Sunday, October 17, 2010

Johnny Appleseed

John Chapman was not yet 2 years old when his mother died during childbirth with her third child.  His father remarried and he and his second wife had 10 more children.  This family of fourteen lived in a poor small home.  His father worked three jobs to support them all.  John spent much time outdoors exploring the country just to get away from the too crowded home.

Apple cider was a common drink during that period.  During the harvest time people would take their apples to the community cider presses where all the juice would be taken out.  The seeds and pulp were discarded and Johnny found that he could have them for free.  Who would know that free apple seeds would be the beginning of an American legacy?  John's mission was one that made American history and still has valuable lessons for today.  It started with dreams of apple orchards throughout the land providing food for the new settlers who were moving out west. 

At the age of 23 John left the area of his family in Pennsylvania and set out on his own.  As the oldest son this would have been an extraordinary move as he would have probably been a big part of helping his parents provide for his younger brothers and sisters.  He took not much more than the clothes on his back, a bag of food, and a bag of apple seeds.  The year was 1797.

Johnny started walking through the unsettled land.  When he found a good spot he would plant an orchard and then move on.  Mile after mile he travelled and at some point in his journey he met a young girl with no shoes and he gave her the only pair he had.  In order to show their gratitude the family gave him a cooking pot that Johnny wore on his head to protect himself from the elements. On he went planting more orchards along the way and surrounding them with fences made of sticks.  He would make the rounds of the various orchards to check their progress and nurture them along the way.  When he met travellers he would often give them some seeds so they could take them further West and plant them where they settled.

We know that Johnny covered Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana and bought land to maintain his own orchards.  Some stories say he went much farther West but others count that as embellishment of the events.  John Chapman was a vegetarian and became an expert in medicinal medicine.  At one point he came across an injured Native American, treated the wounds, and carried him on his back to his tribe.  As the son of the chief of the tribe this act of kindness went a long way to improve the relationships between the Native Americans and the whites.  Johnny Appleseed was welcome wherever he went.

Some of the significant lessons from the life of Johnny Appleseed:
  • Even in extreme poverty our lives can make a difference that will go far beyond our years.
  • Did you notice that Johnny used the free seeds from the cider mills?  Look around for your own seeds to begin your small business.
  • He worked in harmony with nature instead of stripping it.  Had he lived in this generation he could have been the spokesman for the Green movement and made a fortune in speaking engagements.
  • Johnny combined business with a great love for people thus benefiting all. 
There is more to the story and I hope you will rush right out to the library and find out the rest.  Don't forget the children's and young adult sections which often have some of the best history books and of course you can actually share them with your kids too!
Photos from google.


Squirrelers said...

Thanks for sharing this! Really good story. Honestly, I had forgotten about Johnny Appleseed, and hadn't really heard the name since I was a kid back in the stone ages:)

Good lessons on resiliency, kindness, and taking the right advantage of what opportunities are in front of you.

Carol said...

Thanks Squirrelers. History is so rich with stories to inspire and challenge us and I have always found the kids section of the library the most fun. Guess I love the illustrations!