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Old News Stories
Payne Was Not Prisoner in Vann House, 1930

From The Atlanta Constitution
Nov. 30, 1930

MYTH OF ‘HOME SWEET HOME' AUTHOR
AS PRISONER IN GEORGIA BARED

Spring Place, Ga., Nov. 29. The myth that John Howard Payne, author of "Home, Sweet Home," was held a prisoner in the old Vann house near here, has been exploded.

Markers in the yard and in the house built by a chief of the Cherokee Indians late in the eighteenth century say that Payne was imprisoned there when suspected of sedition.

Dr. J. E. Bradford, owner of the place, however, is of the opinion that the house was not Payne's prison, and Payne's own account of his imprisonment described his prison as "a small log hut," while the Vann house is built of brick.

The Vann house, a two-story structure with a large porch in front, was built by Joseph Vann, a rich Cherokee chief. It is said that the house was erected after the chief had visited the king and queen of England. Masons were brought back from England to do the work and it is said that the brick used were shipped from England and packed on mules at Savannah, Ga., to be carried overland to this place.

The interior is decorated with elaborate and skillful hand carving. Some of the floors are covered with twelve inch boards. Some of the original locks ten and one-half inches by seven and one-half inches, are still on the doors.

There are two rooms on each floor in the original part of the house. Two rooms were added later at the back.

James Vann was one of three brothers who came to American from Scotland. He settled in Georgia and married an Indian girl, Ruth Gann. Then he died, his son, Joseph, became chief of the Cherokees and remained as chief until 1836, when he was driven away by William Absalom Bishop, American guard commander, according to Dr. Bradford.

Vann owned large tracts of land and slaves, and Indians on his place were said to have a gold mine in the mountains which they worked.

John Howard Payne was arrested at the home of Chief John Ross on November 2, 1835.

According to his own account, he was at the Ross home on Saturday evening engaged in writing. He was intending to leave on Monday to visit Athens, Ga., and Stone Mountain, which was the chief occasion for visiting Georgia.

Suddenly there was a sound of galloping horses and men's voices outside. The door was burst in and Ross and Payne were informed of their arrest, though they were kept in ignorance of the charges at the time. Payne's papers, which were a prime object of the arrest, were seized.

Ross and Payne were placed on horses and conducted to Spring Place, where, according to Payne, they were thrown into a "small log hut" with no windows, one door, and a single straw bunk.

Both were released soon after, however, no federal charges being filed, and, of course, no trial being held.

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