September 26, 2012

Let's Talk

Because today is his birthday, I thought it might be interesting to learn a little bit about this "Apple Seed Man".

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26, 1774.  His father was one of the Minutemen at Concord and was also a Captain during the Revolutionary War.  There is not much known of his childhood but we do know that his mother died while his father was in service.  His father remarried after the war and moved his family to East Longmeadow.

When John was in his early twenties, he moved to Western Pennsylvania and settled in the frontier village of Warren (near Pittsburgh).   From there he moved west into Ohio.  He never married but he was considered an itinerate missionary and preacher of the Swedenborgian Christian faith and an apple tree nurseryman.  He was a pioneer and planted thousands of apple trees.

John Chapman's idea was to plant apple trees wherever he went so that the settlers might have food other than the wild meat and fish they had available.  He kept ahead of the settlements and each year he planted apple seeds farther west.  He managed to cover most of Ohio and went far into Indiana.  There still remains many orchards bearing apples on trees that were taken from the Appleseed nurseries.

Mr. Chapman became friend to many and the settlers always opened their cabin doors to him.  He would carry news with him which the adults enjoyed and would teach the children many things like how to make sleds and wagons.  But, always he would plant the apple seeds in open places in the forest, along roadways and by streams.  He soon became known as the "apple seed man" and later became known as "Johnny Appleseed".

He was described as a man of medium height, had blue eyes and light brown hair which was long.  He wore little clothing and often went barefoot, even in the winter.  He was a vegetarian believing that it was wrong to take life in order to procure food.  The only living thing that he killed was a rattlesnake and he always regretted it.  To him the undisturbed forest was something to behold and the flowers on the open prairie was "a feast" to him (per his half-sister).  It was rare for him to seek shelter.  He preferred to sleep in the open forest.

The only time that Johnny Appleseed was sick in over 70 years was when he developed pneumonia.  It was in 1845 -- he heard that some cattle had broken down the fences at one of his nurseries near Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He went there on foot to repair the fence.  The weather was cold and it was snowing.  That evening he stopped at a Mr. Worth's home seeking shelter.  In the morning he came down with pneumonia and a few days later he died.  Mr. Worth buried his body in the David Archer graveyard nearby (although this is disputed by other sources).  It is unmarked.

For almost 50 years, Johnny Appleseed traveled the forests and prairies of Ohio and Indiana planting apple seeds, caring for his trees and teaching farmers apple culture.  Today it is a rare thing to find a farm in the area that he traveled that does not have a few apple trees.


No comments:

Post a Comment