Like I mentioned in my 2011 post on John Appleseed, I met John Appleseed through classic comics.
The barefoot, saucepan clad apple missionary somehow stuck my fancy. Later when I discovered that there was actually a Johnny Appleseed day, I began researching more on him.
Born John Chapman second son to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman, on 26th September 1774 his birthplace is marked with a granite marker and the street is named ‘Johnny Appleseed Lane’ in his memory.
Legends say that John and his half brother Nathaniel Jr. Led a nomadic life it 1792 until the family caught up with them in 1805. Nathaniel Jr. Stayed back to help his father farm the land, while Johnny continued with his mission. Johnny was an apprentice with an orchardist called Mr. Crawford who had apple orchards. Working with Mr. Crawford inspired Johnny to plant apple trees.
My imagination ran wild with images of a happy young man prancing around Pennsylvania tossing apple seeds and creating orchards. But the reality was he planted nurseries fencing the plants to protect them from livestock. He would then move on, leaving the nurseries in the care of his neighbour he moved on. The neighbour sold the trees on shares, and Johnny Appleseed would return every two years to tend to the nursery. He created nurseries along Venango County, French Creek, and Mohican River, towns of Mansfield, Lisbon, Lucas, Perrysville and Loudonville.
Johnny Appleseed would narrate stories to the children and share the New Church gospel with adults. In return he would given food, and maybe a place to sleep on the floor. He shared his Gospel with many Native Indians some of whom converted. He admired the native Indians and they in turn thought he was blessed so even the most hostile ones left him alone.
There is a story about him, sitting beside a fire one cool autumn evening. When he saw the mosquitoes fall into flame and die. Johnny filled the saucepan on his head which worked both as a head gear and a mush pot, with water and doused the fire, he reckoned later, ‘God forbids me to build a fire for my comfort while it kills his other creatures.”
In another story he apparently built a camp-fire in a snowstorm at the end of a hollow log. But then he found that the hollow was occupied by a bear and its cub, so moved his fire to the other end and slept on the snow. Eric Braun has collected a story where Johnny Appleseed had a pet wolf. Johnny had healed its injured leg, after which the wolf followed him everywhere. There is another story that says he bought a horse that he heard was being put down, he also bought grassy acre land nearby and let the horse loose to recover. When the horse required he donated the horse to a needy family on the condition that they would treat it humanely.
Johnny Appleseed was a bachelor and he believed if he did not meet his soul mate on earth he would meet her in the afterlife. He turned vegetarian at a later age and died at the age of 80yrs rather suddenly in a cabin in which he lived. The date was 11th March 1845.