Johnny Chapman

John Chapman (1774 - 1845)

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John (Johnny) "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman
Born in Leominster, Worcester Co., Massachusettsmap
Ancestors ancestors
Died in Ft. Wayne, Allen Co., Indianamap [uncertain]
Profile last modified | Created 28 Feb 2014
This page has been accessed 5,558 times.

Categories: Leominster, Massachusetts | Profile of the Week Winners | American Childhood Legends, Indiana | American Childhood Legends, Ohio | American Childhood Legends, Massachusetts | Johhny Appleseed Park, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

This profile won Profile of the Week the Second Week of July, 2014.

Listen to the Johnny Appleseed Grace Song


Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871
Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871
Children learn about Johnny Appleseed at a young age when they learn to sing the Grace Song or see him in a cartoon gathering bright red apples. He seems to have more in common with Winny the Pooh than George Washington but Johnny Appleseed is one of America's Patriots.[1]

Johnny Appleseed, whose real name was John Chapman, was born September 26, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Chapman and Elizabeth (Symonds) Chapman. [2]Nathaniel Chapman was a Minuteman at The Battle of Concord, served with Israel Putnam at Bunker Hill and later served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.[3][4]He was with George Washington at Valley Forge.[5]

Johnny had one brother and sister and ten half-siblings. Johnny and his older sister, Elizabeth were both baptized June 25, 1775. Johnny's mother died before he was three years old.[6][7]

Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871
Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871

Johnny was eight when the Revolutionary War ended. Shortly after, England ceded all the territory south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi to the United States. At the time of the first US Census in 1790, Johnny was sixteen and living in a house full of younger brothers and sisters. [8] [9]

In 1792, when John was eighteen years old, he headed west with his eleven-year-old half brother, Nathaniel. His father soon followed, settling his family in Ohio. Nathaniel stayed behind to farm with his father but John continued moving west to Pennsylvania. Johnny had learned to be an apple orchardist from a neighbor when he was growing up. As he traveled, he set about planting orchards throughout the countryside. He planted for profit, although he was known to accept old clothes for payment.[10]

Legend portrays Johnny Appleseed as spreading apple seeds everywhere - along roadsides and in forests. Research suggests that he had something of a business plan and selected the best land for his orchards. He fenced them in with fallen logs and branches. Then he planted and cultivated an orchard as he had learned in Massachusetts. He continued to move west, planting his orchards ahead of the settlements. [11]

Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871.Reading a bible to a frontier family.
Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871.
Reading a bible to a frontier family.

There are also legends about the apple seeds that Johnny planted. Some say he planted Dover apple seed brought from England by his ancestors. Others claim that he planted only seeds from Pennsylvania. The most logical suggestion is that he planted seeds he could gather along the way, including seeds at cider presses. There is no way to estimate how many seeds he planted or how many nurseries he created in the territory lying south of the Great Lakes and between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was his life's work.

Johnny Appleseed also spread religion as he traveled. He was a missionary for the New Church, which is a Christian denomination based on the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.[12]Johnny believed in the Golden Rule and avoided extravagance. He is unusual in that he was itenerant all his life. He did revisit settlements where he had made friends but always preferred to sleep outside. He had a special relationship with the animals and Native Indians. He even considered it cruel to cut or trim apple trees or harm insects. [13]He did not believe in grafting and would only grow trees from seed.[14]

Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871Warning settlers of indians.
Harper’s Magazine. Nov 1871
Warning settlers of indians.

John Chapman is considered an American Patriot because of his actions during the War of 1812. When the War of 1812 began, many Indians allied themselves with the British, seeking to revenge injustices done to their people by the settlers. They attacked up and down the Ohio territory, but they left Johnny Appleseed alone. Taking advantage of this, Johnny became like a Paul Revere to the Ohio Territory, warning settlers of danger.[15]

On one occasion, Johnny learned that a band of Indians had laid siege on the town of Mansfield, Ohio. He ran twenty-six miles through the forest to Mt. Vernon to obtain help for the settlers. As he ran, he tried to warn other settlers along the path of the danger by blowing on an old powder horn. Aid reached the town within a day, and the settlers were spared, thanks to his bravery.[16][17][18] [19]

Grave of Johnny Chapman.
Grave of Johnny Chapman.

Johnny had spent almost 50 years walking throughout the countryside, when in 1842 he moved into the home of Nathaniel. On March 18, 1845, he died of pneumonia at the age of seventy-one. He was visiting his friend, William Worth, in Indiana. He is buried in an unmarked grave near Fort Wayne, Indiana.[20][21]

Johnny's life was so unusual that the primary myth surrounding it is that he never existed. Thanks to researcher Robert Price who set out to explore this myth in the 1950's, we have research on how Johnny lived and cultivated apple orchards.[22]

Children learn about Johnny Appleseed at a young age when they learn to sing the Grace Song or see him in a cartoon gathering bright red apples. He seems to have more in common with Whinny the Pooh than George Washington but Johnny Appleseed is one of America's Patriots.[23]

Girl Scouts at the Johnny Appleseed Marker c. 1950s
Girl Scouts at the Johnny Appleseed Marker c. 1950s


  1. Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine "Johnny Appleseed, A Living Force in the Life of America." by Elva McGuire Clayton.
  2. S12 Vital records of Leominster, Massachusetts, to the end of the year 1849. Worcester, Mass: F.P. Rice, 1911. Open Library
  3. NSDAR.
  4. Revolutionary War Pension for Nathaniel.
  5. Valley Forge Muster Roll.
  6. Johnny Appleseed Source Book by Robert C. Harris, 1949
  7. Full text of "The pioneers of Massachusetts, a descriptive list, drawn from records of the colonies, towns and churches and other contemporaneous documents".
  8. Chapman Family Association.
  9. The First Census of The United States, 1790 Massachusetts.
  10. "Jonathan Chapman." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 01 July 2014.
  11. The American Patriot's Almanac: Daily Readings on America, by William J. Bennett, pg.26.
  12. Oak Harbor, The New Church.
  13. The Core of Johnny Appleseed by Ray Silverman, published by the Swedenborg Foundation.
  14. Price, Robert. Johnny Appleseed: Man and Myth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954
  15. Ohio History: John Chapman.
  16. Free Republic: John Chapman.
  17. American Folklore and Legend, Jane Polley, editor (Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association) 1978
  18. Remarkable Ohio: Historical Marker Johnny Appleseed's Run for Reinforcements.
  19. Ohio Historical Society.
  20. Johnny Appleseed Park.
  21. Find A Grave Memorial.
  22. Price, Robert. Johnny Appleseed: Man and Myth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954
  23. Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine "Johnny Appleseed, A Living Force in the Life of America." by Elva McGuire Clayton.

See also:

An Apple of Acknowledgement for Eric Daly for contributing color, frames and fun to Johnny Appleseed!
An Apple of Acknowledgment to Terry Wright for design suggestions!
An Apple also for Terri Rick for excellent profile management, encouragement and support!
An Apple for Patrick Butler for info on the Johnny Appleseed Festival!
An Apple for Shirley Davis for sharing the link to Johnny Appleseed, the Man Behind the Myth

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Johnny by comparing test results with other carriers of his ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with Johnny:

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 9
Johnny Chapman Memorial Marker
Johnny Chapman Memorial Marker


Johnny Chapman Memorial Marker
Johnny Chapman Memorial Marker

The Johnny Appleseed Grace Song
The Johnny Appleseed Grace Song

Depiction of Johnny Appleseed
Depiction of Johnny Appleseed

view all

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On 16 Jun 2016 at 03:09 GMT Wanda (Greaves) Vergara-Yates wrote:

This is great information. Still, I'm lost how Johnny Appleseed fits in my family tree. My father told me he is an ancestor, but everything I've ever read says he never had children. In fact, he swore off women after the one he loved went off with someone else. Something still does not fit.

On 6 Jan 2016 at 20:32 GMT Cheryl (Aldrich) Skordahl wrote:

What an excellent profile! While I am not a direct descendant of John Chapman, he is in my genealogy. I want to thank you for the beautiful work you did in his honor.

On 8 Dec 2014 at 02:19 GMT Eric Daly wrote:

Image:Profile_Photo_s-268.jpg December 8, 2014

On 25 Sep 2014 at 05:35 GMT Matt Pryber wrote:

Find out more at the Global Family Reunion project

On 19 Jul 2014 at 00:17 GMT Shirley Davis wrote:

Here is an interesting link from the Allen County Public Library resources that you may want to consider adding:

On 18 Jul 2014 at 04:21 GMT Paula J wrote:

Thanks to everyone who voted for Johnny Appleseed for Profile of the Week or dropped by to read his story. John Chapman was a true American Hero who continues to teach children about feeling and expressing gratitude to this day through his legend and song.


On 10 Jul 2014 at 07:15 GMT Terry Wright wrote:

This profile looks so wonderful with all the red and green I can almost smell the apples :)

On 3 Jul 2014 at 17:07 GMT Chris Whitten wrote:

What an awesome profile! I grew up in the Fitchburg/Leominster area of Massachusetts; we didn't know he was considered a local hero in Indiana! Has this been nominated for Profile of the Week yet?

On 2 Jul 2014 at 19:08 GMT Terri (Reynolds) Rick wrote:

Paula - What a wonderful profile this is - I've looked at all the changes you have accomplished and I'll be happy to share the profile with you - thanks for asking.

I really don't see how it can be improved from what you have accomplished - but I did add the protection for your profile.

I feel this profile should fall under the Notable Project. I know they are expanding the use of this one - till we are able to stand up a new one for these types.


Johnny is 22 degrees from Sharon Caldwell, 13 degrees from Burl Ives and 16 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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