John Chapman

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OHS AL02697.jpg
Reproduction of an illustration depicting John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, published in A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County From the Earliest to the Present Date by H. S. Knapp, 1863.

John Chapman, more famously known as Johnny Appleseed, was born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts. Chapman was born to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman. Nathaniel Chapman was a minuteman who served in the Continental Army in the American Revolution. Following the death of his wife, Nathaniel Chapman remarried and had ten children. Overwhelmed by chaotic family life, John Chapman (at the age of eighteen) convinced his younger half-brother Nathaniel to roam west with him. John and Nathaniel had reached Ohio when the rest of the Chapman family arrived; Nathaniel opted to remain with their relatives. Prior to his roaming John Chapman (then aged thirteen), with the aid of his father, was given an apprenticeship to an orchardist, Mr. Crawford, who managed apple trees. This intensified Chapman’s interest in the fruit. His original fascination with apples stemmed from learning about their symbolic importance. Through planting apple trees Chapman aimed to spread knowledge, while reminding residents of their immorality.

Chapman began to wander once more in 1802, travelling through Pennsylvania and later back through Ohio, harvesting apple nurseries. He constructed fences as part of these nurseries to prevent his trees from being trampled by animals.

Chapman opposed violence of any kind towards both humans and animals. He was said to have refused campfires because bugs would fly into the flame and be burned alive. He became a strict vegetarian later in life. Furthermore, Chapman sought to save the souls of both the settlers and Native Americans he encountered. During his travels he would preach the ideals of the New Church. Chapman believed firmly in Emanuel Swedenborg's teachings and became perhaps the most famous of the Swedenborgians. The beliefs of Swedenborgianism were based upon the idea that God was to be worshipped through one form: Jesus Christ. Chapman taught this form of Christianity to the tribes that he interacted with, and claimed that he was able to convert many of them to the New Church.

Chapman primarily wore discarded clothing, or would barter apple saplings for used clothes. Chapman was never married nor did he have children. He spent most of his time in Ohio, in Richland County, near Mansfield. At one point during the War of 1812, Mansfield residents feared a Native American attack. Chapman risked his life to summon aid from neighboring Mount Vernon, displaying the selfless nature that defined his character. Many of Ohio's first orchards began with saplings from Chapman's nurseries. His trees fed many of Ohio's early white settlers as they struggled to establish farms and homes on the frontier. Johnny Appleseed eventually owned more than 1,200 acres of land across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Prior to his death he claimed to have walked over four thousand miles around the United States. He died near Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the early 1840s.

See Also