All About Richland, History & Tourism

The Legacy Of What May Be The Last Johnny Appleseed Planted Tree

4 Feb , 2018  

Today, we are re-posting a popular post from last September for those who may not have seen it.

We live in Johnny Appleseed country. The relationship between the pioneer American nurseryman and the Mansfield area is well documented and commemorated today in many ways – from shopping centers to scenic byways.

Johnny Appleseed’s legacy lives on in other parts of Ohio and the country. Some months ago, we shared a story about one person’s efforts to identify the actual resting place for John Chapman, his legal name. That post can be accessed here.

That’s not the only Appleseed-related quest which has been undertaken. For the last two generations, the location of any surviving trees which he planted has captivated several. His productivity in planting trees was staggering; over the 45 years he was active, he spread almost 20 bushels of apple seeds – and are over 300,000 seeds per bushel.

While there were many thousands of such trees during his lifetime, including many in Mansfield, Ashland, Galion, and the surrounding area, many believe that the sole surviving specimen is located in the small Ohio town of Nova. That Rambo Apple tree is one of an orchard planted about 1830.

Now, that last tree is sharing its legacy in two ways.

First is as the progenitor of seedlings re-planted at the Johnny Appleseed Museum & Educational Center at Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio. That institution has historical ties to the Swedenborigan faith, which Appleseed espoused.

According to the museum’s website, “In 1999, seedlings from the last known surviving apple tree planted by Johnny Appleseed were transplanted in the courtyard around the museum. The trees are testimony to Johnny Appleseed’s everlasting contributions to agricultural stewardship…The museum has some fascinating items in its collection, including a cider press from 1850 that was used to process apples from the trees Chapman planted on the John James estate, along with contemporary publications about him.”

The second comes through a commercial enterprise which now produces apple jelly derived from that same Nova tree’s descendants.

In a press release, that company shared, “We’ve all heard of Johnny Appleseed; a barefoot American vagabond who travelled across the country planting orchards. Thanks to the hard work of an arborist named Jeffrey Meyer and his son Scott Meyer of Congaree and Penn Farm, Johnny Appleseed’s legendary life work can now be experienced through a new craft apple jelly. This project is the result of a twenty-three-year journey to preserve and share Johnny Appleseed’s legacy by propagating the last known and verified apple tree he planted.

Twenty-three years ago, Meyer was sent news that the last known and verified apple tree planted by Johnny Appleseed was still living in Nova, Ohio but was reaching old age and would, in this generation, cease to produce fruit. You see, throughout history Johnny’s orchards were often used for cider production. During prohibition, the FBI mercilessly cut down most of Johnny Appleseed’s orchards in an attempt to prevent the production of homemade cider. The last living Johnny Appleseed tree had escaped prohibition’s eradication, but old age had started to take its toll. In 1994 to preserve this legacy and Johnny’s fruit, Meyer grafted several branches from Johnny’s tree onto the rootstock of other apple trees. This grafting process has been used by apple growers for centuries because it is the only way to ensure that you will produce apples that are identical to those of the parent tree.”

You can visit the website of Congaree and Penn Farm in Jacksonville, Florida, at this location online.

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