Johnny Appleseed

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Johnny Appleseed Trail Association

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed

No discussion about the history of apples and their propagation westward across America would be complete without touching upon Johnny Appleseed. There is an abundance of quaint misinformation about Johnny Appleseed, but in fact he did exist and his contribution to the distribution of apples is noteworthy. John Chapman, later known as Johnny Appleseed, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts (a few miles from our home in Harvard) in 1774, one of three children of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman. His mother died in 1776 and his father re-married, moving the family to Longmeadow, Massachusetts.There are few facts about John Chapman’s upbringing or how he became a lover of apples, but it is known that he established orchards from the Allegheny River in the east to Ohio in the west. In addition to spreading apple trees, John Chapman was deeply religious and was a self appointed missionary for the Church of the New Jerusalem, (also referred to as New-Church), based on the Biblical interpretations of the Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. Apparently his kind demeanor made him an accepted peacemaker between the Indians and the settlers.Chapman started his westward journey around 1797, moving ahead of the pioneers. In 1801 there are records of Chapman on the Ohio River with two canoe loads (16 bushels) of apple seeds he purchased from cider mills in Western Pennsylvania. Contrary to popular belief, Chapman was not a simpleton who scattered seeds but a practical nurseryman who understood the need for his service in supplying seeds and seedlings. He would sell apple seedlings for a “flip-penny bit” or about 6 ½ cents. Chapman owned and leased land for his nurseries – large by today’s standards. He planted nurseries beginning along the Muskingum River in Ohio and expanded into other counties of Ohio and neighboring Indiana.Chapman lived in and around Mansfield, Ohio from about 1810 to 1830 with his half-sister Persis, visiting his far flung nurseries on foot, walking hundreds of miles a year. About 1830 records show that he purchased a substantial track of land near Fort Wayne, Indiana. There he built a log cabin and planted a nursery of 15,000 little apple trees. His lifestyle was very modest and he had few pretensions and worldly posessions. He died in Ft. Wayne on March 18, 1845.Other Information on Johnny Appleseed
There is plenty of information on Johnny Appleseed on line. Try a visit to the website of the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association in Massachusetts. site is, quite detailed, which also includes information about Chapman’s spiritual interests.
Gravenstein apples from Bolton Spring Farm, Massachusetts    Leasing land in OhioBy some accounts, John Chapman was an adept businessman. He bought, leased and sold property. For example, in Mansfield, OH, rcords show that on 16 July 1829 Chapman leased from Jacob Harter one-half acre of land for 40 years, for a consideration of 40 young apples trees. This was a small lease. By com-parison we know that he owned 1000 acres in various other parts of Ohio. We also know that his brother assisted later on him with his orchards in Ohio and Indiana. 
US Postage stamp, first issue from 1966 honors Johnny Appleseed. 

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