Johnny Appleseed Day is a celebration of the life and legacy of John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed.” An American pioneer, he is best known for introducing apple trees to large parts of the United States. Every year on September 26th, people across the country come together to honor this legendary figure and the important role he played in American history.
John Chapman was born on September 26, 1774. He dedicated his life to planting apple orchards and spreading his love for apples wherever he went. His mission was not just to grow and sell apples, but to promote the idea of sustainable agriculture and the importance of nature conservation. Sometimes Johnny Appleseed Day is also celebrated on March 11, the day of his death in 1845.
Johnny Appleseed traveled extensively, covering vast territories on foot, carrying apple seeds and seedlings with him. He would find a suitable location and plant the seeds, establishing nurseries for apple trees. He often returned to these nurseries to care for the young trees and ensure their survival. His efforts resulted in the spread of apple orchards across several states, including Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
But Johnny Appleseed was more than just a planter of trees; he was also known for his generous and kind nature. He would often give apple seedlings to settlers and Native American communities, helping them establish their own apple orchards. He was loved and admired by many for his selflessness and dedication to creating a greener and more sustainable future.
Today, Johnny Appleseed Day is celebrated in schools, communities, and orchards throughout the country. It is a day to not only learn about the history and significance of Johnny Appleseed, but also to appreciate the beauty and importance of apple trees and the fruits the produce. Many events and activities are organized to educate people about apple cultivation, farming, and the role apples play in American culture and cuisine.
Here’s a little more history about the inspiring life and legend of Johnny Appleseed:
The Legend of Johnny Appleseed
The legend of Johnny Appleseed begins when John Chapman leaves his family farm and becomes an apprentice to orchardist named Crawford. From there, reality and fiction become intertwined. There are sporadic accounts of “Johnny Appleseed” appearing in various places throughout the Middle Atlantic states, with notable sightings in Pennsylvania. It is likely that Chapman combined his love for traveling with his expertise in apple cultivation, wandering across the young United States in search of opportunities, finding landowners interested in planting apple orchards or starting cider mills.
While the legend portrays Johnny Appleseed as a barefoot wanderer, with a cooking pot on his head, randomly scattering apple seeds, it is more plausible that he was an eccentric yet skilled professional. He would establish nurseries of apple trees and progressively sell his services to landowners who were keen on planting orchards. He would teach his clients how to establish and maintain an orchard, as well as protect it from deer and livestock.
Once the nursery was thriving, he would move on to the next interested party. If he needed to stay in one location for an extended period, he would construct a humble teepee-like structure and live simply on the bare ground. It is said that Chapman possessed only the clothes on his back, a bowl and spoon, and a pot for cooking his gruel.
When it came to receiving payment for his nursery work, legend has it that Chapman charged based on what his clients could afford. Wealthier landowners would pay cash for young apple trees, while he might accept used clothing or food from poorer settlers.
John Chapman’s Later Life
Later, Chapman began to mix the gospel with his nomadic lifestyle. He was a follower of what is known as the Swedenborgian faith, begun by Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Chapman was a dynamic speaker, and local residents would gather to hear him speak. This too may have been another way he made money while traveling. But it’s clear that he was a man of deep faith, and believed that traveling across the country, preaching and setting up orchards was his path to salvation.
His obituary in the Fort Wayne Sentinel, on March 22, 1845, gives some insight into this unique American character:
On the same day in this neighborhood, at an advanced age, Mr. John Chapman (better known as Johnny Appleseed).
The deceased was well known through this region by his eccentricity, and the strange garb he usually wore. He followed the occupation of a nurseryman, and has been a regular visitor here upwards of 10 years. He was a native of Pennsylvania we understand but his home—if home he had—for some years past was in the neighborhood of Cleveland, where he has relatives living. He is supposed to have considerable property, yet denied himself almost the common necessities of life—not so much perhaps for avarice as from his peculiar notions on religious subjects. He was a follower of Swedenborg and devoutly believed that the more he endured in this world the less he would have to suffer and the greater would be his happiness hereafter—he submitted to every privation with cheerfulness and content, believing that in so doing he was securing snug quarters hereafter.
In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing. Notwithstanding the privations and exposure he endured, he lived to an extreme old age, not less than 80 years at the time of his death—though no person would have judged from his appearance that he was 60. He always carried with him some work on the doctrines of Swedenborg with which he was perfectly familiar, and would readily converse and argue on his tenets, using much shrewdness and penetration.
His death was quite sudden. He was seen on our streets a day or two previous.
How To Celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day
Johnny Appleseed Day activities can be a fun and engaging way to spend time with family and friends. From apple-themed crafts and activities, to apple picking outings, there are plenty of ways to celebrate this holiday together. Children, in particular, can learn about Johnny Appleseed’s story through books and storytelling, and even dress up as the legendary figure.