John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 11, 1845) was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present day West Virginia. His dream was to produce so many apples that no one would ever go hungry.

Johnny Appleseed is described as a man of medium height, blue eyes, light-brown hair, slender, wiry and alert. Folklore has also described him as “funny looking” because of the way he dressed. It is said he traded apple trees for settler’s cast-off clothing. He was known to give the better clothing to people he felt needed it more than he. This could be why legend says he wore only coffee sacks with holes cut out for his arms as clothing. He rarely wore shoes, even during the cold of winter. It is said he could walk over the ice and snow barefooted and that the skin was so thick on his feet that even a rattlesnake couldn’t bite through it.

Another legend says he wore a mush pot on his head as a hat. This is unlikely since pots of the time were made of heavy copper or iron, but it is more likely he wore someone else’s castoff hat or made his own out of cardboard. He rarely sought shelter in a house, since he preferred to sleep on bare ground in the open forest with his feet to a small fire.

Because he was a kind and generous man, he became an American legend during his lifetime. He was a leader in conservation and placed a great deal of importance on apples. He was a missionary for The New Church (Swedenborgian). Legend has painted him as a sort of dreamy-eyed person who went about just scattering apple seeds. The fact is, he was a very organized, careful business person, who over a period of nearly fifty years, bought and sold tracts of land and developed thousands of productive apple trees.

When Johnny was only eighteen years old, he and his eleven-year-old half-brother, Nathaniel, headed west. In his early twenties, John began traveling alone, which is how he spent the rest of his life. Nathaniel stayed behind to farm with their father, who had immigrated west.

John always carried a leather bag filled with apple seeds he collected from cider mills. According to legend, he was constantly planting them in open places in the forests, along roadways and beside streams. Research, however, suggests he created many nurseries by carefully selecting the perfect planting spot, fencing it in with fallen trees and log, bushes and vines, sowing the seeds and returning at regular intervals to repair the fence, tend the ground and sell the trees. Soon he was known as “the apple seed man” and later he was known only as “Johnny Appleseed”.

He frequently visited the settlements to preach the Gospel of Christ. He was a friend to all the children and made friends with many Indian tribes. He learned many Indian languages well enough to hold a conversation.

Johnny Appleseed never killed animals for food, but lived from other food provided by nature. He appeared to be poor, but was not. He had more cash than he needed by selling his apple trees and tracts of land. He buried his money instead of trusting banks. He bartered and traded food or clothing rather than collect money for his trees. It was more important a settler plant a tree than pay him for it.

In 1842, Johnny made his last trip back to Ohio after spending 50 years walking throughout the countryside. He moved in with Nathaniel, the half-brother with whom he began his remarkable journey. On March 18, 1845, he died of pneumonia at the age of seventy-one. He was visiting his friend, William Worth, in Indiana. Legend says it was the only time he was sick in his whole life. He is buried in an unmarked grave near Fort Wayne, Indiana.

A life well-lived I must say! Love the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart! He lived a life filled with purpose and loved people! May we all follow his great example! ❤