The REAL Johnny Appleseed

By | August 24, 2018

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A painting depicting Johnny Appleseed. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

We all remember learning about Johnny Appleseed when we were in elementary school. According to the legends, this post-Revolutionary War apple enthusiast wandered barefoot around the eastern half of the United States, planting apple trees along the way and delighting the pioneers he met with his quirky ways. He was often described as wearing a tin pot for a hat and wearing threadbare clothing. Over his shoulder, he carried a burlap sack full of apples and a pouch full of apple seeds just waiting to be planted. The story, a true slice of American, is endearing to us, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Johnny Appleseed was a real person and the legend only tells part of the story. 

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John Chapman was Johnny Appleseed

Unlike many American folk legends, Johnny Appleseed was based on a real person. His name was John Chapman and he was born in Massachusetts on September 26, 1774. Just two years later, his mother died and his father returned home from fighting in the Revolutionary War to care for the family. He remarried a few months later. As a youngster, Chapman learned about farming practices from his father.