and his family were caught in the crossfire. In March of 1835, the Vann’s were finally removed by force from the home and sent on the infamous trail of tears with thousands of Cherokee Indians to Oklahoma.
Today, the mansion is repaired to its former glory after nearly 100 years of neglect. The home is now a museum that tells the story of this amazing part of Georgia history. It is the oldest structure in north Georgia.
A guided tour of the Vann mansion starts at just $5 per adult and $3.50 for kids and is well worth every penny. Visitors can see the opulent mansion which contains many hand carved woodworks. An unbelievable floating staircase survives after years of neglect and is restored to its original splendor. The huge fireplace and 12-foot mantle are an awesome display of a well built structure and architecture. It is decorated with period pieces of furniture and fine antiques.
The entire structure was built from red clay bricks which were fired on the property using the native red clay found on the property. All the metal work of the home, including each hand wrought nail, was created on site using Vann’s own personal blacksmith shop.
The visitor’s center houses more displays about the Vann’s and the Cherokee Nation. Films, interpretive exhibits and artifacts found at the site offer guests a chance to see what plantation life was like during the 19th century. A ½ mile nature trail and picnic shelters offer visitor’s a chance to explore the grounds and enjoy a picnic lunch after visiting the museum and visitor’s center.
For more information on directions to the park, hours of operation and other park amenities, visit the official Georgia state park website here.