Historic Vann House Land Protected (GA)

Murray County, GA – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit private land conservation organization, today announced it has completed the acquisition of the 100-acre track of land located across the road from the historic Chief Vann House at Spring Place in Murray County, Georgia. Formerly owned by Paul Jackson and Tom Kinnamon, local developers, the property was once an integral part of the largest Cherokee plantation in Georgia. It is also believed to be one of the most important archaeological sites in the southeastern United States.

“Three years ago we set out to preserve what we could of what was left of the original plantation,” says Rick Wood, project manager for TPL-Chattanooga. “Earlier this year we acquired 45 acres from Jackson and Kinnamon, and now, through this acquisition, we’ve added an additional 55 acres.”

According to Wood, coordinating the purchase of the property was like putting together a complex puzzle. “This was a complicated transaction from the very beginning,” says Wood. “But the cooperation of the sellers and the support from the local community was phenomenal. It was extremely gratifying to see all the pieces come together to make it happen. It truly was a classic example of the public and private sectors coming together to protect a priceless historic jewel. This is precisely the kind of ‘partnering’ Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue articulates in his call for a comprehensive state-wide land conservation effort— or what he calls his Georgia Land Conservation Partnership.”

Jeff Stancil, manager of the Vann House property for Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agrees. “The Trust for Public Land, the county, the state and the local community coordinated their efforts to put this deal together. And Tim Howard and the Friends of the Vann House of the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society did a magnificent job not only raising money but also raising public awareness. This was a great grass-roots effort to preserve something truly unique to this community.

“It can’t be overstated how important this tract of land is,” Stancil continues. “The Chief Vann plantation was one of the largest if not the largest plantation in the Cherokee nation. And many of its structures spilled over onto this particular tract of land. And we also discovered that a section of the original 1805 Federal Highway runs across the property. When the property is fully integrated into the state park system, you will be able to literally walk down history’s path and relive a part of this community’s past.”

“Reconnecting some of the original plantation property has been a goal for the past 25 or 30 years,” says Tim Howard, local resident and treasurer of the Friends of the Vann House. “And we couldn’t have done it without the help of TPL and the support we got from the community at large. It’s an exciting day for all of us. We are looking forward to working with the state to make this one of the most visited historic attractions in this part of Georgia.”

“There are a lot of reasons to protect this particular piece of land,” says Dave Crass, state archaeologist with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division of DNR. “Not only is it the first thing you see when you step out onto the front porch of the Vann House, but it has enormous archaeological value as well. At one time, it contained most, if not all of the support buildings that a plantation of that size needed for its operations— barns, storage sheds, processing facilities and yes, slave cabins. We have never excavated a Cherokee slave cabin before, so this will present a unique opportunity. There’s no telling what historical artifacts and other treasures will be unearthed as we learn more about this fascinating period in our state’s history.”

Often considered the “Showcase of the Cherokee Nation,” the Vann House is a certified site of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Built by African slaves under the charge of Chief James Vann, the two-story dwelling was the first brick house in the Cherokee Nation and is one of the best-preserved plantation homes in the country.

The area surrounding New Echota and Chatsworth was the starting point for the Indian Removal Policy that forever changed the cultural landscape of North Georgia and the Southeastern United States. As part of the Old Federal Highway and an important way-point of the Cherokee removal from North Georgia and East Tennessee, the recently acquired Jackson-Kinnamon tract will be invaluable in interpreting the story of the Vann House and its role in African-American and Cherokee history.

Wood concludes, “The bottom line: this was an extremely important parcel to acquire. Not only because it enhances the accessibility and interpretative resources of an existing historic landmark— the Vann House— but it will also help ensure its ongoing protection. And that protects the on-going economical viability of the community.”

The property will eventually become a part of the Vann House Historic Site managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

About TPL: TPL, founded in 1972, protects land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has saved more than 1.9 million acres of land. In Georgia, TPL has helped protect more than 15,500 acres in the state. Its signature initiative in Georgia, the Chattahoochee River Land Protection Campaign, raised more than $160 million and protected 146 miles of river corridor and 13,427 acres of land. For more information, see www.tpl.org

Posted 1/28/05