September 26 is Johnny Appleseed Day.
Ok. But who was Johnny Appleseed?
The first question is: was Johnny Appleseed a real person? Absolutely, and his contribution to the apple crop is what legends around him are made of.
And Johnny Appleseed Day is celebrated annually on this day, September 26, the Massachusetts nurseryman’s birthday anniversary, even if some observe the day on March 11, which coincides with the spring planting season.
This day honors the legacy and life’s work of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, and It’s not a public holiday, but an opportunity to celebrate all things apple.
Born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts, he is best known as an American folk hero and pioneer who planted apple trees as he traveled by foot into the Midwest, at the time mainly consisting of wilderness and prairie lands, that foreshadowed the western expansion of the country.
His efforts to populate the country with apple orchards created a larger-than-life story that has led many to question if the traveling nurseryman was merely a legend, including his cheerful generous nature, his affinity for the wilderness, his gentleness with animals, his devotion to the Bible, his knowledge of medicinal herbs, his harmony with the Native Americans, and above all his eccentric appearance: flowing hair under an inverted mush pan, bare feet, ragged trousers, and an old coffee sack over his shoulders with holes cut out for arms and legs.
But he was a real person, who used his knowledge of apples and horticultural practices to lay a foundation for future settlers of the uninhabited land.
Although the legendary character of Johnny Appleseed is known chiefly through fiction, he was a genuine and dedicated professional nurseryman who expected to make a profit from the sale of his seedlings. Around 1800 he started collecting apple seeds from cider presses in western Pennsylvania and soon began his long trek westward, planting a series of apple nurseries from the Alleghenies to central Ohio and beyond. He sold or gave away thousands of seedlings to pioneers, whose acres of productive apple orchards became a living memorial to his missionary zeal.
About an early portion of his life details are scarce. However, his travels as a young man across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana are where John Appleseed’s story created a legacy.
He lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling from place to place on foot, often sleeping outdoors in the wild.
He would venture into uninhabited areas to plant trees along specific routes in the anticipation that settlers would soon follow.
It is said that he planted his first apple nursery in northwestern Pennsylvania.
In any case, at that time, apples were an essential for those pushing the boundaries of the frontier, but the fruit was not the same as you would find at the grocery store or hanging in an orchard today, in the fall.
The apples were used to make cider and not for eating and, as a result, it is thought that many of the orchards planted by John Appleseed or with his seedlings, were destroyed during Prohibition.
But not all of the apples were tethered to alcoholic beverages, as Johnny is thought to have laid the groundwork for varieties like the delicious, golden delicious, and others.
Apples were also used for bartering, and some stories depict the man as an entrepreneur, acquiring acres of land to plant apple trees and then selling the seedlings or land for a profit.
He died on March 18, 1845, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and many monuments have been created in his honor in Ohio and Indiana, as well as the Johnny Appleseed Memorial Bridge over the St. Joseph River and the Johnny Appleseed Memorial Park, both located in Fort Wayne, and Johnny Appleseed Park in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Johnny Appleseed Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana, began in 1974, 200 years after his birth.
Now it is a 2-day event, held annually on a Saturday and Sunday in September.
Vendors dress in 1800s attire, cook over an open fire, and serve food that could have been available during John Appleseed’s lifetime.
There are also demonstrations, games, and entertainment.
His birthplace, Leominster, Massachusetts, hosts its own Johnny Appleseed Festival each fall while Paradise, California, is home to Johnny Appleseed Days, which began in 1888, and other locations around the country also bring people together every fall to share in their love of apples and honor John Chapman.
Images from web – Google Research