In 1904 author Newell Dwight Hillis wrote a romance novel about John Chapman. The name of the book was The Quest of John Chapman, the Story of a Forgotten Hero
. It is categorized as FICTION*. It is historical fiction and the author made up a story based on the few facts he had learned about Chapman. Some of the facts may be true and some are not. How do you know what is true? You must find evidence of those facts in historical writings.
The links lead to excerpts of the novel found at Google books which are presented here for your reading enjoyment.
There are certain facts that are documented about Johnny Appleseed. According to the story told as by Hillis, John Chapman loved a young woman, but they were kept apart because of dislike between the two families. After she died he went about the country planting seeds and creating orchards. He would get apple seed from the cider presses where they pressed the juice from the apples and the seed would remain. He would wash the seed, put them in bags and carry them around the country planting orchards. The Quakers would also save seed for him.
He not only planted apples, but he planted grapes and other fruit trees as well as flowers.
He tended his orchards and put up brush fences around the orchards to keep the deer out. He would post signs for the settlers who would be passing through admonishing them to "Take what you will, but guard the fence".
Chapman was a friend to the Indians and helped them. They trusted him and knew he would do them no harm.
According to Hillis' story he once rejected some money which was willed to him in order to continue his work as an orchardist.
We do know that at one point he became very ill and there was a long recovery period in which his behavior was strange and erratic. Most of his time was spent in the woods and out in the open, but he would occasionally spend time with friends.
He was opposed to any kind of cruelty to animals and it is said that he was a vegetarian*. Hillis in his book tells a story in which Chapman helped an injured squirrel store nuts for the winter. This is probably just a part of his tale.
According to the novel Johnny Appleseed started a school for children. In the story he is supposed to have spent four years at Cambridge, but historical records do not mention anything about college.
He died in the company of friends and the novel closes with a eulogy given by a Quaker minister.