EDITORIAL: Vann House Days are a wonderful opportunity for learning and understanding

·3 min read

Jul. 24—The Vann House Days at the Chief Vann House in Spring Place, typically held each July, were canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Happily, this year the event is back on, today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be demonstrations of historic activities that were once common at the Vann House, with Saturday featuring more demonstrations than Sunday, as well as tours.

Organizers say Friends of the Vann House volunteers and Vann House rangers "are ready to welcome guests back." This is an excellent opportunity to learn about our area's history and, as the organizers put it, to celebrate "the historians, activists and philanthropists who fought with all they had and rallied their community to save the Vann House."

We are blessed that they did, and that like-minded individuals continue to care for and about the historic house.

According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Vann House was built in 1804 by a wealthy Cherokee tradesman and chief named James Vann who "sponsored the first western-style school and mission in the Cherokee Nation before his murder in 1809.

"His son and heir, Joseph Vann, nicknamed 'Rich Joe,' managed the family business and plantation, and continued to sponsor the Moravian Mission. Rich Joe and his family were violently removed from their home in 1835, three years prior to the Trail of Tears, and their plantation split apart by American prospectors.

"Today, their restored plantation home stands as a reminder of the Cherokee legacy in Georgia."

The department notes how "In the 1940s, time was running out for the house on Diamond Hill. The 'bones' of the building were good, but extensive rot and damage in the roof, windows, mantles, cornice work and more threatened to end the long reign of this plantation home."

Many people, including Agnes Kemp, Tim Howard, Gertrude Ruskin and Lela Lloyd, stepped forward.

Kemp in 1951 led the fundraising of $6,000 for the purchase of the Vann House for the Georgia Historical Commission. Howard told the story of the Vanns and helped with research necessary for the restoration. Ruskin and a Mrs. Rankin from the First District Women's Club helped fundraise. Lloyd "chronicled the entire process with Mrs. Kemp and Tim Howard."

There have been many others who have contributed, including the Bradford, Chambers, Brandy, Dunn and Calhoun families, and those who started the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society.

On July 27, 1958, the Vann House was opened as a public historic site.

"This year, guests who attend Vann House Days can tour the newly restored Vann Kitchen/Workhouse Exhibit," the department said. "The cabin has received a new roof, chinking and exterior logs. This restoration was made possible with a generous donation from the Friends of the Vann House. The historic demonstrations will be hosted by youth volunteers from the Friends, as well as locals whose ancestors once lived in the Vann House."

Among the demonstrations will be blacksmithing; woodworking and chair caning; black powder; use of handmade weapons and tools; weaving, spinning and cotton carding; butter being churned; basket folding; early food preservation; the crafting of handkerchief dolls; beading; corn grinding and quilting.

Regular admission is $6.50 to $5.50 plus tax, children 5 and under are free.

We encourage you if you can to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to see these demonstrations up close, and to tour the historic facilities, while taking appropriate precautions considering that COVID-19 and the delta variant are still a part of our lives.

And we commend the many volunteers and staff who make this wonderful opportunity available to us so that we can both experience history and learn from it, to enhance our lives and the area in which we live.

Thank you!

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