Yes, there really was a person named “Johnny Appleseed,” and he lived for many years in and around Knox County during the early days of Ohio’s statehood.
   His real name was John Chapman, and he was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1774, during the time leading up to the American Revolution. His father, Nathaniel, was one of the famous “minutemen” of New England that we read about in our history classes.


    As a young man, Johnny traveled through New York and Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s, coming into Ohio during the early 1800’s. He made it his life’s work to plant apple trees so that the soon-to-arrive pioneers would have a plentiful supply of apples at their new home. He set up his nurseries at strategic spots so that he could sell or trade his young trees to the newcomers and then move on to new unsettled areas. Many of these orchards were established throughout central Ohio, especially around Mount Vernon, Coshocton, Mansfield, Ashland and Wooster.

    Johnny lived a very simple life, dressing in clothes he had traded for seedlings. He was a strict vegetarian, he respected nature, he cared for injured animals, and he spread the word of the Swedenborg faith by loaning their publications to many new residents of the frontier.

    He is said to have voted in Mount Vernon’s first election about 1806. Until 1828 he owned the lot now occupied by the tire store at 401 South Main St., as well as the adjacent lot toward the Kokosing River. When he needed a new supply of apple seeds, he would walk from Mount Vernon to Pittsburgh, then fill several canoes with sacks of seeds, lash the canoes together, then travel down the Ohio River to Marietta, up the Muskingum River to Zanesville, then up the Walhonding and Kokosing back to Mount Vernon - quite a trip, indeed!

    In 1828 Johnny Appleseed sold his “tire store” lot on South Main St. to Jesse Burgess Thomas, a prominent local citizen and well-known national politician. Johnny then moved on to western Ohio and Indiana, where he died near Fort Wayne in 1845. He is well-remembered both as a man and as a legend in the tales of the early settlers of Knox County and throughout Ohio.