Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed

[ap-uhl-seed]
Johnny Appleseed: see Chapman, John.
Appleseed, Johnny: see Chapman, John.
orig. John Chapman

(born Sept. 26, 1774, Leominster, Mass.—died March 18?, 1845, near Ft. Wayne, Ind., U.S.) U.S. pioneer and folk hero. He was trained as a nurseryman and began circa 1800 collecting apple seeds from cider presses in Pennsylvania. He then traveled west to the Ohio River valley, planting apple seeds along the way. He tended 1,200 acres of his own orchards and was responsible for hundreds of square miles of others, having sold or given away thousands of apple seedlings to pioneers. His kind and generous nature, devout spirituality, affinity for the Indians and the wilderness, and eccentric appearance (including bare feet, a coffee-sack shirt, and a mush pan for a hat) helped make him a figure of legend.

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Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – February 18, 1845), was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apples to large parts of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, mainly Ohio. He became an American legend while still alive, largely because of his kind and generous ways, his great leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance of apples.

He was also a missionary for the Church of the New Jerusalem, or Swedenborgian Church, so named because it teaches the theological doctrines contained in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

Family

John Chapman was the second child of Nathaniel Chapman and Elizabeth (née Simonds) (who married February 8, 1770) of Leominster, Massachusetts. Tradition holds that Nathaniel lost two good farms during the American Revolution, but in fact Johnny's father was a farmer of little means, and there is no deed record of either property. Nathaniel started John Chapman on a career as an orchardist by apprenticing him to a Mr. Crawford, who had apple orchards.

A third child, Nathaniel Jr., was born on June 26, 1776, while Nathaniel was an officer leading a company of carpenters attached to General George Washington in New York City. Elizabeth, however, was ill (probably with tuberculosis) and both mother and child died in July, leaving John and his older sister, also named Elizabeth, to be raised by relatives. After being honorably discharged in 1780, Nathaniel married Lucy Cooley, with whom he had 10 more children. Around 1803 John's sister Elizabeth married Nathaniel Rudd.

Heading to the frontier

In 1792, 18-year-old Chapman went west, taking 11-year-old half-brother Nathaniel with him. Their destination was the headwaters of the Susquehanna. There are stories of him practicing his nurseryman craft in the Wilkes-Barre area and of picking seeds from the pomace at Potomac cider mills in the late 1790s. Another story has Chapman living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Grant's Hill in 1794 at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Land records show that John Chapman was in today's Licking County, Ohio, in 1800. Congress had passed resolutions in 1798 to give land there, ranging from 160 to 2,240 acres (65-900 hectares), to Revolutionary War veterans, but soldiers did not actually receive letters of patent to their grants until 1802. By the time the veterans arrived, Johnny's nurseries, located on the Isaac Stadden farm, had trees big enough to transplant.

Nathaniel Chapman arrived with his second family in 1805, although John's sister Elizabeth remained in the east with her husband. At that point, the younger Nathaniel Chapman rejoined the elder, and Johnny Appleseed spent the rest of his life as an itinerant planter and sometime-preacher.

By 1806, when he arrived in Jefferson County, Ohio, canoeing down the Ohio River with a load of seeds, he was known as Johnny Appleseed. He had used a pack horse to bring seeds to Licking Creek in 1800, so it seems likely that the nickname appeared at the same time as his religious conversion.

Business plan

The popular image of Johnny Appleseed had him spreading apple seeds randomly, everywhere he went. In fact, he planted nurseries rather than orchards, built fences around them to protect them from livestock, left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. Many of these nurseries were located in the Mohican area of North-Central Ohio. This area included the towns of Mansfield, Lucas, Perrysville, and Loudonville.

Appleseed's managers were asked to sell trees on credit, if at all possible, but he would accept corn meal, cash or used clothing in barter. The notes did not specify an exact maturity date—that date might not be convenient—and if it did not get paid on time, or even get paid at all, Johnny Appleseed did not press for payment. Appleseed was hardly alone in this pattern of doing business, but he was unusual in remaining a wanderer his entire life.

He obtained the apple seed for free; cider mills wanted more apple trees planted since it would eventually bring them more business. Johnny Appleseed dressed in the worst of the used clothing he received, giving away the better clothing he received in barter. He wore no shoes, even in the snowy winter. There was always someone in need he could help out, for he did not have a house to maintain. When he heard a horse was to be put down, he had to buy the horse, buy a few grassy acres nearby, and turn the horse out to recover. If it did, he would give the horse to someone needy, exacting a promise to treat the horse humanely.

Subsistence lifestyle

Chapman often eschewed normal clothing, even in the cold of winter, and generally led a harsh, subsistent lifestyle. According to Harper's, towards the end of his career, he was present when an itinerant missionary was exhorting an open-air congregation in Mansfield, Ohio. The sermon was long and quite severe on the topic of extravagance, because the pioneers were starting to buy such indulgences as calico and store-bought tea. “Where now is there a man who, like the primitive Christians, is traveling to heaven bare-footed and clad in coarse raiment?” the preacher repeatedly asked, until Johnny Appleseed, his endurance worn out, walked up to the preacher, put his bare foot on the stump which had served as a podium, and said, “Here's your primitive Christian!” The flummoxed sermonizer dismissed the congregation.

Life as a missionary

He spent most of his time traveling from home to home on the frontier. He would tell stories to children, spread the Swedenborgian gospel ("news right fresh from heaven") to the adults, receiving a floor to sleep on for the night, sometimes supper in return. "We can hear him read now, just as he did that summer day, when we were busy quilting up stairs, and he lay near the door, his voice rising denunciatory and thrilling—strong and loud as the roar of wind and waves, then soft and soothing as the balmy airs that quivered the morning-glory leaves about his gray beard. His was a strange eloquence at times, and he was undoubtedly a man of genius", reported a lady who knew him in his later years. He would often tear a few pages from one of Swedenborg's books and leave them with his hosts.

He made several trips back east, both to visit his sister and to replenish his supply of Swedenborgian literature. He typically would visit his orchards every year or two and collect his earnings.

Attitudes towards animals

Johnny Appleseed's beliefs made him care deeply about animals. His concern extended even to insects. Henry Howe, who visited all 88 counties in Ohio in the early 1800s, collected these stories in the 1830s, when Johnny Appleseed was still alive:

Attitude towards marriage

When Johnny Appleseed was asked why he did not marry, his answer was always that two female spirits would be his wives in the after-life if he stayed single on earth. However, Henry Howe reported that Appleseed had been a frequent visitor to Perrysville, Ohio, where Appleseed is remembered as being a constant snuff customer, with beautiful teeth. He was to propose to Miss Nancy Tannehill there—only to find that he was a day late; she had accepted a prior proposal:

Health

It has been suggested that Johnny may have had Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. One of the primary characteristics of Marfan Syndrome is extra-long and slim limbs. All sources seem to agree that Johnny Appleseed was slim, but while other accounts suggest that he was tall, Harper's describes him as "small and wiry."

Those who propose the Marfan theory suggest that his compromised health may have made him feel the cold less intensely. His long life, however, suggests he did not have Marfan's, and while Marfan's is closely associated with death from cardiovascular complications, Johnny Appleseed died in his sleep, from winter plague (presumably pneumonia).

Gravesite

There is some controversy and vagueness concerning the date of his death and his burial. Harper's New Monthly Magazine of November, 1871 (which is taken by many as the primary source of information about John Chapman) says he died in the summer of 1847. The Fort Wayne Sentinel, however, printed his obituary on March 22, 1845, saying that he died on March 18:

The actual site of his grave is disputed as well. Developers of Fort Wayne, Indiana's Canterbury Green apartment complex and golf course claim his grave is there, marked by a rock. That is where the Worth cabin in which he died sat.

However, Steven Fortriede, director of the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) and author of the 1978 "Johnny Appleseed", believes another putative gravesite, one designated as a National Historic Landmark and located in Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne, is the correct site. Johnny Appleseed Park was known until recently as Archer Park and was the former Archer farm.

The Worth family attended First Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, according to records at ACPL, which has one of the nation's top genealogy collections. According to an 1858 interview with Richard Worth Jr., Chapman was buried "respectably" in the Archer cemetery, and Fortriede believes use of the term "respectably" indicates Chapman was buried in the hallowed ground of Archer cemetery instead of near the cabin where he died.

John H. Archer, grandson of David Archer, wrote in a letter dated October 4, 1900:

The Johnny Appleseed Commission to the Common Council of the City of Fort Wayne reported, "as a part of the celebration of Indiana's 100th birthday in 1916 an iron fence was placed in the Archer graveyard by the Horticulture Society of Indiana setting off the grave of Johnny Appleseed. At that time, there were men living who had attended the funeral of Johnny Appleseed. Direct and accurate evidence was available then. There was little or no reason for them to make a mistake about the location of this grave. They located the grave in the Archer burying ground.

Legacy

Despite his altruism and charity, Johnny Appleseed left an estate of over 1,200 acres (500 ha) of valuable nurseries to his sister, worth millions even then, and far more now. He could have left more if he had been diligent in his bookkeeping. He bought the southwest quarter (160 acres) of section 26, Mohican Township, Ashland County, Ohio, but he did not record the deed and lost the property.

The financial panic of 1837 took a toll on his estate. Trees only brought two or three cents each, as opposed to the "fip-penny bit" (about six and a quarter cents) that he usually got. Some of his land was sold for taxes following his death, and litigation used up much of the rest.

A memorial, in Fort Wayne's Swinney Park, purports to honor him but not to mark his grave. At the time of his death, he owned four plots in Allen County, Indiana, including a nursery in Milan Township, Allen County, Indiana, with 15,000 trees.

Since 1975, a Johnny Appleseed Festival has been held in mid-September in Johnny Appleseed Park. Musicians, demonstrators, and vendors dress in early 19th century dress, and offer food and beverages which would have been available then. An outdoor drama is also an annual event in Mansfield, Ohio.

March 11 or September 26 are sometimes celebrated as Johnny Appleseed Day. The September date is Appleseed's acknowledged birthdate, but the March date is sometimes preferred because it is during planting season, even though it is disputed as the day of his death. Other sources report that he died on February 18.

Johnny Appleseed Elementary School is a public school located in Leominster, MA, his birthplace.

A large terra cotta sculpture of Johnny Appleseed, created by Viktor Schreckengost, decorates the front of the Lakewood High School Civic Auditorium in Lakewood, Ohio. Although the local Board of Education deemed Appleseed too "eccentric" a figure to grace the front of the building, renaming the sculpture simply "Early Settler," students, teachers, and parents alike still call the sculpture by its intended name: "Johnny Appleseed.

In modern culture

Many books and films have been based on the life of Johnny Appleseed. One notable account is from the first chapter of The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan.

One of the more successful films was Melody Time, the animated 1948 film from Walt Disney Studios featuring Dennis Day. The Legend of Johnny Appleseed, a 19-minute segment, tells the story of an apple farmer who sees others going west, wistfully wishing he was not tied down by his orchard, until an angel appears, singing an apple song, setting Johnny on a mission. When he treats a skunk kindly, all animals everywhere thereafter trust him. The cartoon features lively tunes, and a childlike simplicity of message, offering a bright, well-groomed park environment instead of a dark and rugged malarial swamp, friendly, pet-like creatures instead of dangerous animals, and a lack of hunger, loneliness, disease, and extremes of temperature. Uniquely for a cartoon of its period, it shows Johnny at the moment of his death, followed by his resurrection in heaven and the commitment to "sow the clouds" with apple trees. (Note: Showing a character in Heaven is not unique to this cartoon. In Make Mine Music (1946), the segment entitled "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" ends with the whale being killed and then singing in Heaven.)

Supposedly, the only surviving tree planted by Johnny Appleseed is on the farm of Richard and Phyllis Algeo of Nova, Ohio Some marketers claim it is a Rambo, although the Rambo was introduced to America in the 1640s by Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, more than a century before John Chapman was born. Some even make the claim that the Rambo was "Johnny Appleseed's favorite variety", ignoring that he had religious objections to grafting and preferred wild apples to all named varieties. It appears most nurseries are calling the tree the "Johnny Appleseed" variety, rather than a Rambo. Unlike the mid-summer Rambo, the Johnny Appleseed variety ripens in September and is a baking/applesauce variety similar to an Albemarle Pippen. Nurseries offer the Johnny Appleseed tree as an immature apple tree for planting, with scions from the Algeo stock grafted on them. Orchardists do not appear to be marketing the fruit of this tree.

The Grimes Golden apple is believed to directly descend from a tree originally started by Johnny Appleseed.

Johnny Appleseed shows up in a variety of modern cultural areas. Johnny Appleseed is a character in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The fantasy video game Wild Arms 5 uses elements of the Johnny Appleseed legend, including his name, as part of its story. Apple Inc. uses a "John Appleseed" character in many of its recent adverts, video tutorials, and keynote presentation examples., this was also the alias of Mike Markkula under which he published several programs for the Apple II. The theme song for the HBO series John from Cincinnati is "Johnny Appleseed" by Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros. Punk band NOFX have a song called "Johnny Appleseed". There is also a song by Guided by Voices entitled "Johnny Appleseed", appearing on the EP Clown Prince of the Menthol Trailer. "Johnny Appleseed" featured in a comic series in "The Victor" in UK, early Sixties.

See also

References

External links

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