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Evalee Anderton

Dr. Smith

History 1700

02 April 2019

Stuff You Missed in History Class: Johnny Appleseed

The podcast series, Stuff You Missed in History Class, covered the legend, Johnny

Appleseed. Hosts Tracy Wilson and Holly Frey talked about the life of Johnny Chapman, better

known as Johnny Appleseed. Some people credit him for bringing apples to the plains of

America and being one of the first conservationists. Although that is true, most people know

Johnny Appleseed as a mythic figure known in folklores for doing outrageous things such as

wearing a saucepot has a hat. While Johnny Chapman has many legacies and is the subject of

poems and films some of his history about him is a bit choppy because there aren’t too many

written stories about him but there are plenty of oral stories.

What is known about Chapman is that he was born September 26 of 1774 and his mother

died from childbirth early in his life while his father served as a minuteman in the Revolutionary

War. In 1781 his dad came home from war and remarried which resulted in having ten more

children together. The house quickly became crowded and Johnny left to the midwest with one

of his younger brothers to find more opportunities to cultivate the land. This is where Johnny

Chapman became known as Johnny Appleseed.

Hosts Wilson and Frey explained that settlers would buy or trade land from the Native

Americans and flip it around to make a profit. Congress started granting businesses the right to
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divide up the land and disburse it or exchange it for residency with an improvement requirement

such as having an orchard to keep people from flippng and reselling it. Chapman knew apples

were very useful mostly for hard cider. He would plant apple seeds and leave them to grow, so

when people would come to settle the land, they could buy it from him. Wilson and Frey make

the argument that he was a very generous man. If someone couldn’t pay for the apple seedling he

would usually give it to them.

It was delightful to hear that this historical figure had good intentions and was

lighthearted. Although he did have his faults of not carrying contracts of land he bought out to

term he tried his best to live righteously and share his beliefs with people as he traveled through

the midwest. More often than not when you learn about a reclusive person in history they

sometimes turn out to have a bad reputation. It’s fascinating to me that if you Google Johnny

Appleseed it titles him as an American missionary. He was a devout member of The New

Church and practiced this religion fervently.

While he traveled the country he made efforts to help America along the way which

made him memorable for so many people. A lot of the information obtained was through word of

mouth because how messily written artifacts were stored during this era. Some can be credible

sources but it’s hard for me to rely on them. There is a story of him during the war of 1812

running barefooted a distance similar to running a marathon twice, to warn farms and

homesteads that an attack could potentially come.

When I saw this story from Stuff You Missed in History Class was an option it intrigued

my curiosity. I vaguely remember a Disney cartoon I saw about Johnny Appleseed when I was

younger. I recalled that he was a real person but had very little information about him. In
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elementary school, I’m certain I was taught a lesson about him but other than that I know I

missed this in my history classes. This topic is interesting in the sense of how folklores are made

in the first place and should be taught more. From Johnny Chapman, a poor 18th-century

American kid to Johnny Appleseed an entrepreneur who could run miles and miles barefoot and

wore a saucepot as a hat. Recently I just became interested in podcasts and now I find it as a

great learning tool after listening to this series.