(Johnny Appleseed)
1774? - 1845

John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed
John Chapman from the
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 1871

Johnny Appleseed lived in the days of early America. He became a legend, and many stories were told about him. Some people do not know he was a real person. His name was John Chapman, and he was born in the state of Massachusetts in 1774. His father, Nathaniel, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. His mother, Elizabeth, died when he was still a very young child.

When he grew up he made it his life's work to plant fruit trees in the developing parts of the country. He carried sacks of apple seeds with him and planted orchards throughout the Northwest Territory. The states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois were formed from this area. His mission was to plant fruit trees so the settlers, as they moved west, would have something to sustain them as they tried to survive in the new land.

The empty basket would hold a bushel

In 1802 he carried sixteen bushels of apple seeds down the Ohio River. He had two canoes lashed together to transport the seeds. Most of the time he carried the seeds in leather bags on horseback, or on his own back. He planted acres and acres of apples. Someone has estimated that during his lifetime Chapman planted enough trees to cover an area over 100,000 square miles!

Only one plant did he introduce to the countryside that turned out to be an invasive* plant. He thought the dog fennel plant had anti-malarial* qualities and planted it beside every homestead. Whether it really had medicinal qualities is debatable, but it tended to take over the area where it was planted and was considered a weed.

John was a good businessman, charging a few cents for the trees he grew. If someone couldn't pay, he would barter for clothing or food, or he gave the trees away without cost or told them they could pay him later. However, the money he collected was used to plant more orchards, or he gave it away to someone who was in need.

He dressed simply, wearing clothes he had traded for trees. Sometimes he cut a hole in a sack and wore it as a shirt. It is said he didn't wear shoes most of the time though sometimes he might find shoes that someone had discarded, and he would wear them. The two shoes he happened to be wearing might not match. Material "things" just did not matter to him. Once a soldier gave him a hat and he wore that. You see pictures of him wearing a pot on his head for a hat. He could use the pot to gather fruit and berries to eat.

He did not eat meat because he didn't want to harm any animals. If he saw an animal being mistreated, he would buy the animal and give it to another settler; someone more humane* who would care for the animal.

According to a Harper's Magazine article he did not prune nor graft trees, but looked upon the cutting of them as a kind of cruelty.

When he was invited to eat a meal with a family he never sat down until he was sure the children had enough to eat first. He was a kind gentle person.

Photo from Harper's Magazine 1871 Larger view

John Chapman was a Christian and conducted his life in a Christ-like manner. He was a follower of a religious leader named Emmanuel Swedenborg. He would preach to the families he visited. He called it delivering news "right fresh from heaven".

One day a preacher came to the area where Johnny was working and in his sermon decried materialism* asking, "Where now is there a man who like the primitive* Christian is traveling to heaven barefooted and in coarse raiment?" After he had made the statement several times, John in his coffee-sack shirt stepped forward and said, " Here's your primitive Christian." The preacher quickly dismissed the congregation.

During the war of 1812 the British and the Indians were roaming the country killing the settlers. John went from house to house warning the people to take shelter and try to protect themselves. He traveled night and day to warn them, not stopping to eat or rest.

U.S. Postage Stamp 1966

John Chapman died in 1845 at the age of seventy-two. He had spent 46 years planting trees across the country. The death of this extraordinary man was mourned by many. In the years since his death numerous honors have been given him. A postage stamp was made in his honor. A school was named for him, and an annual festival is held in Fort Wayne, Indiana as well as other cities.

Read a review of a Fictional Story about John Chapman.

This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2008.

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Johnny Appleseed The Ohio archæological and historical quarterly, Volume 9

Johnny Appleseed, Orchardist
Allen County Public Library
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From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster

mə TIR e ə liz əm
Function: noun
a tendency to attach too much importance to physical comfort and well-being

hyoo MANE
Function: adjective
marked by sympathy or consideration for others

PRIM ət iv
Function: adjective
of or relating to the earliest age or period as the primitive church

in VASE iv
Function: adjective
tending to spread

mə LER e ə
Function: noun
a disease caused by protozoan parasites in the red blood cells,
passed from one individual to another by the bite of mosquitoes,
and marked by periodic attacks of chills and fever

112988: Wholesome Heroes with Rick Sowash: Johnny Appleseed Wholesome Heroes with Rick Sowash: Johnny Appleseed

One of the most beloved folk heroes in history, Johnny Appleseed transformed the American frontier. He planted the apple trees that fed and sheltered the early settlers of our nation's heartland. Even more, he sowed seeds of kindness as he traveled, spreading a message of hope and encouragement that shaped the lives of the pioneers and their descendants. Did Johnny Appleseed really go barefoot? Did he wear a pot on his head? Learn the answer to these questions and more as host Rick Sowash takes us on an amazing adventure through the life and times of this American legend. From stories, poems, and tall tales to a special visit to the Johnny Appleseed Museum, children ages eight and up as well as adults will enjoy this entertaining look at a true, wholesome hero! Approx. 28 minutes. DVD Features: * Optional English subtitles * Discussion questions in PDF * Children's coloring pages in PDF * Script for the program in PDF * Coded for All Regions By Vision Video

067043: Johnny Appleseed Biography FunBook Johnny Appleseed Biography FunBook
By Carole Marsh & Sherry Moss(Editor) / Gallopade International

Everyone's favorite way to learn about America's bravest citizens! Easy-to-read information, facts, trivia, humor and activities are all included in Biography Funbooks! Ages 7-12. paperback.


A Guide for Using Johnny Appleseed in the Classroom
by Nancy Phillips (selected pages) Order here

U.S. History Little Books Famous People
by Brenda Strickland, Pat Walker (selected pages) Order here

The sun, the rain, and the apple seed: a novel of Johnny Appleseed's life
by (selected pages) Order here

The Legend of Johnny Appleseed (Graphic Novel)
by Martin Powell (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed An American Tall Tale (Reader's Theater)
by Gregory Brown (selected pages) Order from Benchmark

Johnny Appleseed: America's Friendly Frontiersman
by Carole Marsh (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed: A Musical in One Act
by Geraldine Ann Snyder (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed: the romance of the sower
by Eleanor Alkinson (full view) Free Google eBook

Johnny Appleseed: My Story (Step Into Reading Series)
by David L. Harrison, Mike Wohnoutka (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed
by Lola M. Schaefer(selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed
by Eric Blair (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed
by Janeen R. Adil (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth
by Jane Yolen, Jim Burke (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed
by James Howard Kunstler (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed
by (selected pages) Order here

Johnny Appleseed's Rhymes
by Denton Jaques Snider (Public domain 1894 full view) Free Google eBook

Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan: A Play of American Folklore in Three Acts
by Henry Bailey Stevens (selected pages) Order here

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Page Comments

Most Recent Comments   ( See more comments on this page )
Kyra wrote: "but John Chapman planted apples before they had been cultivated into the large, sweet fruits we know today... Johnny Appleseed 's goal was to bring alcohol to the West." Tisk tisk tisk ;), looks like you were convinced by another author of popular history willing to claim anything to make their audience feel like they’re getting scandalous inside information. The truth is those large, sweet varieties of apples were cultivated in Europe long before Columbus & company beached on the shores of America. Since sustenance was a major consideration for the first settlers, they came prepared with seeds, cuttings, and plants from the best European stock, including the big juicy domesticated apples. John Smith was very pleased that these (along with the peaches, apricots, and figs they’d brought) flourished as they planted them in Jamestown, over 100 years before Johnny Appleseed was born ;). As settlers continued to plant areas of apple trees up and down the east coast, they became adept at breeding improved varieties for baking, drying, juicing, or special climates, and some of these became prized for their superior quality by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. (While visiting France, Jefferson even mentioned to Madison that the French had no apples that could compare with the Newton Pippin, a favorite variety developed by Americans). This practice of the settlers planting abundant apple trees, and the versatility of the tree to them (for food, drink, medicine, and the best firewood, all without having to be replanted every year) almost certainly gave Johnny Appleseed his inspiration for helping other undeveloped areas in the same way.
Unfortunately in 2 of my grandchildren's schools, they left out the part about him being a Christian, spreading the gospel and carrying a Bible. It's a shame that people are rewriting history for their own agenda.
Entertaining article, but John Chapman planted apples before they had been cultivated into the large, sweet fruits we know today. What he planted was the type of apple you rarely see today; a berry-sized, excruciatingly tart fruit that settlers used only for making hard cider. Johnny Appleseed 's goal was to bring alcohol to the West.
Webmaster's note: So says Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

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Biographies in this Series

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Presidents of
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George Washington John Adams Thomas Jefferson James Madison James Monroe Andrew Jackson
  Martin Van Buren Abraham Lincoln Theodore Roosevelt Franklin D. Roosevelt Harry S. Truman Dwight D. Eisenhower
  John F. Kennedy Lyndon B. Johnson Jimmy Carter Ronald Reagan Barack Obama Calvin Coolidge
American Patriots Benjamin Franklin Francis Scott Key Deborah Sampson Molly Pitcher
World Leaders Constantine Alexander the Great Winston Churchill Margaret Thatcher
Inventors Alexander Graham Bell Johann Gutenberg Cyrus McCormick The Wright Brothers Henry Ford Thomas A. Edison
  Sequoyah Nikola Tesla Michael Faraday Dean Kamen Jack Kilby Leonardo Da Vinci
  Donald O'Neal
Explorers Christopher Columbus Meriwether Lewis Robert Peary John Muir Matthew Henson Sir Edmund Hillary
  Kit Carson Johnny Appleseed Daniel Boone
Women who made
a difference
Clara Barton Helen Keller Florence Nightingale Joan of Arc Amelia Earhart Annie Oakley
  Susan B. Anthony Elizabeth Keckly Harriet Tubman Anne Frank Eleanor Roosevelt Madam C.J. Walker
  Sadako Sasaki Henrietta Lacks Malala Yousafzai      
Scientists George Washington Carver Sir Isaac Newton Marie Curie Louis Pasteur Albert Einstein Galileo
  Lise Meitner Norman Borlaug Benjamin Banneker
Educators Noah Webster Booker T. Washington Aristotle Mary McLeod Bethune
Physicians Hippocrates Walter Reed Albert Schweitzer
Religious Leaders George Muller Increase Mather
Athletes Lou Gehrig Wilma Rudolph Tiger Woods Michael Phelps
Civil Rights
Martin Luther King Rosa Parks Sojourner Truth Frederick Douglass Mary Ann Shadd Cary James Forten
  Gandhi César Chávez William Wilberforce Nelson Mandela
Composers Beethoven Mozart
Authors Laura Ingalls Wilder Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) Ernest Hemingway Greg Mortenson Phillis Wheatley
Artists John James Audubon Gutzon Borglum Ansel Adams Dale Chihuly Van Gogh Michelangelo
  Rembrandt Grandma Moses Cassatt Renoir Cezanne Rockwell


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