National Johnny Appleseed Day

March 11th is National Johnny Appleseed Day, a celebration of the life of pioneering nurseryman John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman.

The line between reality and legend is often blurred when it comes to Chapman's biography. Hard facts about his life are sparse. He was born on September 26, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts. His father Nathaniel was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Little is known of his mother Elizabeth, who died when Chapman was two years old. He had an older sister named after his mother and a younger half-brother named Nathaniel.

Around the turn of the nineteenth-century, Chapman began procuring apple seeds in Pennsylvania and selling them to those interested in the journey westward. For the next four decades of his life, he wandered back and forth across the Ohio River Valley, sowing apple seeds and tending to his 1,200 acres of nurseries. Chapman also lent a helping hand to those looking to plant their own apple orchards.

For all his dedication to nursery work, Chapman's eccentricity is what has cemented his legacy as an American folk hero. He got on well with children and animals. He used a mush pan as a hat and tended to stick to old clothing. Writer Rosella Rice, who met Chapman in his later years, claimed he also went about barefoot. He was also a fervent missionary influenced by the teachings of eighteenth-century Christian theologian Emmanuel Sweedenbourg.

Chapman lived to be seventy years old, dying on March 18, 1845 a few miles from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since his death, his legend has only grown, popularized by poems, tall tales, and animated cartoons.

National Johnny Appleseed Day

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March 11th is National Johnny Appleseed Day, a celebration of the life of nineteenth-century nurseryman John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman. Below are a variety of resources, some of which introduce the life of Chapman for young readers and some scholarly sources that seek to uncover the elusive man behind the popular image.

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