When confronted with the legend of Johnny Appleseed, most people are surprised to discover that this American legend was a living, breathing, historical human being!
It’s true. Far from being simply the stuff of folklore and folk tales, Appleseed (real name: John Chapman) was an American nurseryman who introduced apple trees to the Midwest, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. He was also a conservationist and missionary during the earliest days of the United States.
And yet, despite his living, breathing status, Appleseed was, indeed, a living legend. And Johnny Appleseed Day on September 26 is celebrated in his honor.
Johnny Appleseed Day timeline
- March 18, 1845
Johnny Appleseed died
After a life of travel, religious devotion and conservation, Appleseed died in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He left behind a legend that lives on to this day — plus an estate of more than 1,200 acres.
Go west, young man
Johnny headed west out of Massachusetts to begin his legendarily nomadic life. He planted his first nursery near Warren, Pennsylvania a few years after starting out.
- September 26, 1774
The man, the myth, the legend — actually the very real, historical John Chapman (i.e., Johnny Appleseed) — was born in Massachusetts.
- 17th Century
Apples arrived in the 'New World'
Colonists began introducing apples to the North American continent, with the first apple orchard planted in Boston in 1625.
- 328 BCE
Alex found a great apple
Alexander the Great is said to have discovered dwarf apples in the area of modern-day Kazakhstan.
Johnny Appleseed Day Activities
Make some cider!
This one seems almost too easy. But in honor of the man for whom Johnny Appleseed Day is named, how about brewing up a home batch of your own tasty apple cider?
Learn the Appleseed traveling hymn
Some Americans still sing the Appleseed hymn before supper. The lyric goes, "I thank the Lord For giving me the things I need: the sun and rain and apple seed."
Visit Johnny Appleseed's birthplace
Leominster, Massachusetts, is home to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center, the Johnny Appleseed Arts & Culture Festival and, of course, Johnny Appleseed Lane — birthplace of the man himself.
5 Tasty Johnny Appleseed Tidbits
He spread the Gospel
Appleseed was a religious man of peace — a "primitive Christian" — whom American Indians regarded as having been touched by the "Great Spirit."
He wouldn't hurt a fly — or a mosquito
Legend has it that Appleseed doused his campfire rather than have mosquitoes perish in its flame. He is said to have remarked, "God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort, that should be the means of destroying any of His creatures."
He was an unmarried vegetarian
He used to tell folks that he would meet his true love in heaven if one wasn't provided to him on Earth.
We're not sure where he's buried
Appleseed is almost certainly buried in Fort Wayne, Indiana — but the exact location is still very much up for debate.
He helped American expansion
Land claims during American westward expansion often required plantings. Appleseed sold seedlings to pioneers, making the creation of an orchard — and thus a verifiable land claim — much easier.
Why We Love Johnny Appleseed Day
How do we like them apples?
We like them a lot, actually. Apples are not only a good source of fiber (eat the skin!), they provide a decent amount of vitamins C and K, plus potassium. So serve 'em up, Johnny! After all, an apple a day ... well, you know the rest.
It's his birthday!
Johnny Appleseed's birthday is September 26, 1774, which is why we celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day on that date. His was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, and the site where he was born is now called Johnny Appleseed Lane.
How do you like that cider?
Uh, yeah, we like that, too! In fact, the apples that Johnny Appleseed planted weren't good for eating; they called them "spitters," because you were likely to spit them out if you took a bite. Johnny's apples were great for cider, though.