Hometown Tales Podcast

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fort Wayne, IN - Johnny Appleseed

Each year the people of Fort Wayne invite visitors from throughout the nation to celebrate the pioneer spirit of John Chapman, better known as “Johnny Appleseed,” Chapman was a colorful character of the Indiana frontier in the early 1800’s.

One tale talks of a settler, living on the banks of the Ohio River, who encountered a bizarre raft coming down the river. It consisted of two canoes lashed together. The lone boatman was scantily dressed, barefoot, and he wore a tin pan for a head covering. He said his name was John Chapman and that the cargo in his canoes consisted of bags of apple seed, which he had gathered about the cider presses in New York and Pennsylvania, and that he intended to plant them and grow apple trees for the settlers. Following the streams and their tributaries he stopped and planted apple seeds wherever he found suitable ground for a nursery. He enclosed these spot with fences made of brush.

Each year he returned to care for the growing trees and to plant new nurseries. When settlers came he urged them to plant trees and advised them as to what varieties to plant. He kept ahead of the settlements and each year planted apple seeds farther west. For more than forty years he kept steadily at his work, and doubtless, there is no other region in the United States where the early settlers planted so many fruit trees as were grown in Johnny Appleseed’s territory. There still remain many orchards bearing fruit on trees taken from the Appleseed nurseries.

During the latter part of his life, Chapman traveled the countryside on foot, planting orchards in Fort Wayne and surrounding areas. In the process, he became a national folk hero and his gravesite in Fort Wayne’s Archer Park has been designated a national historic landmark.