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John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)

1774? - 1845

John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)<BR>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.

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".

Photo from Harper's Magazine 1871

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.

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.

U.S. Postage Stamp 1966

Read a review of a Fictional Story about John Chapman.

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

Take the online test

A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography
and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.


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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

Research Links

Johnny Appleseed
information at Junior Ecology Club

The Story of Johnny Appleseed
at Tooter 4

Johnny Appleseed
listen to a radio broadcast "People in America"

Johnny Appleseed
The Ohio archaeological and historical quarterly, Volume 9

Johnny Appleseed
at Wikipedia

Johnny Appleseed
biography with audio version

Johnny Appleseed
pictures to color at DLTK

The Story of Johnny Appleseed Song

Lesson Plans:

Johnny Appleseed Activities

Johnny Appleseed Lesson Ideas


Press "Go" to search for books about John Chapman


Order the following books from Amazon.

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

Johnny Appleseed
by Steven Kellogg (selected pages)

Johnny Appleseed
by Carol Ottolenghi (selected pages)

Johnny Appleseed
by Jane Kurtz, Mary Haverfield (selected pages)

Johnny Appleseed
by Lisa Greathouse (selected pages)

Johnny Appleseed
by Bill Balcziak (selected pages)

Johnny Appleseed
by Gwenyth Swain (selected pages)

Johnny Appleseed
by Marianne Johnston (selected pages)

Credits and Solutions

Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
and Armored Penguin

* Word Match Solution

Bushel basket picture from Growing Tomatoes

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I was raised in Tuscaraws and Carroll counties of Ohio. As a child I spent time out in the country. I knew there would always be an apple tree in a place where the view would be beautiful and always thought Jonny had been there. To this day I think of when I will see him and thank him. At 75, that won't be long.
Crazy john
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

love this web site
very helpful to this homeschooling family!!!!! thanks!!!
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