Johnny Appleseed

American nurseryman and missionary (1774-1845)

John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman (September 26, 1774 - March 18, 1845) is an American folk hero. He was a Christian missionary and pioneer. His nickname came from the fact that he planted apple trees throughout the American Midwest. Many people consider him an early conservationist or "tree-hugger". He wandered the country, usually barefoot, and with a cooking pot on his head for most of his adult life, planting apple trees, teaching the Bible, telling stories, and befriending Native Americans, wild animals, and other settlers. Many stories have been told about him and his journeys, as well as art, books, and later movies, which makes him a folk hero. He was born in Leominster, Massachusetts and is buried in Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Image from Howe's Historical Collection

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John Chapman is said to have been in the Wilkes-Barre region some time in the 1790s, practicing his profession as a nurseryman, but just when he embraced the Swedenborgian faith and began his missionary activities we cannot be sure, though it is probable that it was before he ever reached western Pennsylvania. There are some early accounts of John speaking of his own activities as "a Bible missionary" on the Potomac when he was a young man, and Johnny was seen for two or three consecutive years along the banks of the Potomac in eastern Virginia, picking the seeds from the pomace of the cider mills in the late 1790s.The apple seeds that Johnny obtained were free, as the cider mills wanted there to be more apple trees planted to improve their business.

At the time of his death, Johnny Appleseed left an estate of more than 1,200 acres of nurseries, and he left these to his sister. He additionally had four plots located in Allen County, Indiana, which was a nursery that included 15,000 trees.

Records show that John Chapman appeared on Licking Creek, in what is now Licking County, Ohio, in 1800, when he was twenty-six years old. He had probably come up the Muskingum River to plant near the Refugee Tract, which would soon fill up with settlers, when Congress actually got around to granting the lands. In April, 1798, the Continental Congress had ratified resolutions to donate public lands for the benefit of those who had left Canada and Nova Scotia to fight against the British in the Revolutionary War. The lands were actually set apart in 1801 and patents issued in 1802. Grants of land ranging from 160 acres to 2,240 acres were awarded according to the exertions of the patentee in the War. Johnny, with true Yankee enterprise, went ahead and planted his nurseries before the refugees arrived. Licking County, then a part of Fairfield, contained only three white families. By the time families were ready to settle the area, Johnny's tracts of land were ready for market.

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