John Chapman Plants Grapes and Flowers

Then came a larger task. One spring morning waking John Chapman found the south wind blowing softly. The rich odor of the soil was in his nostrils and the voice of the bird was now in the land. To dress and keep the trees in the garden was now his overmastering passion. He was planning a new experiment.

During the previous winter a hunter and explorer wearing buckskin clothes and hat of coonskin with the long fur tail hanging down his back came to the settlement. When the stranger understood John Chapman's work, he told his new friend about a wonderful grape in the mountains of North Carolina. He described it as of reddish color with dusky appearance, of taste sweet and pleasant with a peculiar and agreeable odor. Some of the vines had reddish clusters, in others the red shaded into purple. In contrast with that grape the tiny sour clusters that grew in the Western forests seemed sadly imperfect. So John Chapman set forth on a journey of six hundred miles through the forests for seeds and roots and cuttings of this richer vine. That autumn he brought the beginnings of the Catawba grape across the Ohio River. All his life long he used to say that the people of the North could never overestimate their debt to that emigrant Murray by name who brought to the attention of the world those wild grapes whose clusters were to support unnumbered multitudes.

The winter that John Chapman was thirty five years of age he lingered long in memory upon the far off village in Massachusetts. Oft in his dreams he wandered in his mother's flower garden. Long he thought upon the absence of the beautiful in the new rude settlements. It was not enough for him that there should be an orchard behind the cottage and the farm house. Wishing to do another worthy deed, he determined to make the walk and yard in front of the cottage as beautiful as the garden was bountiful behind it.

And so he made another trip back to his old Quaker friends in western Pennsylvania. There he gathered flower seeds; mignonette, sweet alyssum, heliotrope, the pinks, the moss of gold and white and yellow, the scarlet poppy, the flaming salvia burning like fire on the edge of the forest ,the great dahlias, and the asters blooming up to the very edge of frost and winter. Nor did he forget the wild flowers that had cheered him through all the years as he found them upon the banks of the streams; the snowdrop and anemone, the little Jack in the pulpit, the arbutus for which he always looked, lifting the snow from the leaves that he might find that tiny flower with the sweetest perfume that was ever secreted as reward for a long battle with final victory over the forces of frost and winter. Fortunately, all the people in the settlement entered upon his new project with unbounded enthusiasm. Soon the little village was all aflame with flowers the long summer through.

The Quest of John Chapman The Story of a Forgotten Hero By Newell Dwight Hillis Published 1904