This is the first of a two-part series focusing on a good friend of Richland County, John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Today, we look at ways you can connect with his legacy; later this week we will share news about how his legacy is bring commemorated.
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 historic markers to scenic byways.
Johnny Appleseed’s legacy lives on in other parts of Ohio and the country. Some time 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 peoples’ imaginations. 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.
The Nova tree was the source of a jelly now produced in Florida and available online.
Congaree and Penn Farm near Jacksonville, Florida says, “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.”
You can visit the website of Congaree and Penn Farm here.
Earlier this year, another enterprise launched a product line tied to John Chapman and a different surviving tree — and not jelly, but actual Johnny Appleseed apple trees you can buy and plant.
According to a press release from Johnny Appleseed Organic in Folkston, Georgia, “Home gardeners and orchardists across the country have an opportunity to grow a piece of early American history with the arrival of the Johnny Appleseed Authentic™ Algeo apple tree.
Genetically identical copies of the last surviving tree planted by John Chapman, the real life inspiration behind the Johnny Appleseed legend, were made available for consumer purchase in December 2020. Chapman famously planted apple trees throughout the American frontier, but his orchards were largely destroyed by old age, weather and Prohibition-era federal agents looking to end the practice of cider-making. Defying the odds, the Algeo tree had survived since the mid 1800s thanks to a family of farmers in rural Ashland County, Ohio.
“We have always considered ourselves guardians of the tree,” said Kate Harvey Algeo-Wilkins, a descendant of the family which preserved the tree and in whose honor its apple is named. “We protect it and take care of it and do the maintenance. We’re very excited to share this because John Chapman shared it with us and we are happy to pass it on.” The tree was sampled and grafted by Jeff Meyer, founder of Johnny Appleseed Authentic, who learned of its existence in the mid-1990s while working for the 501(c)(3) nonprofit American Forests.”
The farm says that the trees have been authenticated by the former Johnny Appleseed Museum at Urbana University and the Ohio History Connection.
More information and online tree sales can be found here.