Frontier Christian;Facts about Johnny Appleseed praised in story and song

Johnny Appleseed

picture in public domain.
picture in public domain. | Source

A true folk hero

Johnnie Appleseed Song

Johnnie Appleseed plantin’ apples on the land

The Lord led him out west just to give the folks a hand

We still remember though he's long long gone

The first Ohio Orchard man, Appleseed John

Song written by Marji Hazen.

I found two songs, apparently contemporary on the Internet. The other is just titled Johnny Appleseed by Ron Brown

His real name was John Chapman. Unlike so many folk heroes I’ve written about Johnny is a real hero, as well as a legend.

I think my first awareness of Johnnie Appleseed was a Disney cartoon feature that, as best I recall, portrayed a very young man with bag of apple seeds walking over the land casually spreading seeds as he went.

He first showed up in Pennsylvania in 1707 at the age of 23. He is remembered most because he helped establish apple orchards in what was considered the frontier at the time, such as Ohio and Indiana. Although he did do that, he was really a preacher. His real goal was to be a follower of a complex Christian theology of Swedenborganism .This is the same theology taught by the father of Philosopher- Psychologist William James, who tried to integrate science and religion in his own life’s work.

Johnny had little regard for style, or clothes at all. Although he was wearing the frontier buckskin when he first arrived and became known. As he went on he started wearing others castoffs or anything he came across. Eventually he was wearing a coffee sack with holes cut out for his arms and had. At on time he wore a tin pan as a hat. H also used it for cooking as well. He sometimes wore homemade boots and moccasins or castoff footwear. In nothing was handy, he went barefoot. A neighbor once gave him some shoes but he gave them away to someone he felt needed them more than he did.

He was many things. In addition to being a preacher/missionary he had a high respect for animals, comparable to St. Francis. Indians considered him a medicine man, and sort of a Paul Revere who sounded the alarm to warn folks in his area,. Indians considered him a medicine man, possibly because of his odd behavior.

In the War of 1812 many Indians joined with the British for revenge against the settlers. Johnny was able to move freely because he was respected in the region and he became a one-man warning system who alerted the isolated settlements. He could move freely among both whites and Indians. Once he spotted people under siege by Indians and traveled 30 miles warning families of danger by blowing a warning on a homemade horn.

Apples are what he is best remembered for. Did he plant trees or simply give and barter seeds with the settlers? I’m inclined to think he did both. He traveled many places and left apple orchards behind. Like so many legendary heroes it is hard to know what is fact and what is only legend. Accounts vary. He is said to have carried seeds in leather bags, on his shoulders maybe on horseback. Others say they saw him with two canoes tied together filled with sacks of seed. Sometimes he planted trees and then distributed the trees for transplanting. He seldom took money but did take bartered food and supplies.

The reason Indians considered him a medicine man is he seemed to have powers of healing. He distributed herbs and plants for healing. Time would tell that some of these were not really effective, such as dog fennel for malaria. Science later discovered it had no effect on malaria but it became popular on the frontier.

As preacher he led a simple life and preached “news fresh from Heaven.” Once he ran across a smartly dressed preacher who had elaborate rhetoric. “Where now is there a man, who like the primitive Christians, is traveling to Heaven barefooted and clad in coarse raiment?” Johnny thought him hypocritical and came forward. With a bare foot on the stump serving as a pulpit he said, “here is your primitive Christian.” The preacher left.

What part is history and what part is legend, I don’t know. But I think our folklore is richer for the existence of Johnny Appleseed.

Johnny Appleseed Gravesite

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Johnny Appleseed

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Comments 20 comments

Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

Very interesting. I remember the Disney portrayal & a poem, but did not know much else about him.

Thanks for sharing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading.I think a lot of got ou first introduction to folklore from Disney, but the characters are often more interesting than portrayed.


Kinghorn 7 years ago

Maybe you have to be nuts to be any good.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

eccentric might be the more polite term. However, the Indians seemed to think that someone like Johnnie was special because of his odd behavior.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very interesting hub about Johnny Appleseed. I like learning new things and you have spiced up my life today with this hub. Nice graphics you included. Thanks!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. I used to have a rather cartoon vision of Johnnie Appleseed. I ran across some information about him in a Readers Digest book of all places and decided to pursue it further. More complex than folks think.


creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you for this very interesting and informative hub, I never knew much about the Johnny Appleseed story, thank you for sharing it. creativeone59


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for your comment. I don't think too many people do know much about him.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 6 years ago from The Land of Tractors

I didn't know that Johnny Appleseed was a follower of Swedenborg. That is quite interesting. Your series on frontier legends is wonderful. I learned a lot from this hub. Many children's books focus on Johnny Appleseed's travels planting apples and communing with nature, but fewer discuss his Christian life. Thanks for another wonderful read. I'm enjoying your hub graphics very much, too.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks Wannabewestern,

In our day history was a dry subject. With the advent of the study of Social history I think it comes to life for some of us.Legends and folklore preserve some histoy that the books used to ignore.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan

That was always one of my favorite cartoons. I went and found it on Youtube. I don't think you would see anything like that today. It is too Christian for some people.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I don't recall Johnnie Appleseed portrayed in the Christian role and was surprised to find that aspect of his background. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Good article I have the old Disney movie you spoke of on a DVD. It is now packaged as part of a collection called American legends(I think). Nice story enjoyed reading it, and learned a few thing about Johnny I didn't know.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Some of these things were new to me when I started researching it. Thanks for your comments.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

Yhis is a wonderful write-up on Johnney Appleseed. Thanks for sharing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the complimentary comment.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

When I was about 9 or 10 (circa 1960) I went to a summer camp near the Missouri River, in apple orchard country. We used to sing a grace before meals that went "Oh the Lord is good to me, And so I thank the Lord, For giving me the things I need, The sun the rain and the apple seed, Oh the Lord is good to me." We were told it was Johnny Appleseeds' grace.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

It sounds familiar. I don't know if it is Johnny Appleseed's grace but it seems like it could have been. Thanks for commenting.


kaleb 5 years ago

i am being johnny appleseed for my fith grade wax musem i like johnny aplleseed he is realy cool


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for the comment. He was very unusual.

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