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Caty, Patience, and Grace

Caty (?-1808), Patience, and Grace (circa 1741-?) three residents of Diamond Hill, an estate owned by James Vann, a chief of the former Cherokee nation, located in former Cherokee territory and now in Chatsworth, Georgia. Chief Vann’s plantation, now preserved as a historical landmark, was home to people from diverging but intersecting walks of life. Historian Tiya Miles notes that on “Diamond Hill, one of the first and most prosperous Cherokee plantations, American Indians, enslaved people of African descent, and Euro-American missionaries, craftsmen, and laborers lived incredible, intersecting lives” (Miles, 3). The lives of Caty, Patience, and Grace provide us with insight into this intersectional existence on Diamond Hill, an estate so large and extensive (featuring a string of businesses like stores and a whiskey still, a Moravian mission station, and a federal road for travelers constructed at Vann’s request) that Vann was referring to the area as “Vannsville” by 1805 (Miles, 4). 

Vann, born to a Scottish father and Cherokee mother, adopted European practices of African enslavement and private property accumulation as opposed to traditional Cherokee understandings of property as communal. As such, Vann’s estate had one of the largest enslaved populations in Cherokee Territory, and Vann possessed over 100 human beings upon his death in 1809. Since Vann was known to buy enslaved people in “bulk”—purchasing between twelve and twenty individuals at once—Caty, Patience, and Grace all have different stories as to how they ended up on Diamond Hill; the diversity of African-born, African American, and Afro-Cherokee people on the plantation also signaled that these women navigated a society with many cultural nuances—which were further complicated by the presence and influence of Moravian missionaries from Central Europe. The recordkeeping of these missionaries provides an important source of information for Miles’ investigation of enslaved life on the Vann Estate.

Caty, who was born to Black parents already living within the Cherokee nation, is described by the missionaries as “having a very sweet attitude of heart” and an “honest disposition,” but “Like the Indians themselves, was ignorant of God and godly things” (Miles, 81). Here, it becomes important to note that African descendants born in Indian territory maintained notable cultural differences—like language, foodways, and spiritual customs—to those born in the U.S. nation state. Therefore, the missionaries’ cutting remark suggests that Caty, being born in Cherokee territory to parents who already lived among the Cherokee, was simply socially inclined to Cherokee language, customs, and spiritual practices over the Christian and European customs the missionaries hoped to impose. The missionaries’ assertion that Peggy Scott Vann, James Vann’s part-Cherokee wife, “loved and protected [Caty] to an unusual degree” (Miles, 82) further affirms her particular closeness to Cherokee influences—certainly more so than the Black people stationed on the far corner of the plantation “who rarely saw their Cherokee master, and almost never saw whites” (Miles, 78). Peggy’s affinity for Caty was reportedly so strong that, when Caty became deathly ill, Peggy “nursed her with much faithfulness as though it was her own child” (78). When Caty succumbed to her illness in 1808, Peggy wanted Caty to be buried in her personal garden. However, Peggy’s wishes were thwarted by Vann who secretly gave orders to dig Caty’s grave at a site where three Black men had been brutally executed. Caty had at least two children before her death as two of Caty’s descendants are listed amongst Peggy’s property in 1812.

While Caty was born in Cherokee territory, Patience was born in “Guinea”—which Miles suggests might be a reference to Senegambia. Patience arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, where she and twelve other Africans were purchased by Vann in the winter of 1805. She permanently lost the use of her feet during her 375-mile journey from Charleston to Diamond Hill due to Vann’s failure to buy her shoes for the trek. Nevertheless, Patience was still expected to labor for Vann’s plantation and carried out her weaving duties by scooting on her knees whenever she had to maneuver the estate. Sometime after her arrival, Patience married a man named Gander who is suspected to have committed suicide in 1806 when jumped into the water to bathe. In 1810, a year after Vann’s death, estate administrators David McNair and James Brown deemed it necessary to sell off some of Vann’s human property. This same year Patience pleaded to move in with her second husband, an unnamed mill worker, only to discover that he, along with many others, had been sold and would soon be removed from the Cherokee Nation to Natchez, Mississippi. In 1813, while in her pregnancy’s third trimester, she was beaten by a notoriously brutal overseer named Samuel Tally and reportedly was unable to move for several hours. Patience’s fate after this date is unknown as it is the last entry about her in the Moravians’ Springplace Mission Diary.

Unlike Patience, Grace went to Diamond Hill by her own freewill; she was 67 years old when she arrived in 1808. Though Grace was a freewoman in Virginia, she followed her husband and children after they had been purchased by Vann when their Virginian slaveowner went bankrupt. Grace had to leave behind some valuables like a loom of cotton and an $18 debt owed to her. The missionaries thus described her as arriving in the Cherokee nation “poor as a church mouse” (Miles 83). Her husband Jacob was highly valued by his previous owner and was hence assigned to supervise Vann’s mill. Grace assisted her husband in his managerial duties and created her own influence on the plantation as mother, counselor, and caretaker. The missionaries write that Grace was “appreciated by her mistress as…intelligent [and] faithful” and that “she was respected by the negroes as a mother” (83). The “mistress” quoted here is likely Wali Vann, James Vann’s mother, who is said to have been particularly fond of Grace and even invited her to Cherokee festivities. Unfortunately, about a year after her arrival, Grace was reported to be drinking more and attending church less. Only five months after Vann’s death in February 1809, the missionaries reported for the first time that infighting amongst the enslaved was a daily occurrence. Grace and Jacob found themselves at the center of such conflict in July 1809 when Grace stopped Jacob from beating a man with a stick. Though Grace stopped the quarrel before it became violent, the threatened party reported attempted murder to the estate administrators. Despite Peggy and the missionary’s pleas for mercy, Grace was tied to a tree and lashed 80 times with whips and clubs by the estate’s overseer. At 68 years old, Grace nearly died from this assault and could barely speak when Peggy Vann checked in on her. The missionaries were perhaps happy to report that this brutal encounter restored Grace’s Christian faith as she claimed to have heard an invisible person reminding her of Christ’s suffering during her own assault. 

Caty, Patience, and Grace’s stories reflect a multicultural existence of African, Cherokee, and European confluences. Each woman embodies a different element of Black being. Caty, having spoken Cherokee and lived very closely to her Cherokee mistress, is best understood culturally as Afro-Cherokee. Patience, being African born, lived a less assimilated existence than Grace and many other African Americans who were born within U.S. territory and did not speak an African language or practice an African religion. Patience and other African born people on the plantation like Crawje, Suniger Jacob, July, and Betty, all spoke their African tongue and often required translators when speaking to Cherokee or American people. Upon Vann’s death, the missionaries reported an increase in fighting amongst the enslaved and noted a particular disconnection between African born and American born Blacks. The intersectional stories presented here represent the complexity of Black existence for free and enslaved people in pre-removal Cherokee territory. These women lived at a cultural crossroads where both Cherokee and Black culture was changing due to increasing subjugation in their interactions with European Americans. In December 1828, Georgia passed a law—which would become effective in June 1830—that extended its jurisdiction over all Cherokee territory within the state’s limits. Continuing a series of anti-Indigenous laws, Georgia also passed a law in 1833 that made it illegal for Cherokee people to hire whites or enslaved persons belonging to whites. The penalty for this offense, which required the forfeiture of all rights and titles of occupancy, caused Joseph Vann, Chief James’ son, who took over the estate’s management in 1818, to lose the 805 acres that was Diamond Hill. 

Online Resources

Georgia Department of Natural Resources.



Tiya Miles.



Miles, Tiya. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story. Chapel Hill: Univ of North Carolina Press, 2010.


Jada Similton

1933. Chief James Clement Vann House, U.S. Route 76 & State Route 255, Spring Place, Murray County, GA. https://www.loc.gov/item/ga0291/

Key Events


Chief James Vann had consolidated enough businesses and land to begin referring to his extensive estate “Vannsville.”

Winter 1805

Patience is purchased by Vann in Charleston, South Carolina along with twelve other individuals. She permanently loses usage of her feet during the treacherous walk to the Cherokee nation.


Patience’s first husband Gander dies of suspected suicide.


Grace arrived to Diamond Hill as a free woman and quickly became favored as mother and caretaker amongst the enslaved; Despite Grace’s and Peggy Vann’s attentions, Caty died of illness in the weaving house at Diamond Hill, leaving her mistress Peggy quite distraught.

February 18, 1809

Chief James Vann is murdered in a whiskey tavern by an undiscovered assailant while his son Joseph Vann, 11, was asleep on an upper floor.

July 1809

Quarrels amongst the enslaved increased after Vann’s death; Grace and her husband Jacob are punished for “attempted murder” and Grace is brutally whipped.


Patience discovers her husband will be sold out to a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi after administrators resolve to sell some of Vann’s human property following his death.


Joseph Vann, 19, returns to Diamond Hill to manage his late father’s estate and inherits over eighty people.

May 1819

President James Monroe stayed overnight in Joseph’s home; two months later, Joseph decides to build the brick house that is currently restored and preserved by local community organizers and the Georgia Historical Commission.

October 18, 1820

Peggy Vann (who had become Peggy Crutchfield) died in her Oothcaloga/Oochgeelogy home of an illness; The impact of Caty’s death in 1808 is mentioned in Peggy’s eulogy.

December 1828

Georgia passed a series of laws that violated Cherokee sovereignty and extended the state’s jurisdiction over Cherokee territory within its limits.


Joseph Vann and family are forced to leave their estate; they relocate to a 300-acre farm on the Tennessee river.