American Folk Figure. Born John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts, his father was a Minuteman who fought at the April 1775 Battle of Concord and later served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. It is not known exactly when he left New England and started his westward journey. He did not randomly scatter seeds but was a practical nurseryman. The pioneers were moving west and he realized there was a need for supplying seeds and seedlings. The homestead law required each settler to plant fifty apple trees the first year. Apples were a practical food necessity for early settlers. John stayed ahead of the pioneers and started many nurseries throughout the Midwest by planting seeds which he bought from cider mills in Pennsylvania. He owned many tracts of land throughout Ohio and Indiana using this land to plant apple seeds, transplant seedlings and set out orchards. He sold apple seedlings to those who could afford to pay and those without money would provide housing, food or other needs in exchange. He was known as a zealous preacher who followed the teachings of a Swedish scientist and theologian. The sect was known as the Church of the New Jerusalem or Swedenborgians. John shared his religious tracts and his bible with anyone who would listen. He wandered the midwest for over fifty years from western Pennsylvania through northern Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois traveling barefoot with no more belongings than he could carry on his back. During the War of 1812, he traversed northern Ohio alerting settlers of British movements and positions near Detroit while also warning them of possible Indian raids. An article in Harper's New Monthly Magazine ran an article called "Johnny Appleseed, a Pioneer Hero in 1871. He was officially labeled with his nick name. While caring for one of his orchard in Allen County, Indiana he was stricken with pneumonia and sought help in the cabin of his friend William Worth. The fever took his life at age 70. John was buried along the St Joseph River. Worth became a substitute minister using Chapman's ever present bible to recite a few passages over his grave. His path through the East and Midwest is today dotted with many monuments to his memory. Leominster, Massachusetts has the greatest claim as the city found his birth certificate in 1930 and have honored their native son in many ways: A elementary school in North Leominster bears his name. The road that passes by his birthplace is named after him where a granite marker rests on the site of the farmhouse where he was born. His bronze bust graces the entrance walk to the public library. Finally an imposing wood statue weighting 800 pounds was carved and set up inside the City Hall. Dexter City, Ohio where his family is buried has a unique monument made of thousands of rocks and stones contributed by people throughout the United States. Urbana College, Urbana, Ohio honors Chapman for his help in securing land when a group of Swedenborgians founded the school. Finally: A few miles north of Ft Wayne, Indiana is a 12-acre memorial gravesite. It is the centerpiece of the vest-pocket site named the "Johnny Appleseed Memorial Park" located on the St. Joseph River. A nearby river dam bears his name. The actual grave has been lost through development and natural recycling. Many of his trees were carried further by pioneers ending up in many western states. People in the midwest today, point to a tree in their yard and proudly announce it as a "Johnny Appleseed" original.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield