Ellen “Nelly” VanVactor
Free Black Female Landowner
Ellen "Nelly" VanVactor was one of the first free women of color to own real estate in Greeneville. Throughout Tennessee, there were few landowners of her race and gender prior to 1830. Born a slave in Virginia in 1780, Nelly arrived here in 1818 with Benjamin VanVactor as well as her children. Benjamin's housekeeper, Nelly inherited his estate in 1822, by which time she had been freed. She bought her first real estate the following year. By 1837 she owned six town lots.
Nelly and her family lived on the northwest corner of Summer and Irish streets. Her daughter, Erie, and Erie’s two sons were emancipated in 1822. Nelly’s son, Alfred VanVactor Thompson, was born free in 1818. Well educated, he was trained as a tailor by Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), who later became the seventeenth president of the United States. Alfred emigrated to Liberia in 1842, subsequently returning to the U.S. and becoming a successful Ohio tailor. Nelly lived in Greenville until 1856.
Erected by Tennessee Historical Commission. (Marker Number 1C 93.)
Topics and series. This historical
Location. 36° 9.905′ N, 82° 49.789′ W. Marker is in Greeneville, Tennessee, in Greene County. Marker is on N. Main Street (U.S. 321), on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Greeneville TN 37745, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Big Spring (a few steps from this marker); Robert Kerr (within shouting distance of this marker); Greeneville Cumberland Presbyterian Church (within shouting distance of this marker); Greenville Cumberland Presbyterian Church (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Capitol of State of Franklin (about 500 feet away); Death of John Morgan (about 500 feet away); General Morgan Inn (about 500 feet away); Andrew Johnson (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greeneville.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 14, 2018. It was originally submitted on August 10, 2012, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 392 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on August 2, 2015, by Pat Filippone of Stockton, California. 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 10, 2012, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.