September always means apple season here, and there is no greater icon of apple season than John Chapman, more familiarly known as Johnny Appleseed. Unlike the mythical Paul Bunyan, Johnny really did exist and made a contribution to America that we can all appreciate today. Read on to learn some facts about Johnny and grab some freebies!
Who was Johnny?
Johnny’s early life is actually pretty well documented. We know he was born in 1774 and grew up during the revolutionary war, where his father served in the Continental Army. Before Johnny was two his mother died and his father came home to look after him. He remarried and Johnny became an older brother to ten siblings. By the time he was 38 Johnny had established himself as an orchardist (someone who plants and tends orchards) – a lucrative trade at a time when so many pioneers were looking for land. Johnny traveled wildly, selling seeds, but although he was a businessman, first and foremost he was a true lover of the land. He would often barter his seeds rather than sell them, and that is how he came to wear threadbare clothes. He was known to give his seeds away if the recipients were unable to pay him, and once offered his shoes to a person in need.
Lover of Animals
Johnny was a vegetarian. He loved animals and once used his savings to purchase an old, mistreated horse so that it could be cared for properly. One snowy winter’s night he slept outside rather in a warm cave nearby so as not to disturb a sleeping mother bear and her cub (although to be frank, that just sounds like common sense. I mean, I would be very reluctant to wake a hibernating bear). He took “Harm no living creature” to a new level when he put out his fire because it was attracting mosquitoes to their death in the flames. “God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort, that should be the means of destroying any of his creatures,” he reportedly said. The ASPCA would have been proud, but Johnny showed a side to himself which we can relate to when he killed a snake. He however, showed more remorse than most, when he went back to see if the snake had survived his attack. (It hadn’t).
Sowing more than seeds
As Johnny traveled the country, he would often stay with the farmers and landowners he met. During the evening he would sermonize to the families, and share the gospel. Deeply religious, Johnny never married and believed that if he did not meet his wife on earth, then he would surely meet her in heaven.
A friend to all
At a time when relationships had turned sour between the settlers and the native Americans, Johnny was embraced by both. Native Americans were impressed not only by his ability to speak some of their languages but also by his knowledge of medicinal plants which he willingly shared with them.
Maybe not as sweet as apple pie?
Sadly, it seems that the images that we have of Johnny chowing down on a home-baked apple pie in a settlers wooden hut is more myth than truth. It turns out the apples that grew from the seeds Johnny shared were hard and inedible. But they were perfect for making hard cider. At a time when water was not always safe to drink, hard cider was the beverage of choice, enjoyed by young and old alike. Nova, Ohio is home to the last known tree planted by Johnny Appleseed himself!
Enjoy your month of apple activities!