John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed
Born: September 26, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts
Died: March 18, 1845 in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Parents: Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Simons) Chapman
In addition to John, Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman had two other children. Elizabeth was older than John and Nathaniel was the youngest. Sadly, the young John Chapman’s mother died shortly after giving birth to Nathaniel, who died about a month after being born. All these difficult things happened when John was only two years old.
During this time, his father was serving in the Revolutionary Army in Springfield, Massachusetts, so John and his sister went to live with relatives.
After the war, Nathaniel (Chapman’s father) married Lucy Cooley. They set up a home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, bringing Nathaniel’s children to live with them. Nathaniel and Lucy had 10 children, five boys and five girls.
As a young man, John Chapman decided to travel west with his half-brother Nathaniel (the oldest of Nathaniel and Lucy’s children), who was named after his father and John’s deceased brother. John Chapman set out across Pennsylvania. After traveling together for a while, Nathaniel return to live with the family, in Massachusetts. John continued his travels alone.
Over the next years, many members of the Chapman family moved to Ohio, around the Duck Creek area, near Marietta. Most of Chapman’s adult life was spent in Ohio, setting up orchards and selling his apple tree saplings to the settlers of the area.
John Chapman personally knew John James of Urbana and Milo Williams, the first president of the board of trustees of Urbana University. John James donated the land upon which Urbana University sits.
It was while John Chapman was in Ohio that he earned the nickname Johnny Appleseed. He was not only a businessman, Chapman was also a missionary for the Swedenborgian Church, a conservationist, a friend to Native Americans and pioneers, as well as an accomplished storyteller who greatly enjoyed telling stories to children and adults.
John Chapman lived simply and was very generous to his fellow man. When settlers didn’t have money to pay for the apple tree saplings, Chapman would give them to the settlers, telling them to pay when they could afford to. Later in life, John Chapman started traveling west into Indiana. In 1845, while tending an orchard in Indiana, Chapman contracted pneumonia and died at the home of friends near Fort Wayne, Indiana just six months shy of his 71st birthday – quite an old age for his era when the average life expectancy was less than 40 years old.
He was buried in Fort Wayne. While the exact location is not know, there is a marker honoring him in Archer’s Cemetery, Ft. Wayne