Appleseed Country - History of Massachusetts
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You’re in Johnny Appleseed Country. But why does this region bear Johnny’s name? And who was Johnny Appleseed, anyhow?
Generations of American children have learned the legend of Johnny Appleseed — an odd character who wandered around wearing a cooking pot for a hat. But there’s a lot more to Johnny than the well-known caricature.
Johnny Appleseed — whose real name was John Chapman — was, in fact, a businessman who helped many pioneers survive and new communities flourish when this great country was being settled. Born right here in Leominster on September 26, 1774, John Chapman made a name for himself as he travelled westward across the nation.
While he was still a child, Chapman’s family moved from Leominster to Western Massachusetts. As a young man, he began his trek to Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley, planting nurseries and apple orchards and selling seeds and seedlings to settlers along the way.
While we think of apples as a juicy snack or the key ingredient in a mouth-watering dessert, the apples of Johnny’s day weren’t generally used for eating out of hand. Instead, they were turned into products that helped sustain the settlers, including hard cider and apple jack.
Over nearly 50 years, his travels took him far and wide, and he acquired a great deal of real estate; at the time of his death, he owned some 1,200 acres of nurseries.
With his extensive travel and eccentric lifestyle, Johnny Appleseed became a legendary character, and communities from Massachusetts to Ohio and Indiana still celebrate his life. Schools, streets, parks and festivals bear his name. His life has been recounted in numerous books, plays and films, including a 1948 film from Walt Disney Studios.
Some miscellaneous facts
John Chapman was a missionary for The New Church. John was devoutly religious and enjoyed sharing his faith with people who wanted to listen. He also is thoughts to have been a peacemaker and was alleged to settle conflicts between pioneers and Indians. John held respect for American Indians, and some Indians even converted to Christianity because of his words.
John Chapman was the second child born to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman. Nathaniel Chapman was a Minuteman in Concord and also served under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Tragically, Elizabeth Chapman died in childbirth in 1776 as well as her infant son. John’s father left his military obligations after his wife died. He eventually remarried giving John ten siblings with this second marriage.
John and one of his brothers traveled west when he was about 18. At one point, they visited the farm of John Stedden of Licking Creek, OH. Stedden thought Mr. Chapman was both fascinating with his plans of planting apple trees for future settles as well as eccentric. Several years later, John and one of his brothers were joined by his father and the rest of his family in Ohio. His father helped him secure an apprenticeship position with an apple orchard owner. John eventually continued traveling carrying apple seeds to many new areas taching farmers how to plant apple seeds and establish orchards and nurseries. Other travelers referred to him as “Johnny Appleseed.” Eventually he travelled into the west between Pennsylvania to Illinois and as well as up the Ohio River carrying his apple seeds.
John was a conservationist and disliked the excesses some pioneers displayed. He owned a great deal of property from his nurseryman career, but continued to live modestly. He also cared deeply for animals and refused to eat meat. One story states that when he heard a horse was to be killed by its owner, he bought the animal and gave it to an underprivileged person with the understanding the creature was to be treated humanely.
There is some discrepancy concerning John’s death in Fort Wayne, Indiana. For example, some say he died he 1845, while others state that it was not until 1847. However, the Fort Wayne Sentinel newspaper wrote that John died on March 18, 1845. His grave is marked with the saying "He Lived for Others."
To learn more about Johnny Appleseed, begin at one of those spots that bears his name: The Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2 Westbound, between Exits 35 and 34.
A display case serves as home to a unique assortment of Johnny memorabilia, and visitors can purchase first-day stamped postcards bearing the official Johnny Appleseed postage stamp.
Kids can have their pictures taken with the bronze statue of a youthful Johnny, standing at the entrance to the center.
A number of books about Johnny are available at the Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2 in Lancaster. They include:
A Tale to be Told & Illustrated by Steven Kellogg
The Story of Johnny Appleseed written by Aliki
Johnny Appleseed The Story of a Legend by Will Moses
Johnny Appleseed, Ready to Read Level 1 by Jane Kurtz
Johnny Appleseed, My Story Level 3 by David Harrison
Johnny Appleseed by Jane Yolen
Johnny Appleseed, A Poem by Reeve Lindbergh
Johnny Appleseed, The Man, The Myth the American Story by Howard Means
Johnny Appleseed, A Pioneer Hero by W.D. Haley
Johnny Appleseed, By Christen Ditchfield
And click here for a number of activity sheets for kids!
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| Johnny Appleseed Country North Central Massachusetts | Rt.2 Westbound, Lancaster, MA, Between Exits 35-34 | 978-534-2302
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