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Moment of Indiana History

Johnny Appleseed

The story of Johnny Appleseed is seeded in history. John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, was born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts. When he was a young man, it is believed Chapman dreamed of a wilderness with orchards of fruit-bearing apple trees to sustain pioneering settlers during harvest. He spent much of his life trying to make this dream come true.

Chapman was one of the first explorers of the Northwest Territory in the early 1800s. Legend has it that he roamed through what are now Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana for a half a century by living off the land, sowing apple seeds, and nurturing the apple trees.

He didn’t wander the Midwest giving away these apples or seeds, though; he was a businessman and sold his trees and seeds to settlers passing by. The frontier settlers soon called Chapman the Apple Tree Man or–as we commonly know him as today: Johnny Appleseed. By 1830 he had settled near Fort Wayne, Indiana, and considered himself a resident of Allen County, where he lived until his death in 1845.

As with most folklore, the legend of Johnny Appleseed has become larger than life. One story goes that Johnny, while caught in a snowstorm, crept into a hollow tree and shared shelter with a den of bears throughout the night. To this day, the legend of Johnny Appleseed survives and lives alongside the apple trees he spent his life planting.

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