Fact From Fiction: Johnny Appleseed and His Apple Trees
Almost everyone has had an apple of some sort, whether on its own or as part of a pie. When you think of fall, pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon probably come to mind; if you’re a fan of apples, you have Johnny Appleseed to thank. Although some think he was a made-up character, he was a real person. Follow along to learn facts from fiction regarding Johnny Appleseed and his apple trees.
He Was a Real Person
Unlike several other legendary figures, Johnny Appleseed was a real person. He was born in Massachusetts in 1774, and his real name was John Chapman. Interestingly, he started traveling west in 1792 when he was 18. Although artwork depicts him as a whimsical wanderer who plants apple seeds, he was an organized businessman who bought and sold land and cultivated countless apple trees.
He Was Never Married
John Chapman lived a remarkable life, and one thing that contributed to his lifestyle was that he was never married. He didn’t think marriage was the right option, as he wanted to travel around planting apple trees. Because he didn’t marry, he had no children to inherit his land and trees.
Despite not having children of his own, Chapman’s legacy lives on through a fifth-generation nephew also named John Chapman, who still maintains apple orchards in Maine. One of the trees he maintains is a descendant of one of Johnny Appleseed’s original trees.
His Apples Weren’t For Eating
Despite popular belief, Chapman’s apples weren’t for eating. If you were to eat one of these tart, small apples, it wouldn’t be a good experience. These apples were ideal for distilleries that made hard cider and applejack, two of the most prominent alcoholic beverages of the time. Because water often contained harmful bacteria, cider was a safe and delicious alternative. As you can see, this bit of information wasn’t a part of the legend, as it quickly became a children’s story.
Prohibition and His Legacy
By the time prohibition hit in the 1920s, Johnny Appleseed was already a legend; however, this didn’t stop the government from axing his apple trees to prevent people from making homemade cider. Furthermore, prohibition cut off America’s connection to hard cider, and its popularity has only made a recent re-emergence.
His Signature Look Is Mostly Accurate
As you remember from the childhood stories about Johnny Appleseed, artists and writers depict him with worn-out, rag-like clothes, bare feet, a bag of seeds over his shoulder, and a tin pot on his head. Let’s take a moment to look deeper into his signature look.
Believe it or not, his preference for worn clothing and bare feet may have been a faith offering to his church. He did carry a sack of apple seeds over his shoulder because he didn’t believe in harming God’s creation in any way. Therefore, he didn’t believe in modern techniques to expand his orchards, hence the bag of seeds. Chapman did favor a tin hat, but not necessarily a tin cooking pot. With that in mind, he did eat out of his hat occasionally, which is probably where the tin pot legend started.
He Loved Animals and Was a Vegetarian
As previously mentioned, Chapman didn’t believe in harming God’s creations in any way, which included animals and insects. As expected, he did everything in his power to act gently and kindly toward Earth and all its inhabitants; he was a vegetarian and vowed to protect animals’ lives.
He Was More Than a Wandering Gardener
Although many people think Johnny Appleseed was a magical legend who traveled around the countryside planting apple trees, you should know that he was an organized businessman. He established apple orchards by claiming open land.
Aside from apples, he also carried seeds for other medicinal plants that he gave to the Native Americans he encountered. He had a great relationship with the local Indigenous settlements, and they welcomed him with open arms. Because Chapman had a deep faith, he considered himself a missionary for the New Church; he preached God’s word anywhere he planted apple trees.
It Wasn’t About the Money
Even though Chapman was a businessman in his day, that doesn’t mean he was money hungry. He sold his apple seedlings to anyone who wanted them, but he understood when people were low on funds. He was often willing to accept other goods and services in exchange for his seedlings. If they had nothing to trade, Chapman would often gift his apple seedlings to them and help in any way he could.
While you may think his generosity left him in a bind, Chapman was a relatively successful man. Believe it or not, he owned about 1,200 acres when he died.
The Legend Grew Quickly After His Death
While John Chapman was a well-known figure as he traveled around America during his lifetime, the legend of Johnny Appleseed grew quickly after his death in 1845. Remarkably, the first essay about Johnny Appleseed didn’t reveal Chapman’s real name, but it made an impact on America; a popular magazine brought the legend to national attention. As a result, Americans named festivals after him, and the legend gradually developed into a children’s story.
You probably learned about Johnny Appleseed in elementary school, but many people didn’t believe he was a real person. If you’re looking for potted apple trees for sale, you should consider John Chapman and his legacy of shaping apple varieties and their popularity.
You Can Still Visit One of His Trees
Nova, Ohio, is the home to the last of the apple trees planted by Johnny Appleseed. This tree is over 170 years old and still produces tart apples that are ideal for baking, applesauce, and hard cider. Chapman would probably be ecstatic that one of his trees is still producing apples!
Almost everyone is familiar with the legend, but learning facts from fiction regarding Johnny Appleseed and his apple trees gives you a deeper appreciation for this delicious fall fruit. Although Chapman lived long ago, his stories and legendary work still live today.