WRITTEN and PRESENTED by FRANK O. CHAPMAN for the Brooke County Historical Association, April 20, 1967..
This is the story of John Chapman, better known in the Ohio Valley as JOHNNY APPLESEED. Without a hope of recompense. Without a thought of pride; John Chapman planted apple trees, preached and lived and died. Monument-Dexter City, Oh 1774-1845.
..The older families of the Ohio Valley have a rich, rich heritage in their ancestors. For future generations the legends, tales and truths that are yet known to us concerning these illustrious characters should he permanently recorded. Many times it is difficult to determine fact from fiction and twice told tales often improve with the telling.....Our subject here would, of necessity, have lived at least two life times to have accomplished all of the tasks and walked all of the miles attributed to him by more than a dozen books, and hundreds of biographical sketches and periodicals. This is not written to belittle or detract from John Chapman's brilliant and extensive life of service, but to explain facts from the mass of material available....Edward Chapman of Yorkshire, England, arrived in Boston, Mass in 1639. By occupation, he was a farmer and a miller. In 1642, he became a grantee of the town of Ipswich, Mass. The great grandson of this Edward Chapman, Nathaniel, was born in 1746 and married Elizabeth Simonds Aug 9, 1769. Their first child was Elizabeth, born Nov 18, 1770. Their second child, John Chapman, later to be known as Johnny Appleseed, was born September 26, 1774, at Leominster, Mass. Nathaniel's wife died with the birth of their third child in 1776 and the child also died......Nathaniel Chapman was a minute man at the battle of Concord, served with Isreal Putnam at Bunker Hill and was with George Washington at Valley Forge. His service with the Continental Army was from 1777 until 1780, at which time he was honorable discharged at Springfield, have attained the rank of Captain early in the colonial struggle.....On July 24, 1780, Nathaniel married Lucy Cooley and they made their home at Longmeadow where their ten children were born, the first being Nathaniel who became John's favorite half-brother....I was unable to learn who cared for John and his sister Elizabeth during the period of the Revolutionary War. It is said that Captain Chapman gave all of his property at Leominster to the cause of the colonies, but it would seem more logical to me for it to have been sold to support the children.....Young John, even in childhood, loved nature and spent much time along the streams and in the woods. Stories are told of pet squirrels, rabbits and birds who fearlessly came to him at his whistle or all. He aggravated many a trapper of there area by freeing the game and caring for their injuries...As a small boy, he worked on Mr. Crawford's farm, near his home, on which there was a large apple orchard. This Mr. Crawford is credited with giving John his first training in the care of trees and fruit.
Religion and apples were important products of early Massachusetts and perhaps it was not out of the ordinary for John to become a preacher and a planter....John Chapman must have been a good student and received above average opportunity for formal education for his time. Some writers say that he graduated from Harvard University, but this is doubtful as Harvard has no record of his registration. We do know that he read extensively and that his speech was that of a man of letters. This fact is mentioned over and over by people who knew him well. He was familiar with the bible from cover to cover and every description of him includes a Bible....After the Revolutionary war, a steady stream of people moved westward across the Appalachians into the Ohio Valley. Many of these people John knew, and many interesting stories of the rich lands of Ohio came back to Longmeadow....In 1794 John, with his half-brother Nathaniel headed west on foot. The route taken, or the time involved is not known. Some say they traveled across New York State to Olean, where possibly John had an uncle living, and then down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh. Others say they went by way of Philadelphia and then across the mountains....Regardless of the route, they arrived in Pittsburgh and John quickly found work in the ship yards building rafts and keel boats for pioneers hastening down the Ohio to find homes in the wilderness. Nathaniel returned home to Longmeadow the following spring, but John stayed on. John was an excellent worker in wood and work was plentiful for willing hands.....With his earnings, John purchased a fertile piece of land overlooking the river and the main trail, built a cabin near a spring, and became a well-known resident....General Harris was in command of the fort at Pittsburgh and owned a large farm on which there was an apple orchard. This orchard especially interested John and because of this previous experience with trees, General Harris hired him to care for the orchard. With seeds from the Harris orchard he soon had an orchard started on his own land....General Harris trusted john and sent him on a business errand to Greensburg bearing an introduction to Judge John Young. Judge Young was an ardent disciple of Emanuel Swedenborg and upon learning of young Chapman's interest in religion, the Judge supplies him with books and tracts from Swedenborg which finally made John a self-appointed missionary of the religion of the new Jeruselem. For the rest of his life he followed and preached the gospel as interpreted by Emanuel Swedenborg....It was now that John became a strict vegetarian refusing to eat meat of any kind. Every living creature was created by God and the life breathed into it should not be taken by man. He struck too quickly and too hard, one story goes, killing a snake that bit him
Remorse and sorrow plagued him through the day, and when he passed by that evening and saw the snake still lying there, its tail still moving, he promised God he would never kill again. Later, a rattle snake bit him and an Indian companion was going to kill it, but John protested. "The snake did not know what is was doing."...Many stories, and even those of my Grandfather, tell that John was kicked in the head by a horse while in Pittsburgh and that his was the cause for his eccentricities. Regardless of the cause, around 1800 John became possessed with the idea that every pioneer should have an apple tree. He began feverishly to collect seeds from the pomace of cider mills, and after cleaning, sorting and drying them thoroughly, packaged them in little buckskin bags to give to every family moving west. Some settlers protested saying that the seeds would not grow in the wilderness, to which John responded, "A land that will not grow apple trees is not fit for women and children"....By 1802 John had bushels of choice appleseeds and the call to plant was in his blood as spring warmed the land...He had befriended a widow and her four children left stranded in Pittsburgh when her husband was killed. He now gave her his cabin, his orchard and his cow, and with two canoes lashed together, set off down the Ohio.. With one canoe loaded with bags of appleseeds, and the other with his tools and himself, John Chapman was now on his way to become Johnny Appleseed....Johnny is described as a man of about five feet seven inches tall, straight as a ramrod, slim and lithe as a cat, with sparkling friendly blue eyes, brown hair and light complexion. His usual dress was on old wide brim felt hat, bare feet, worn and often ragged trousers an a coffee sack for a shirt with a well work Bible always tucked in its folds. He became a fast friend and a welcome guest of everyone he met and loved by children everywhere and was often described sitting on a stump telling stories to a group of children, reading to them from the Bible, or fashioning for them bows and arrows, whistles or crude toys....On his journey down the Ohio, the first nursery he planted was on Jess Thomas' farm at the mouth of Georges Run, south of Steubenville, Ohio. On his way back to Pittsburgh in 1806, Johnny stopped to see his nursery and found that Jess Thomas had moved on West. Another farmer was living in the cabin and tending the nursery. This man, name unknown to me, was sick and his wife and two children had died. He had sold hundreds of trees from the nursery to settlers for from three to five cents each and had saved the money for Johnny. Johnny cared for the man until he was well and strong again, and then as he was ready to leave returned the money from the sale of the trees to the settlers, saying, "Keep this, your need is much greater than mine". Tradition tells us that Johnny in 1802, planted the seed on the Thomas Grimes farm on the Washington Pike, east of Wellsburg, from which grew the apple tree later named Grimes Golden. This tree was located in the state park on the south side of the highway and a memorial watering through marks the location. This memorial was provided by the Franklin County Woman's Club and dedicated in 1922...It was Johnny's habit to plant nurseries, not one or even a few trees, and it is my opinion that Thomas Grimes either secured this seedling from the nursery at Georges Run, or planted it from seed from one of the little buckskin bags given to passing settlers at Pittsburgh...From Georges Run, we have no further record of activity until Johnny reached Marietta. Here he quickly became a fast friend of Dr True who had the only apple tree growing in the village. Commander Whipple of the U.S. Navy stationed at Marietta, gave Johnny a small plot of land and asked that he plant a nursery. The commander even released prisoners to assist Johnny with the planting....A story is told, probably true, of an epidemic of fever plaguing Marietta and how John Chapman and Dr True worked tirelessly caring for the sick. Johnny was familiar with the common medicines of the time, and under Dr True's guidance, was able to save many lives. The story goes that Johnny finally came down with the fever himself and how the concern of the whole settlement and the special attention of Dr True was directed to his care until he was well again....In the late summer or fall of 18805, Johnny's father and family arrived in Marietta. With Johnny as a guide, father and half-brother set out up Duck Creek leaving mother and the girls with friend in the village. Johnny led them to a big fertile creek bottom about twenty five miles up Duck Creek where they blazed a claim and built a large cabin. Johnny only stayed long enough to help raise the cabin and then he was off up the Muskingum River to plant more nurseries. In 1807, Johnny's father died and Nathaniel, Johnny's half-brother, and my Great, Great Grandfather remained on the farm. From that cabin, I have six split bottom chairs which, according to my Grandfather Chapman, were hand made right there at the cabin by his grandfather. My Grandfather was Nathaniel Cooley Chapman, Nathaniel for his Grandfather and Cooley for his Great Grandmother's maiden name....Grandfather, when I was a small boy, told us about Johnny, and he always laughed as he said that Johnny was our only crazy relative. Personally, I prefer eccentric, the word used by present day writers to describe his thinking and his actions. Fourteen families of Chapman's came to the colonies before 1700. Grandfather said they were sent or escaped, and this might well be the case, as many were religiously inclined and not of a conforming nature.
Many times my grandfather told me the story of the pet bear at the cabin on Duck Creek. His grandfather, so he said, was hunting in the woods and came upon a very hungry little black bear cub. Its mother had probably been killed so grandfather gathered up the cub and took him home to the children. They called him, Mr. Bear because of the dignified was he would sit up an seriously look the family over. Even as a full grown bear, he continued to come and go at will. Of all of the foods of man, Mr. Bear most dearly loved applebutter....Grandmother always made apple butter outside over an open fire in a huge iron kettle. Mr. Bear was always right there for his share of the tasting and one fall as grandmother was busy stirring and Mr. Bear was busy begging, grandmother became exasperated with him and whapped him over the nose with the stirring stick. Mr. Bear was getting old and grouchy anyway and this insult so enraged him that he badly clawed and malled grandmother. Grandfather hear her cry for help and came running from the field. He grabbed old Betsie, the muzzle loading rifle, and quickly put an end to Mr. Bear. I always hated to hear of Mr. Bear's untimely demise but this was part of rough pioneer life....As the settlers moved farther and farther west into the Ohio country, Johnny moved right with them, planting more and more nurseries, so there would be plenty of apple trees for everyone. The nurseries were usually near a cabin where Johnny would arrange with the owner to tend the trees and sell the seedlings for whatever he could get, or to give them to those who could not afford to pay. The price usually charged by Johnny was a flip penny bit or about six and one half cents....Johnny often stopped long enough to help a farmer harvest his crops, to lend a hand in raising a cabin or to doctor and care for the sick. He continually fathered herbs and settlers used to cure their ailments and would trade a supply for a meal, a night's lodging (the privilege of sleeping on the floor before the fire) or for a cast-away clothing which he could wear, or pass on to some needy person. His supply of herbs usually contained catnip, horhound, golden-seal, ginsing, and wood bitney. Often times he would give a pioneer woman a few flower seeds to brighten the door yard of a new cabin....A story is told of a farmer near Mansfield who gave Johnny a new pair of boots to protect his bare feet from the winter snow. The following day the farmer met Johnny and, noticing that he was again bare footed, asked where the boots were. Johnny replied that he had come upon a bare footed traveler who needed the boots much the he did. He would give up anything he had to help others....Most of his nurseries in Ohio were along the Muskingum, Licking, Tuscarawas and Walhunging Rivers and their tributaries.
Historical accounts name the following counties in Ohio as having nurseries planted by Johnny Appleseed: Ashland, Huron, Delaware, Knox, Paulding, Henry, Richland, Coshocton, Hancock, Logan, Butler, Harrison, Mercer, Crawford, Morrow, Guernsey, Clark, Jefferson, Washington and Noble.....Johnny planted many varieties of apples but never grafted trees as he thought they should grow as God provided. Pioneer friends said that his favorite apples were, Rambo, Baldwin, Northern Spy, and McIntosh. An old friend of Mansfield, Oh said that Johnny told him that he secured most of his best seeds from the pomace of the VanKirk cider mill of Elizabethtown,Pa about twenty miles south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River....Johnny was a friend of every Indian and an honored guest in every village. When Johnny first came to Ohio, word passed from village to village "That a white man had come to their country who had been touched by the great spirit." He planted apple trees just as readily for the Indians as for the whites, and bent his greatest efforts to maintaining the peace....During the war of 1812, the English, through Canada, supplied the Indians with guns and ammunition and urged them to make raids on the settlers. Johnny knew many of the Indian chiefs and spoke at least three of the Indian tribal languages. During this trying time, he sat in council around many an Indian fire, and when he could not make peace, he hastened away to warn the settlers. Many settlers distinctly remember hearing Johnny's knock on their cabin door in the middle of the night and his warning cry: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me and he hath anointed me to blow the trumpet in the wilderness and sound an alarm in the forest, for, behold, the tribes of the heathen are about your doors and a devouring fire followeth after them." The settlers recognized his warning, hastily collected their belongings, and fled to the nearest stockade....When Mansfield was but a small village, Johnny learned from a war party their plan to attack the following day. He hastened to warn the village and then ran bare foot through the night thirty miles to the fort of Mt. Vernon, and returned with help in time to save the town....A monument stands in Middle Park in Mansfield, which was presented to the city by Martin B. Bushnell, grandson of old Dr Bushnell, who was one of Johnny's best friends. This monument was dedicated Nov 8, 1900 and the inscription reads--"In memory of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, Pioneer Apple and Nurseryman of Richland County from 1810 to 1830....While tending his nurseries around Mansfield, he often stayed at the home of his half-sister, Mrs. Percies Broom, who lived on Leesville Road,
Johnny continued to move west with the settlers and as early as 1825, pioneers tell of seeing him planting a nursery near Fort Wayne, Indiana. Some biographers have him in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Some tell of him splitting rails with Abraham Lincoln, visiting at the home of Lincoln's parents, traveling with Audubon and watching him paint his famous pictures of birds. These stories could be true but are probably fiction. History records and recollections place his activities in Indiana in three counties, Allen, Jay and Adams. Johnny is always described as a man of poverty, at his death, he owned land in all three of the above counties. Near Fort Wayne, he owned two hundred and fourteen acres and had two large, well-kept nurseries- one of fifteen thousand seedlings and the other of over two thousand. He had a half-sister living near Fort Wayne, and most biographers feel that Johnny, because of his age, had decided to settle here for the closing years of his life...All through his life he preached the gospel, as taught by Emanuel Swedenborg, to any who would listen. Many settlers heard him read from his Bible, as he always said "Fresh news straight from Heaven". ..Johnny probably originated the idea of the serial story. He always had books and religious tracts with him. If a settler could read, he would remove a number of pages from a book and leave them. Next time he passed that way he would pick up the pages and leave the next section. The sequence wasn't always perfect but it supplied wanted reading material....One summer Sunday afternoon Rev. Paine, a Methodist circuit rider, announced services in the public square at Mansfield. To the rough gathering of people, the good Reverend expounded loud and long. He described their wickedness and threatened them with hell fire if they did not mend their ways. Waving his arms he shouted, "Where now will you find a man who lives as did the early Christians traveling to Heaven barefooted and clad in coarse rainment." Every eye turned to Johnny who, barefooted and ragged, sat on a stump chewing away at nuts which he always had in his pockets. To the amazement of Reverend Paine, Johnny arose and walked forward confidently, extended his hand to the minister and quietly said, "Here is your primitive Christian, Sir"....In 1842-43 Johnny made his last trip back to the Ohio Valley and to the old family home on Duck Creek. He stopped all along the way to visit friends, and to check on nurseries he had planted many years before. On his return to Fort Wayne, he seemed to be older and very tired and willing at last to restrict his activities to the nurseries there.
Early in March in 1845, Johnny heard that wild cattle had broken into one his nurseries and were destroying many of the young trees. In spite of the violent weather, Johnny walked twenty-five miles to care for the nursery and repair the fence. He made it back as far as the home of an old friend, William Wert, and there fell ill from exhaustion and exposure. The care of his good friends could not help out and, on March 18, 1845, John Chapman died. A monument now marks his grave in a memorial part in Fort Wayne, Indiana.....When news of Johnny's death reached Washington D.C. General Sam Houston, Hero and one of the two first United States Senators from Texas, stood up in Congress and said, "This old man was one of the most useful citizens of the world in his humble way. He has made a greater contribution to our civilization than we realize. He has left a place that never an be filled. Farewell, dear old eccentric heart, your labor has been a labor of love, and generations, yet unborn, will rise up and call you blessed.".......
Source of Information: Clippings, notes and information collected by my father and mother Mr and Mrs F.E. Chapman, Wellsburg, WV. A paper written by H. Kenneth Dirlam for the Richland County Historical Society in Mansfield OH, 1953 and Johnny Appleseed and His Times by Henry A. Pershing, 1930. Hope you all enjoy this story. Frank Chapman.
Around Brooke County