John Chapman made an enduring contribution which truly made a difference in the history of America in his own unique way as Johnny Appleseed. His story proved that “true heroism, pure benevolence, noble virtues, and deeds that deserve immortality may be found under the meanest apparel and far from gilded halls and towering spires (Harpers 836).
Born Jonathan Chapman to Nathaniel and Elizabeth on September 26, 1774, he made his way to the West when he was eighteen. He worked as a nurseryman and he also began his missionary activities in the Wilkes-Barre region. He moved to Ohio in the Refugee Tract and planted them with nurseries and apple orchards. When the new settlers came, he sold his farmlands to them. He moved on to Indiana next, where he similarly acquired lands which he planted with apple seedlings. He sold the lands and moved to Illinois and did the same things over.. He earned his name Johnny Appleseed for having traveled by foot 100,000 square miles of wilderness and prairie planting apple seeds, as well as converting 1,000 acres of farmlands into apple orchards and nurseries. He chose the sites to plant his seeds and applied the Van Mons Theory to have a good fruit harvest which was by the seedling instead of grafting or budding.
John Chapman was constantly moving from places to places. With his life of wandering, he had no need for a permanent home. He led an austere life with only the basics to sustain him. Poles topped with bark for a roof made a hut for his shelter. He had only a kettle, a plate and a spoon. He slept with the earth as his bed and leaves for cover. He kept warm with a small fire. He lived in relative peace and quiet, able to sleep well at night and walk around safe in day. Frontiersmen from far places who bought his trees were invited to spend the night. He shared what modest provisions he had. He made sure they would not go away hungry for the long trip back home.
He wore a sack for clothing and a pot for hat. The pot was practical as it served as container for seeds and a vessel for food. He walked barefoot, that made his feet very thick, so thick that he could kill a rattlesnake just by stepping on it. If some people threw away their old and worn-out shoes, he picked them up and wore them. Often he wore a pair of mismatches. He kept to vegetables for food. He did not have the heart to harm, much more kill animals. He extended the same care and concern for trees. He was not known to cut down tries to spare them the cruelty.
When invited to dine in the homes of friends, he made sure that everyone had eaten, especially the children before he ate. Johnny Appleseed regularly made the rounds of cabins to preach the words of God, to heal the sick and to warn the people of dangers ahead. He believed that he was helping God by watching over the settlers. He was a devoted follower of Emmanuel Swedenborg. Evangelizing was for him “delivering news right from heaven” (Harpers 834).
Johnny grew medicinal plants like catnip, mullein, rattlesnake root, dog fennel, pennyroyal, hoarhound and others. He gave a bunch of these to the settlers during his cabin visits. He also made friends with the Indians. He learned different Indian languages that made him conversant and in the process earned the respect of all tribes. They believed him to be from the Great Spirit because he was observed to be happy in serving others. The Indians trusted him enough to let him into their meetings. It was through these meetings that Johnny helped prevent the first signs of trouble between the Indians the new settlers. He understood the differences and conflicts in the two opposing cultures. His compassion allowed Johnny to bridge the gaps and mediate troubles. His excellent communication skills were his advantage. He can be convincing, inspirational, and when necessary to go against in public. His love of country was evident in his faith on it. He gave speeches in patriotic celebrations like the Fourth of July.
Appleseed was reasonable in his charges for his trees and considerate in the manner of collecting payment. He accepted old clothes, a little food, or he gave the trees away which were all dependent on the financial capability of his customers. The settlers’ planting trees was more important that his getting paid for the trees. Johnny never made customers promise to pay on a specified date, because one or both of them may not be available on such date.
Johnny never ran after a customer with debt because if God meant for him to earn the Lord would have allowed the customer to pay. Appleseed also reasoned that a customer, willing and able to pay his debt, needed no reminding. What set Johnny Appleseed apart from the rest was not his generosity but his simple way of life. He was a free spirit, who moved everywhere and anywhere he desired. He peacefully co-existed with others, including the Indians. Despite his appearance of extreme poverty, Appleseed was a wealthy man. He had more than enough money for his needs, yet he had no need for banks. He had his own system of keeping and saving money which he will not use in the present time, but he might sometime in the future. He had also his own charities with which he gave money to.
In the War of 1812, he went from cabin to cabin warning the settlers to hide and secure themselves from the onslaught of the British and their misguided supporters. He saved lives in this daring act of concern for the settlers.
He depended on nature for his food. In exchange he was most kind to nature. He never chopped trees and killed animals. He would plant trees to perpetuate life and rescued animals from traps to set free. He nursed back wounded animals back to health and life. He re-traced his steps back to Ohio and Indiana where he continued to gather and plant apple seeds. He was the diplomat, hero, nature crusader, preacher, entrepreneur, philanthropist and the greatest farmer of all time. He died at the age of 71, immortalized in postage stamps, a statue, a school named after him and an annual festival in his honor. “His deeds will live in the fragrance of apple blossoms he loved so well” (Harpers 836).
“Johnny Appleseed. A Pioneer Hero.” (2008). Harpers New Monthly Magazine.
15 November 2008 http://mason.gmu.edu/~drwilla/apple/ja2sm.html
“Johnny Appleseed. He Lived for Others.” (2008). Maureen and Jim Tansey Website.
15 November 2008 http://www.geocities.com/tanseyjim/appleseed.htm
“Johnny Chapman (Johnny Appleseed).” (2008). Library of Congress, America’s
Library Website. 15 November 2008 http://www.americaslibrary.gov
“The Story of Johnny Appleseed.” (2008). J. Appleseed & Co. 15 November 2008