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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 7, No. 4
December, 1929

Page 461

Pryor, Oklahoma
October 7, 1929.

Mr. J. Y. Bryce, Sec.
Oklahoma City, Okla.

Dear Sir:

After reading the interesting account in the last copy "Chronicles of Oklahoma" I find a grevious error concerning "One Johnson or John Vann" who attended school at Cornwall, Con. 1820-22, and described as a poor ignorant, indecent Indian and the son of Clemett Vann and his wife Christiana. Its all a very incorrect account, and would flatly contradict Dr. Emmett Star, our Cherokee Historian of worthy note and a man above reproach. But I realize there are many enemies to this worthy of worthiest men, and I am begging that a correction of this error be made. I will give you the correct account as I have it as to parentage of this man "Johnson or John Vann" of Spring Place, Ga. and the account of his home coming return as given by the Moravian Records there. He came from the best blood and one of the best, most influential families of the Cherokee Nation in North Georgia and I have a right to see that in this late day he gets justice on the pages of history which will be laid open before my noble son to read and it shames me to read such a record which if I can’t rightfully correct will be handed down to my decendants and his, for he, Johnson or John Vann of Spring Place, Ga. was my Great-grandfather.

Mr. Bryce, the article was by Carolyn Foreman. Of course her information was all second hand and probably an unkind soul at the Cornwall School who couldn’t trample the proud spirited Johnson Vann so put him on record in this dishonorable way mentioned. It’s a truth and his beautiful home will show he was used to most as good things of life as were the Connecticut citizens, and he was no heathen.

True it was, there were no public schools in that day in North Georgia except the Moravian Missions. The one at Spring Place was begun in 1800 and in 1801 school started with a goodly attendance of eager souls who wanted

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education. We know the masses were uneducated as also were the masses of white people of the states in that early day. Yes Sir, I am glad to tell you that according to all accounts, the missionaries didn’t come among the heathen nation altogether, for a great many and the better class of Cherokees lived in as pleasant and comfortable surroundings as did the people in the North. So, this One, Johnson-John Vann, who is rated as an ignorant and indecent Indian, was brought up used to the best in his own home, the noted Vann Mansion and with added advantages the Mission School gave him. And he completed his education at Spring Place, Ga.

Now I begin from page 243 of last issue of "Chronicles of Oklahoma." It is stated that several of the students of Spring Place School were so promising as to warrant higher education with a view to future usefulness in the nation.

Note—David Steiner Taw-chee-chee—a fine boy and good student, named after Abraham Steiner (first missionary to the Cherokees) in whose heart a world of grace was going on. "And—Johnson or John Vann, "Son" of the (former benefactor) of the Cherokee Mission. Now see this benefactor was Johnson-John Vann’s father who was "Rich" Joe Vann, so named to distinguish him from his coz Joseph Vann, who later came to the Western Nation and is the ancestor of most of the Vanns in the Western Nation.

At the bottom of page 244—This report in 1820 that 29 in the Cornwall school 1/2 of whom were Indian boys from the principal families of 5 or 6 different tribes.

(Johnson Vann was one of that number) Page 245 says, As these youths are designed for a higher education than is expected to be obtained at our Mission schools in heathen countries, it is deemed of no small importance that they be only such as are of suitable age, of docile disposition and of promising talent. The improvement of the pupils in general has been increasing and satisfactory, and in not a few instances uncommonly good.

Now dear Sir, Does it seem fitting tribute to the memory of the useful, religious character of Johnson-John Vann, who on bended knee and with bowed head., in sacredness called to God in Heaven for help and divine guidance as a religious leader among his people. Moravian Records tell

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me he prayed and made a lengthly talk to the people at Spring Place Mission on his return home from Cornwall, Conn. As also did Boudinot and both presented their letters from Cornwall College and were received into the home church at Spring Place Mission, and later "He" became editor of the "Cherokee Advocate," the Old Nation’s only newspaper. Doesn’t it seem that he came from the best families and home invironments? And Johnson Vann made all the good records at school and returned home to his people filled with the love of usefullness and doing good. Oh, could he be at any time "The poor indecent, ignorant Indian! I say no.

Page 252. First paragraph, read the commendation of the youths

Page 246. One eye witness relates that the public exhibition held every year in May was a "Grand affair." As we read on we see their popularity as the Indian pupils appeared so genteel and graceful on the stage; that the white pupils appeared uncouth beside them. Note this is only 20 yrs. after the 1st public institution of learning was established among the Cherokees at Spring Place, Ga. Eighteen years after beginning of first school—1801, we see Major Ridge in white top boots, wearing his coat trimmed in gold lace. He is riding in the most splendid carriage that ever came to Cromwell, Conn. He had waiters in great style as becometh a Southern gentleman in his day.

By invitation of Chief James Vann the Moravian Missionaries, Abraham Steiner and Geotlieb Byhan came to Vann’s home in 1799, the noted Vann house built 1790-95 where the Chief James Vann and the missionaries completed the plans for the Spring Place Mission School with much joy in their souls for the friendship and hospitality accorded them in the Vann home gave them great hopes for establishing the Christian school in North Georgia where Chief Vann gave the ground and material, the assistance of his colored servants and his own assistance. As long as he lived he supported the church and school at Spring Place. His son, Rich Joe Vann carried on where his father left off up to the time the Cherokees were driven from their homes 1838. The D A R’s placed a large marble marker on the aged wall of Vann House in honor of

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the noble Cherokee chieftain, who built, owned and lived there, and who laid the foundation in school and church privileges for all who come after them. Chief James Vann died 1808. His son, Chief Rich Joe Vann died Oct. 26, 1844 in the explosion of his steam boat, "The Lucy Walker," at Louisville, Ky.

Copied from an "Old Treaty Book, beginning in 1785: To these treaties Chief James Vann was signer as one of the principal chiefs, of second treaty, Oct. 24, 1808 at the Garrison of Tallico on Cherokee ground with U. S. A. The treaty signed by his own hand as no mark X was used as with most of those who only placed X after their name written by another. So James Vann was not an ignorant Indian either back in 1804 when he was past 70 years. Where then did he get his education? His wealthy Scotch father could answer that if here but of course his father had him educated away as did other men of wealth in that day. Chief James Vann was a man of much influence and personal business as he amassed a fortune by adding to his own right in his father’s estate. By this his son, also of a keen business sense, became the richest Cherokee Chieftain and was known as "Rich" Joe Vann to distinguish him from a cousin, Joseph Vann, who is the ancestor of most of the Vanns in Western Nation. These men are described as tall, handsome, and of pleasing personalities and a dignity becoming their station.

So with these few remarks you can easily see Johnson John Mann could not have been an ignorant, indecent Indian, and neither did the first missionaries come among an altogether heathen nation. Johnson Vann was educated in the Spring Place Mission School at home and finished at Cornwall, Conn. College and became a man of influence among his people.

Kind Sir: I assure you I appreciate Mrs. Foreman’s article on "Indian Missions," except the one error, which I know she would be as eager to have it corrected as I surely am not blaming your staff. I believe it was done in the long ago by some mission recorder who couldn’t crush the proud, dignified Johnson Vann back in the day of 1822. I trust a way will be found to adjust it all as a fairness to a good man who long since has gone to his glori-

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ous reward, to those who live a Godly life leaving footprints on the sands of time that others might follow therein and find the better way.

Thanking you sincerely for all consideration and again assuring you of my appreciation of your kindess and am not blaming your staff for printing this or neither am I blaming Mrs. Carolyn Foreman for this mistake. Its only second hand to her and as I said it was some one who couldn’t dictate or trample Johnson Vann, so out of spite, they surely have tried to brand him to future generations and possibly put it on record against him. But thank God for the privilege of his decendant to do what she can to rectify the wrong against him in that which has long lain silent and hidden from the public eye, unto the day of Mrs. C. W. Brown in the 5th generation. Now rest easy my long past and departed loved one. I am come to defend you.

So to-day I am laying before you the true facts, not my ideas but which are from records of these people, written in their day.

Truly Mrs. Foreman has written a beautiful worded sketch of history, which is of much interest to me, except my Great-grandfather, Johnson-John Vann, whose father, the article says, was Clemett Vann who is not mentioned in history except in a family line of another family. I am sure Mrs. Foreman would be as glad to know that every article to her credit was as correct as could be; am sure she is a woman of much tenderness with a broadness of mind and fairness to all, including me. I feel after my proof and explanation she would feel that I am deserving of some consideration in the matter of the good name my ancestors should have on the pages of history, as it will pass on down to the generations to come.

This error entangles many such fine characters as O. H. P. Brewer of Muskogee, Okla., as his ancestors were a sister to Johnson or John Vann. Now there were several John Vanns, but only the one who went to Cornwall, Conn. College and this one married Tiana Fields, a sister to James Fields, who was also a chum at college with this John Vann. This union brought together two of the most influential families of usefulness and wealth in the Old Nation.

I have collected family history of these people from

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every possible source, in this and the old Nation, taking every opportunity available and my rewards are rich in returns. Three of the trophies are, one fine, large oil paintings, 24x36 in., of the Vann Mansion with all the beautiful scenery below in the valley and a range of the "Blue Cohutta Mts." The old house stands stately and tall on the hill overlooking the valley below and the Spring Place Missions of ye olden days, the natural scenery and red brick, marble pillars with veranda upper and lower. Double doors with fan shape transoms set around by a row of small rosettes hand carved. All in the picture are beautifully blended in coloring. There is not another house like it. The 3 flights of swinging stairs are a marvel to every one, no visible fastenings, just seemingly stuck to the wall at either end.

John Howard Payne and many notables and missionary leaders passed in and out at will as guests of Chief James and Rich Joe Vann, sharing the true Southern hospitality of these grand old country gentlemen in that long ago. Another is a large photo showing the marker placed by the D A Rs in honor of these Noblemen, the leaders of a great nation. The marker is draped in two big American flags. Then there is another in water colors by the same artist. This is the home of Rich Joe Vann’s sister, Mrs. David McNair, or Mary Vann McNair. Very beautiful are all. Now judge, Could John Vann, that useful citizen, out of so splendid environments be the poor ignorant, indecent Indian as spoken of in "Chronicles of Oklahoma?" No, no, never! Before me now on my desk is a Book of Treaties between U. S. A. and Cherokee Nation beginning 1785 to 1870.

Thanking you sincerely for all consideration, I remain truly one of our noble society in the interest of our country’s history.

MRS. C. W. BROWN, Pryor, Okla. R-2.

Page 467

1419 West Okmulgee Avenue,
Muskogee, Oklahoma.
October 15, 1929.

Mr. J. Y. Bryce.
Secretary Oklahoma Historical Society,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

My Dear Mr. Bryce:

Your letter of October fourteenth is just received. Regarding my article about Cornwall Mission School wherein it is stated that the Moravians described John Vann as a "poor ignorant indecent Indian" I can only say that the phrase which Mrs. Brown resents is from A History of Cornwall, Connecticut, by Edward Comfort Starr, B. D. 1926, wherein the author purports to quote a contemporary of the Vann youth.

Quaint phrases in use a hundred years ago are not always to be interpreted by us in their present day significance. For another example: The constitution of the school at Cornwall states the object of the school to be "The education in our own country, of Heathen Youths" to qualify them as missionaries, physicians, surgeons, school teaches or interpreters. Young Vann and other Indian students from the South who enrolled there did not understand the word "heathen" to be a term of reproach; I feel sure that the author of the phrase to which Mrs. Brown objects had no thought of reflecting on young John Vann. My point in mentioning it was to show that in spite of the apparent handicap under which the youth went to school, he was possessed of such, character and stamina, that "he became a man of influence and was at one time, editor of the Cherokee Advocate."

Having lived in Indian Territory and Oklahoma since 1898 I have learned to esteem the Cherokee people very highly and would not willingly do anything to hurt one of them. I have read much of the high standing of the Vann family and am deeply interested in the facts which Mrs. Brown has written you concerning her ancestors.

Yours Sincerely,


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