Appleseed Johnny's Day
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We are indebted to the Hon. J. Sterling Morton, formerly Secretary of Agriculture, for inventing and suggesting

Arbor Day

Nebraska was the first State to observe this day, and it was there officially noticed in 1872. Cincinnati followed in 1882, and now, not only all the States of the Union have followed Nebraska, each celebrating Arbor Day by tree-planting, but Great Britain, France, Spain, New Zealand, and Japan have also fallen in line.

Arbor Day is appointed each year in each State by the Governor, but here in America it should be called

Appleseed Johnny's Day

Let Kansas take just pride in leading the great movement, and all honor to Mr. Morton, but long before either this man or State was born, when the whole Middle West was raw and new land, it was visited by a real saint, an angel in grotesque and comic garb, Jonathan Chapman, who began planting apple-trees in a forest-covered country.

This was our hero, Johnny Appleseed, or Appleseed Johnny, as he was familiarly and affectionately named by the early settlers and pioneers of the Ohio Valley. He was a unique character, deserving greater fame than he has ever received, even in the State of Ohio, where he did most of his unselfish work for the benefit of people who were to come after him.

The Story of Johnny Appleseed

There was something doing when Johnny was born, for it was in the same year as the battle of Lexington, the capture of Ticonderoga, the appointment of Washington as commander-in-chief, the battle of Bunker Hill, and the siege of Quebec that the stork flew through the powder clouds and battle smoke to Boston, and the little baby boy was born.

He opened his infant eyes in stirring times, and no doubt stared in wonder at the excited men he saw about him bent on killing each other.  It may be that the bloody scenes of his babyhood made a lasting impression, or it may be that in late years thoughtful study of the writings of that great teacher, Emanuel Swedenborg, exerted a powerful influence upon him, or it may be that this pure-minded, forgotten hero was sent by Heaven to teach the doctrine of peace; but whatever the cause, the fact remains that in the wilderness of the Ohio Valley, where even the Quakers were fighters, the only disciple of peace was Jonathan Chapman, of Boston.

My own grandparents were among the pioneers of the Ohio Valley, and many an evening have I sat by my grandmother's knee watching her busy knitting-needles and listening to the adventures of this good man, who not only planted every open glade of the wild forest with apple-trees, but also planted the seeds of his new faith in the minds of the settlers.

With a courage equal to that of the great Daniel Boone or the famous Simon Kenton, Appleseed Johnny traversed the dark forests alone; but, unlike the other men, he went unarmed. Think of that, boys! There was courage for you, in days when the woods were full of Indians and wild animals!

Once he crawled into a hollow log for shelter, but finding it already occupied by two cub bears, rather than disturb the animals he crept out again and made his bed in the leaves beside the log. He never was known to purposely kill a living creature, and he himself subsisted on corn and mush or porridge.

The forests were infested with murderous savages, but there was always a welcome for Johnny at their wigwam and village. The river banks were the resorts of desperate river pirates, who lived by robbing flatboats and emigrants, but every robber's den had a cosey corner for Johnny.

The backwoodsmen's cabins were small, one-roomed log buildings filled with children, but they were never so crowded that a hearty welcome and a place by the fireside were not waiting for Appleseed Johnny, and a cot or a buffalo-robe ready for him hen he chose to sleep under their roofs.

Appleseed Johnny's Day

Appleseed Johnny was a highly educated and cultured gentleman, but he dressed in coffee-sacking and a pasteboard cap. He did this, not to be queer, but because, when he had any clothes that were fit to wear, he gave them to some poor emigrant.

Often he had shoes, but just as often he took them from his feet and gave them to some shoeless pioneer settler whom he met on his trail. It was clear that Johnny had money, because he always had a bunch of new ribbons for the little tow-headed girls who ran out to meet him from the lonely log cabins in the dark forests.

Coming to a log house, he would enter, throw himself on the floor by the fire, and, pulling out some fragments of the works of his great religious teacher, would exclaim, "Listen to the last message from God!" and robber and honest settler alike listened to the pioneer teacher.

From the cider-presses in Pennsylvania or from Fort Pitt, where Pittsburg now stands, he secured bags of apple seeds, with which he loaded his dugout canoe, and with this strange cargo he paddled his lonely way down the Ohio, planting orchards wherever an opportunity offered, ministering to the sick, giving to the needy, and living his life only for the good he could do.

The Indians looked upon him with awe, because when his bare feet would be cut and torn with the brush and frozen mud, he would calmly seat himself by their campfire, heat an iron white-hot, and burn out the cuts and wounds, which then readily healed.

Quaint and weird as this young man of twenty-six must have appeared, in his ragged garments, bare feet, and pasteboard cap, no one, not even the small boys, ever laughed or jeered at him; but he was universally treated with respect by bandit, savage, ignorant squatter, and the refined and cultured officers of the Revolutionary army who settled in the wilderness.  He lived to be an old, old man, beloved by young and old, and passed over the great divide telling about the glory he saw beyond.

You will understand better now why I have chosen Johnny Appleseed among all the officers to act as peacemaker in the camp, in the field, and on the playground, to prevent or adjust all quarrels among the scouts, and to decide any disputes that may arise during contests and games.

This is Johnny Appleseed's Day, for he is the one who is the chief officer of the celebration given by the Sons of Daniel Boone on Arbor Day.  On this day Daniel Boone, David Crockett, Simon Kenton, Audubon, and Kit Carson all act as a committee, under the direction of Appleseed Johnny, to prepare for the ceremonies connected with tree planting.

The Boy Pioneers






Additional Information:

Arbor Day Parade ] Tally Gun Honors ]

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Foreword ] Daniel Boone ] [ Appleseed Johnny's Day ] Simon Kenton ] Simon Girty ] Audubon's Day ] Form a Boy's Club ] Initiation Boy Pioneers ]

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Boy Pioneers ] Outdoor Handy Book ] Scouting ] American Boys Handy Book ] Shelters, Shacks, Shanties ] Field & Forest Handy Book ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.