National Johnny Appleseed Day
On National Johnny Appleseed Day, we honor the man who made apple (and pear) trees grow heavy with the bounty of their fruit across most of this country. On September 26, we commemorate the day of his birth and celebrate his legendary wit, wisdom and enduring story.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, in Johnny Appleseed Park, a grave marks the spot where the legendary sower of apple seeds rests. He was born John Chapman on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts, to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Simons Chapman. Nobody knows much about his early life other than his mother died when he was two. His father packed up Johnny and his sister (an infant brother had died the previous year) and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. His father served as a Minuteman and fought at Bunker Hill.
From Chapman to Appleseed
Then in 1797, Chapman shows up in northwestern Pennsylvania propagating his apple seeds and working his way steadily into the frontier of West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. Eventually, he travels as far west as Illinois and Iowa and as far north as Michigan and Wisconsin.
In his wake, Appleseed left orchards and the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg was a Swedish spiritual leader whose books Appleseed would buy with whatever payment he might receive for his endeavors. In turn, the traveling nurseryman would give the books away as he traveled and planted.
Mostly, though, he planted his seeds and seedlings for free along with his wisdom. His broad-brimmed pasteboard hat kept the sun from his eyes wherever he went. Often shoeless, he traveled mostly by foot and sometimes by horseback or canoe. His appearance was nearly as noteworthy as his accomplishments, but so was his kindness. If Johnny Appleseed came calling, people made a place at the table.
Many stories tell how the man would travel many miles to nurse an ailing orchard when word would reach him of its poor condition. While bringing the trees back to health (his chief endeavor) the orchard man dispersed his wisdom, care, and kindness.