I had completely forgotten the fact that Johnny Appleseed was a real person. I mean, we talked about him a great deal in elementary school, and I even played him in the second grade, wearing one of mother’s cooking pots on my head as a hat. But, I’d let it slip away.
Which is scary.
Johnny was supposed to have done that.
All along, I had no idea he was a real historical figure.
He was born on September 26, 1774 as John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts, and is known as a environmentalist and nurseryman who introduced apples to parts of PA, OH, IN, IL, and WVA.
The dude got around.
He was also a missionary, which, if you think about it is ironic. I mean, c’mon, apples? What about Eve?
His father, Nathaniel, served with General George Washington in the American Revolution, and was one of the Minutemen back in Concord.
John and his half-brother, Nathaniel lived a nomadic life until their dad moved to Ohio around 1805. Then, John was on his own, Nate stayed home to help dad toil the unforgiving Ohio soil.
After apprenticing as an orchardist, Johnny took off for parts unknown.
Lore tells us that Johnny went all over the Midwest spreading seeds randomly, but in fact, he planted real nurseries, built fences around them, and left them in the care of local townspeople who shared the produce. Every years or two, he’d come back to make sure things were working out.
Apples on trees that are planted from seeds are rarely sweet, so most of Johnny’s apples were used to make hard-cider.
As Chapman travelled, he lived off the land; some would say a subsistence lifestyle. Yup, he was homeless, broke, and often hungry.
And he was passionate. Passionate about apples and passionate about The New Gospel. He would tell Bible stores to children, preach the gospel to adults.
Native Americans called him “The One Who Has Been Touched By The Great Spirit”, and even the hostile Indians left him alone. And, Appleseed was a pretty big Indian fan as well. He decried the nation’s opinion of “wild savages” and claimed that in his 4,000 miles of walking he’d never met a hostile native.
Tradition tells us he was an animal lover, avoiding hurting them, killing them, and eating them.
He was also a confirmed bachelor. Some would say his heart was broken by a young lady back home, but Johnny himself said, “…women are not what they professed to be; some of them are deceivers; and a man might not marry the amiable woman that he thought he was getting, after all.”
Sounds like a broken heart to me!
Johnny died, some say, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1845 of cancer at the age of 71.
As he was usually clad in ragged, borrowed or donated clothing, most people thought him poor.
When he died, he left his estate to his sister. It included 1,200 acres of nurseries, four plots of land in Indiana, and a nursery with 15,000 trees.
Oh, any BTW, apples aren’t native to North America!
Just think about it, without Johnny Appleseed, we’d be saying, “As Turkish as apple pie!”
G’head, take a bite!