John Chapman (b. September 26, 1774; d. 1845), best known as "Johnny Appleseed," was a colorful, long-haired Christian lay preacher of the Swedenborgian faith (also known as the New Church or Church of the New Jerusalem), who ran to warn Ohio settlers of an imminent British plan to incite an Indian attack against them during the War of 1812.
John Chapman was born in Leominster Massachusetts. Nathananiel, Johnny Appleseed's father, fought with the Minutemen against the British at Concord in 1775. His mother would die of tuberculosis during this time. He moved to Western Pennsylvania at age 18.
Chapman's nickname came from his love for nature, as he called an apple blossom a "living sermon from God," and particularly his habit of collecting apple seeds from cider presses in order to plant over a thousand nurseries in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Upon his death he gave his nurseries, then worth millions, to his sister. His entire family lived in the Cleveland, Ohio area of Columbiana, Richland, and Ashland Counties as well as Defiance County. He had often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount and lived with the Indians.
There is some credence to the legend of Johnny Appleseed wandering barefoot across America, planting apple trees by the thousands. According to Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire, most settlers planted apple orchards mainly for the hard cider that resulted from pressing. Known as "applejack," this drink was a staple of Puritan times and beyond, as much of the water was often tainted or unportable.
The year of his death was probably 1845, although some have maintained that 1847 is the real date. There is a dispute concerning the exact location of his gravesite in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Poet William Henry Venable said this about Chapman:
- Remember Johnny Appleseed
- All ye who love the apple
- He served his kind by word and deed
- In God's grand greenwood chapel.
- Pollan, Michael. The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World. New York: Random House. 2002.
- "Johnny Appleseed: a Pioneer Hero", Harpers Magazine, November, 1871
- Who Was Johnny Appleseed? About.com