When arriving in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I picked up an informational
magazine to learn what was interesting to see in this fine city. I
found an article about a well known American "hero," who spent his
final years near Fort Wayne. We studied about his adventures
across the Mid Western states and his nick name became a house
hold word for children learning about our fare country.
John Chapman was born in Massachusetts in 1774. He grew up in
New England and received a good education. His love for the
outdoors influenced his interest in horticulture and he became a
"nursery man." His expertise was apple trees. He began planting
apple orchards in the New England states, and as the Northwest
Territory opened for settlement, he was one of the first to explore
the new land. This humble man traveled throughout the states of
Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky, planting apple trees.
When settlers arrived, they were welcomed with his young apple
He lived a simple life. With few possessions, he traveled on foot,
carrying his bag of seeds. He is often depicted in sketches with a
kettle on his head, a stick holding a bundle of camping needs, and a
satchel of seeds slung over his shoulder. He lived off the land,
gathering wild berries and nuts. He welcomed potatoes, ground
meal, milk and other staples given to him by settlers who enjoyed his
visits and stories. The folks who were settling in this new wilderness
were always happy to have John as a guest in their humble cabins.
John would read to them from his Bible or tell fantastic stories of his
A practical businessman, John Chapman visioned the wilderness full
of blossoming apple trees. He nurtured his orchards, protecting them
with brush fences. He did all the work himself, living alone much of
the time. He was deeply religious and carried no gun. Native
Americans trusted him and welcomed him. It is told that he was
never bothered by wild animals, living in harmony with nature.
He sold his trees for a meal, a night's lodging or a bit of used
clothing. He accepted whatever a poor settler had to offer. His
greatest reward was seeing the pleasure that his sturdy young trees
brought to settlers, delighted that their new home would be
surrounded by the fragrant fruitful apple trees that he had planted.
John Chapman never married. His family were the settlers that
dotted the wilderness. He loved the children and was always
welcome as a guest for as long as he wished to stay. It was with
friends, that he spent his last night near Fort Wayne. He had been
sent word that a near by orchard had been broken into by cattle. He
immediately rushed to repair the damage. The spring weather was
raw and stormy and by the time he found shelter at his friends'
cabin, he was stricken with a disease known as the "winter plague"
and was unable to recover. He died in March, 1845.
Many think of this simple man as a legend who was invented by
early settlers. In fact he was real and spent almost 50 years of his
life planting apple orchards throughout the Mid-West. Remnants of
his apple trees can still be found. We learned of him in history class
at a very young age. He has been an inspiration to all who love and
cherish this vast land. When next you visit Fort Wayne, Indiana,
please take the time to find a small hill in a lovely park that lies on
the banks of the St. Joseph River. Atop the hill is a tomb stone that
marks the grave of this man. The etched stone shows an outline of
an apple and the words: Johhny Appleseed .
|A little drop of "Ol' Man River" with us always