Happy Johnny Appleseed Day!

Bet you didn’t know that March 11 is National Johnny Appleseed Day.

March is so consumed with celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th that many of the other national observances get covered, such as: Peanut Butter Lover’s Day (1), Dr. Seuss’s Birthday (2), Employee Appreciation Day (4), Plant a Flower Day (12), Daylight Savings Time (13), The Ides of March (15), Awkward Moments Day (18), Let’s Laugh Day (19), First Day of Spring (20), Goof Off Day (22), Puppy Day (23), Spinach Day (26), Take a Walk in the Park Day (30) and Tater Day (31) to name only a few.

The national day for Johnny Appleseed also is celebrated on September 25, the day of his birth in 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts, as John Chapman. More people reportedly celebrate his birthday because of fall apple picking. However, the March date also makes sense because of the planting season for apple trees.
Apples, of course, were Johnny’s forte. This American pioneer nurseryman introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Ontario, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways; his leadership in conservation and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. He also was a missionary for The New Church (Swedenborgian) and the inspiration for many museums and historical sites such as the Johnny Appleseed Museum in Urbana, Ohio. And of course, locally, The Fort Wayne Tin Caps’ minor league baseball team is named in his honor.

In addition, The Johnny Appleseed Festival held in Fort Wayne in the fall – September 17-18, 2022 – is named after him since the Fort Wayne area reportedly is where he spent his final years.

There’s some controversy surrounding both the date and location of his death. His grave site also is disputed. According to Wikipedia, “The Goshen Democrat published a death notice for him in its March 27, 1845, edition, citing the day of death as March 18 of that year. The paper’s death notice read:

“In Fort Wayne, on Tuesday, 18th, John Chapman, commonly known by the name of Johnny Appleseed, (died at) about 70 years of age. Many of our citizens will remember this eccentric individual, as he sauntered through town eating his dry rusk (hard bread) and cold meat, and freely conversing on the mysteries of his religious faith…. The Fort Wayne Sentinel printed his obituary on March 22, 1845, also saying he died on March 18.”

“Developers of the Canterbury Green apartment complex and golf course in Fort Wayne claim that his grave is there, marked by a rock. That is where the Worth cabin sat in which he died.

Steven Fortriede, director of the Allen County Public Library…and author of the 1978 Johnny Appleseed, believes that another gravesite is the correct site, in Johnny Appleseed Park in Fort Wayne.”

And just to complicate the matter even further, under a Library of Congress heading on the Internet published in 2016 there are several photos and a caption that read: “Gravesite in Fort Worth, Indiana, of John Chapman, who, as most American schoolchildren are taught, became the legendary ‘Johnny Appleseed.’” Now you don’t suppose someone made a mistake at the infamous Congress Library and typed “Worth” instead of “Wayne,” do you? Because as far as I can tell, there is no “Fort Worth, Indiana!”

Some of the pictures include a bird’s eye view of Fort Wayne in 1868, an interior shot of the Allen County Public Library, the African/African American Historical Society Museum in Fort Wayne and other Fort Wayne photos. But, all pictures of the Chapman gravesite are labeled as being located in Fort Worth, Indiana! I think the photographer of those pictures was not quite sure where he or she was and made a 1,056-mile mistake!

According to Carol G. Speake, Chapman picked up his nickname and the legend that followed him after his death. It’s said you can still visit one of his trees. It’s about 176 years old and located in Nova, Ohio. But the tree grows tart apples which are used for applesauce. There’s also a 15-foot Johnny Appleseed statue in Bedford, Virginia. It’s located on a 200-plus acre farm with more than 7,000 apple trees.

Finally, regardless of when or where he died, or where he’s buried, legend says that just prior to his death from pneumonia was the only time he was sick his entire life. So, we guess it’s true: “An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!”

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer