Updated: Dec 4, 2022
Many of you may have probably heard or read about the American folk hero Johnny Appleseed. And perhaps you have seen the endearing 1948 Walt Disney animated movie about his life <1>. In the movie, a young Johnny is inspired by an angel to leave the comfort of home, go west and plant apple trees so the early American pioneers and settlers will have something nourishing and flavorful to eat along their journey. Near the end of the movie, the angel reappears to a much-older Johnny and tells him his earthly mission has been accomplished and it’s time to return to heaven. At first, Johnny is hesitant because he doesn’t feel his work is finished; however, the angel tells Johnny that where they’re headed they’re low on apple trees. In that moment, Johnny picks up his apple seed bag and happily agrees to go with the angel!
It’s not known whether these angelic encounters actually happened; however, we know Johnny Appleseed lived a remarkable life and in part II of this blog series we will share how each of us may benefit through living and becoming more of his example!
And finally, if you are a regular reader of our blog here at Violet Flame World, you know sharing everyday examples of why and how to use the violet flame as part of daily life is part of our mission. The remarkable life of Johnny Appleseed is one of the best examples you can follow to begin planting violet flame seeds for others to discover and benefit from!
The Story of Johnny Appleseed
Johnny Appleseed was born John Chapman in 1774 near Leominster, Massachusetts. His mother died in 1776 and his father Nathaniel Chapman was a Minuteman who fought in The Battle of Bunker Hill and other battles of the American Revolution.
Little else is known of John’s early life, but he apparently received a good education that helped him in his later years. By the time he was 25 years old; John had become a nurseryman and planted apple trees in western New York and Pennsylvania.
When the rich and fertile lands south of the Northwest Territory (later comprising the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois) were opened for settlement in the early 1800’s, John Chapman was among the very first to explore the new territory. For nearly half a century he roamed this land and as settlers arrived, they found his young apple trees there. In the years that followed, John became known as the Apple Tree Man, or Johnny Appleseed.
Johnny Appleseed’s manner of operation was simple. He went into the wilderness with a bag of apple seeds on his back until he found a likely spot for planting. There he would clear the land by chopping out weeds and brush by hand. Then he planted his apple seeds in neat rows and built a brush fence around the area to keep out straying animals. His nurseries varied in size. Some were only an acre or so, others covered many acres.
He did all of the work himself, living alone for weeks at a time with only the Indians and wild animals for companionship. He never carried a gun or weapon of any kind. Indians accepted him as a friend, and he is reputed to have talked at times to the wild animals who watched him as he worked in his nurseries. Undoubtedly, they sensed his kind and gentle nature.
Johnny Appleseed was a sincere Christian, a deeply religious man who lived by the Golden Rule<2>. He never married, but he loved people and especially children. As the settlers moved into the wilderness, his lonely nights were fewer because he was a welcomed guest at every cabin. Many a night after a simple meal, he would enthrall the settlers with his stories or read to them from the Bible and other wisdom teachings he carried.
Johnny Appleseed willingly endured the hardships of his wilderness life as he worked to make his dream come true. His sturdy young trees lightened the hearts and lifted the spirits of many early settlers. And through his example, many of these settlers also planted apple and other fruit trees around their frontier cabins to help create a more permanent, welcoming, and loving home.
There is no way to know for certain how many millions of seeds Johnny Appleseed planted in a mission that covered over 100,000 square miles and 46 years. This was simply his service to mankind – love and faith and the apple tree.
Long, long after,
When settlers put up beam and rafter,
They asked of the birds, "Who gave this fruit?
Who watched this fence till the seeds took root?
Who gave these boughs?" They asked the sky,
And there was no reply.
But the robin might have said,
"To the farthest west he has followed the sun,
His life and his empire just begun." <3>
To be continued...
Credits and Resources
To learn more about the remarkable man known as Johnny Appleseed, we recommend the biographical sketch originally published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in November 1871. Download here:
Picture of Johnny Appleseed in "Pecos Bill and Other Tales" by Irwin Shapiro and Illustrated by Al Schmidt. (Golden Press, 1958).
Excerpts from The Story of Johnny Appleseed. Johnny Appleseed Festival in Sheffield, Pennsylvania. https://www.johnnyappleseedfest.net/johnnys-story
<1> Johnny Appleseed – Classic Stories of Great American Heroes! From Disney’s American Legends collection.
<2> Golden Rule - Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You" Various expressions of this rule can be found in the tenets of most religions and creeds through the ages.
<3> ”In Praise of Johnny Appleseed" by Vachel Lindsay (excerpt)