Johnny Appleseed is a modern-day folk hero in stories based on the life of John Chapman. Chapman lived in the eastern United States from 1774 to 1845. The name "Appleseed" refers to the folk hero's tendency to randomly plant apple trees wherever he goes throughout his stories.
John Chapman did plant apple trees, but not as randomly as depicted in the stories of Johnny Appleseed. Chapman was a horticulturist who planted small orchards of cider apple trees in order to make a profit off settlers moving West. At the time, land ownership laws stated that if someone planted an orchard on a plot of land, then the planter owned the land and the orchard. Chapman sold his orchards of young apple trees to settlers for 6 cents a tree. Researchers believe Chapman owned nearly 1,200 acres of land at the time of his death.
Chapman was also a vegetarian, an advocate for animal rights, and a member of the Church of New Jerusalem. The church was founded on the teachings of Edward Swedenborg, who promoted pacifism, individualism and simple living. Chapman was a missionary of the church during his travels. He died in Fort Wayne, Ind. on March 18, 1845.