John Chapman was nicknamed "Johnny Appleseed" even during his own lifetime. Much of his legend is true—he really did live a simple, nomadic life planting apple seeds, was kind to animals, and respected Native Americans.
Illustration by H. S. Knapp, from History of Ashland County, Ohio (1862)

Download this file

  • Audience versions of this page: Family

    On September 26, 1774, John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts. Chapman became a nomadic evangelist and farmer, planting apple seeds throughout the western frontier of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Even during his lifetime, Chapman was nicknamed “Johnny Appleseed.”
     
    Johnny Appleseed became an icon of the conservation movement, largely due to the fact that he planted thousands of trees. Chapman did not, however, simply scatter seeds. He planted well-planned, fenced-off nurseries. Although he lived a simple lifestyle in keeping with his strong Swedenborgian faith, he died quite wealthy, owning more than 1,200 acres of orchards on fertile agricultural land.
     
    Unlike most apple farmers, Johnny Appleseed did not graft his apple trees. As his nickname implies, he planted seeds. Due to unique genetic characteristics of apples, this means that Johnny Appleseed’s apples were sour and inedible—but ideal for making alcoholic “hard cider.” Historian Michael Pollan thinks that Chapman may be considered a “shrewd real estate developer” who brought “the gift of alcohol to the frontier.”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    agriculture Noun

    the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

    Encyclopedic Entry: agriculture
    alcoholic Adjective

    having to do with intoxicating liquor, such as beer or wine.

    characteristic Noun

    physical, cultural, or psychological feature of an organism, place, or object.

    cider Noun

    juice from apples, prepared before fermentation (sweet cider) or after fermentation (hard cider, which is alcoholic).

    conservation Noun

    management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.

    Encyclopedic Entry: conservation
    consider Verb

    to think about.

    evangelist Noun

    person who seeks to convert others to his or her faith.

    farmer Noun

    person who cultivates land and raises crops.

    fertile Adjective

    able to produce crops or sustain agriculture.

    frontier Noun

    largely unpopulated area that is slowly being opened up for settlement.

    genetic Adjective

    having to do with genes, inherited characteristics or heredity.

    graft Verb

    to cause a plant to reproduce asexually by inserting one part of a plant into another plant.

    icon Noun

    an image or person used to represent something.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    inedible Adjective

    not able to be eaten or digested.

    lifestyle Noun

    way of living, including cultural, economic, and social habits.

    movement Noun

    group of people or organizations with a common set of interests and plan for pursuing them.

    nomadic Adjective

    having to do with a way of life lacking permanent settlement.

    nursery Noun

    place where plants are raised for research or sale.

    orchard Noun

    type of farm for growing fruit or nut trees.

    real estate Noun

    property and the business of buying, selling, and developing land.

    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    roam Verb

    to wander or travel over a wide area without a specific destination.

    scatter Verb

    to disperse or distribute without a clear pattern.

    seed Noun

    part of a plant from which a new plant grows.

    shrewd Adjective

    smart and quick-witted.

    Swedenborgian Adjective

    having to do with the church or teachings of the Protestant religious denomination the New Church, founded by Swedish theologian Emanual Swedenborg.

    unique Adjective

    one of a kind.

    wealthy Adjective

    very rich.