American as apple pie: March 11 is Johnny Appleseed Day

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Johnny Appleseed drawing
Photo: H. S. Knapp [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Apple Month may be in October, but March 11 is the day we tip our hats to Johnny Appleseed, the man responsible for providing many of Ohio’s first apple orchards with saplings from his nurseries.

For those of us who are lucky enough to live in a town with an annual Johnny Appleseed festival, we know our fair share of Johnny Appleseed trivia.

The real Johnny Appleseed

  • Johnny Appleseed
    Johnny Appleseed, by H. S. Knapp [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    Your childhood ideas of Johnny Appleseed may include a barefooted man walking across the Midwest prairies — the “western frontier” in the early 1800s — planting apple trees. Smithsonian Magazine shares that the apple seeds that Chapman planted were intended to be used for making hard apple cider, not a snack, regardless of what has been depicted in animated films and kids’ books.
  • Born September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts, John Chapman was the son of a Continental Army minuteman.
  • Chapman’s mother passed away, and his father remarried and had 10 children.
  • Ohio History Central says that Chapman spent time as an apprentice with an orchardist when he was 13. By age 18, he left his family home and travelled westward to Ohio with his younger half-brother, Nathaniel.
  • A few years later, Chapman’s father and the rest of the family joined them in Ohio.
  • In 1802, Chapman planted apple nurseries in Pennsylvania and again in Ohio. Much of Chapman’s time in Ohio was spent near Mansfield, in Richland County.
  • Chapman spent his life planting orchards and preaching.
  • Chapman died near Fort Wayne, Indiana, on March 22, 1845. You can read his obituary on the Farmers’ Almanac.

Cultivating orchards

  • McIntosh apple treeSmithsonian Magazine says that Chapman roamed between Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, planting orchards. He later sold them to settlers and headed west to continue planting.
  • The church he was part of — the Swedenborgian Church — taught that grafting plants harmed the plants, so Chapman planted all of his orchards by seed.
  • Apples planted by seed were better suited for drinking, not eating, and cider was a popular drink for settlers.
  • Today, we can thank Chapman for several varieties of apples.

Appleseed education

      • The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center & Museum at Urbana University reportedly has the largest collection of John Chapman written information and memorabilia.
      • This memorabilia includes bark and wood from trees that Chapman planted as well as a cider press used in the 1850s to process apples from trees that Chapman planted.
      • The last known seedlings from one of the apple trees Chapman planted were transplanted in the courtyard at Urbana in 1999.

 Festivals

  • Johnny Appleseed festivals take place in towns across the U.S. each year to commemorate Chapman’s life and contribution to America’s apple growing.
  • In Lisbon, Ohio, the annual Johnny Appleseed Festival is held the third weekend of September.
  • Common sights at Johnny Appleseed festivals include apple pie baking and eating contests, historical demonstrations, old-fashioned games and contests, as well as food and craft vendors.

The Farm and Dairy kitchen

We may not have any hard cider recipes on our website, but we do have plenty of other apple recipes to help you celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day:

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