Hoosier Legends: Johnny Appleseed

Sep 20, 2013 | Featured Posts, Marking Hoosier History |

Using the strictest modern definition of “Hoosier,” John Chapman, aka “Johnny Appleseed” might not qualify, as he was born and raised in Massachusetts. But this legendary figure spent a substantial amount of time in the Hoosier State and left it an agricultural legacy, so Indiana claims Chapman nevertheless.

John Chapman traveled a circuit from New England into the West, including Ohio and Indiana, in the early 1800s and is most remembered for planting apple trees from seed and spreading the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg.  Early settlers in the west, needing to establish a solid claim to land and feed their families, required fruit trees to create orchards.  For this reason, Chapman’s work was methodical, establishing nurseries across the frontier rather than just scattering seeds at random.  Though he owned properties across the present-day Midwest, stories of “Johnny Appleseed” suggest he lived an itinerant, outdoor life, relying on strangers for food and shelter only when the weather was inclement.

Chapman’s last days were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Though his gravesite has been lost to time, a memorial gravesite and 31 acre park is maintained in his honor.

Visit Fort Wayne for the 39th Annual Johnny Appleseed Festival September 21-22, 2013 to learn more and pay homage to this legendary Hoosier.

Drawing of Jonathan Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, c. 1862, from A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County.