The Real Johnny Appleseed…

Like almost anyone that grew up in Indiana, I have a very specific image of Johnny Appleseed in my mind’s eye:

A ruddy man on the edge of being elderly, whistling cheerfully and tromping down dirt roads in bare feet. Johnny Appleseed has a grin and greeting for every passerby. On his head, of course, is the obligatory pot. Strapped across his poorly-clothed back, a sack of apple seeds, which he scatters over hundreds of miles of Indiana dirt.

A lovely myth, but, like most myths, not quite the real thing…

Franchises, not free trees.┬áJohnny Appleseed (real name John Chapman) didn’t plant trees orchards but tree nurseries. Once complete, he’d entrust them to a local caretaker, who sold the trees at a profit. The real Johnny Appleseed would then return every few seasons to check on the nurseries.

A MODERN TREE NURSERY

Missionary man. Chapman spent as much time preaching as he did planting apple trees. Chapman was an early member of The New Church, a religious movement founded by a Swedish theologian. His sermons frequently dwelt on his fellow settlers’ weakness for extravagant luxuries like calico. And tea.