Johnny Appleseed: The Pioneer Spirit.

Fact or folklore?

Many believe the story of Johnny Appleseed to rank among folklore greats such as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. Many remember Johnny Appleseed as an ecentric man wandering the wilderness planting appleseeds everywhere. People remember the story, but was the persona of this man true? Did Johnny Appleseed exist?

Johnny Appleseed, a.k.a John Chapman (born 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts) was as much a preacher as a gardener. When Johnny was a boy his father volunteered as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Durning the War his mother passed away leaving young Chapman's care to relatives and friends. Gone for long periods of time, his father was not around to give Johnny the guidance he needed. After the War, John's father remarried, and began a new family pushing John away. Soon John sought the comfort in the nature around him. The trees and animals were his only friends. He realized that preserving nature and the word of God was his sole purpose in life, and set out to make a difference. John started his trek across the midwest during the late 1700's and early 1800's starting an apple tree farm in Western Pennsylvania near the Allegheny River. John would take left over seeds from cider mills and plant hundreds of apple trees. (His farm was located near present day Chapman State Forest) As John moved further west, he wandered from cabin to cabin preaching the word of God, and helping in common household chores. In his younger years he would sit inside and eat with his guests, but as he got older he preferred to eat outside with the animals. He was described as being a very strong man able to do the work of two people. The folklore stories of John wearing a pot on his head and no shoes on his feet seem to be true. He always wore the same clothes made from animal furs. But his kindness and unique love of animals and nature won the hearts of all the settlers. He was said to have put his campfire out at night so the moths would not burn up around it. John got his nickname by his fondness of apple trees which he would plant everywhere he traveled. While his persona protrayed him as a very giving man,some people saw a different side to John Chapman;a businessman.

Many people depict John Chapman as a "seed trader" selling and growing apple trees for profit. He would sell his seeds to farmers and settlers around the region in need of apple trees. It is said that he gained great wealth from his seed and appletree production.

John Chapman died in 1845 at the age of 71. He died from exertions trying to save some tree sapplings from stampeding cows. He was buried along the St. Joseph river near present day Johnny Appleseed Park. A memorial gravesite is the centerpiece of the park, however, his real gravesite has never been found.

The most important contribution "Johnny Appleseed" made was his impact on the early residents of Fort Wayne. His good will and love of the land gave the people of this area a new found spirit of cooperation. A legacy that continues every September in the park that bears his name.TheJohnny Appleseed Festival reminds us of the spirit that once swept this area. The Pioneer spirit that prevailed in this region before thecivil war period.

The "unoffical" grave site of John Chapman. The offical gravesite is unknown. This memorial is the centerpiece of the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

This plaque behind the Swinney House honors the life of Johnny Appleseed.

Plain text version.

Maumee-Wabash Portage: The Glorious Gate.

Post Miamis: The First European Settlers
Historic Fort Wayne: The Great American Outpost
Wabash and Erie Canal:The Great Waterway.
The American Civil War: Fort Wayne's Soldiers.
Arrival Of Locomotives:The Canal's Demise.
The Rise of Industry: Fort Wayne's Revolution.
The Management of Progress:The Prewar Years.
The War to End All Wars: Patriotism and Fervor.
The Promise of Hope: The Depression Years.
Great Strides in Industry: World War Two.
High School Proms & Cherry Sodas: The Fifties.
The Coming of Age: Fort Wayne in the Sixties.
The Rebirth of Fort Wayne History: The Seventies.
A new Sense of Direction & Growth: The Eighties.
The Bicentennial of Fort Wayne: 200 Years of Prosperity.
The Year 2000: Reflections and Great Expectations.
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Last updated 01/20/2003

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