Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Johnny Appleseed
Nature Bulletin No. 110   April 5, 1947
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

JOHNNY APPLESEED
At Fort Wayne, Indiana, in a little park on the bank of the Old Wabash, Erie and Feeder Canal, stands a granite boulder surrounded by an iron fence, marking the grave of Johnny Appleseed. This was the nickname given that eccentric pioneer who spent 40 years wandering over Ohio and eastern Indiana, distributing appleseeds to the early settlers, planting apple orchards and nurseries in clearings, and preaching his Swedenborgian religion.

His real name was John Chapman, born at Leominster, Mass., Sept. 26, 1774. He died in Fort Wayne on March 18, 1845. Although never married, he was fanatical in his determination to make the wilderness "a fit place for women and children..

In 1800 he had a nursery and orchard near Pittsburgh, then a town of 1500, on the turnpike traveled by the stream of immigrants headed west. When they stopped at his spring to water their animals, he read to them from his religious books and gave them appleseeds from the pulp residue of a cider mill. Finally he loaded a canoe with seeds and started down the Ohio River, traveling up and down its tributaries and overland on foot to northern Ohio, everywhere planting and giving away appleseeds.

He usually wore an old coffee sack with holes cut for his head and arms, any cast-off clothing he could find -- sometimes the tatters of three or four pairs of pants. On his head might be an old hat with no crown and, on top of that, the battered tin pot in which he cooked his frugal meals. He would rarely eat with other people. Sometimes he wore one shoe, sometimes none, sometimes a shoe and a cast-off moccasin. When he stopped overnight at a settler's cabin or a frontier tavern, he stretched out on the floor in the evening and read to them from his testament and tracts. He slept on the floor or out-of-doors -- never in a bed.

He had no home, but the last 15 years of his life were spent in western Ohio and eastern Indiana, and he died owning several pieces of land near Fort Wayne, each planted with apple trees, and an old gray mare. There are gnarled ancient apple trees still living that sprang from his seed.

Plant a tree for Johnny Appleseed on Arbor Day.


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