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Fo r t r i s d e , S t e v e n . 
J o h n n y A p p 1 e s e e d : the 
I beh i nd the myth 


Johnny Appieseed* The Man 

Behind The Myth 


Steven Fortriede 



THE FRONT COVER shows the stone erected in 1935 
by the Fort Wayne Optimist Club over the supposed 
gravesite of John Chapman in the Archer Cemetery. 

THE BACK COVER shows the stone erected by 
"Wesley S. Roebuck over the supposed gravesite of 
John Chapman on the Roebuck farm. 

Johnny Appieseed- The Man 
Behind The Myth 


Steven Fortriede 

Fort Wayne Public Library 



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PO Sox 227^^"«M ^ 

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I . Early Years 1 

II. The Ohio Frontier 7 

III. The Swedenborgian Missionary 11 

IV. Myths in the Making 15 

V. Westward to Indiana c 19 

VI. Death and Burial 22 

Notes and References 30 

Appendix 37 


The author recognizes his debt to 
Dr. Robert Price, whose many years 
of careful research and study, pub- 
lished in Johnny Appleseed, Man and 
Myth (Indiana University Press, 1954) 
guided and aided the preparation of this 


John Chapman was one of America's authentic 
pioneer heroes, a contemporary of men such as 
Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. He planted his first 
apple seeds as a boy about the time Washington was 
elected President and his last as an old man about the 
time Lincoln was elected to Congress. He moved into 
Ohio before Secretary of State James Monroe bought 
Louisiana from the French. By the time he died in 
Indiana in 1845, Texas had been annexed, the frontier 
had pushed across the Mississippi, and, out in Cali- 
fornia, Captain John Sutter had built his fort and was 
looking around for a likely location for a sawmill. 

Yet, most people know less fact and more myth 
about John Chapman than about any other character in 
American history. Some think he was only a story or 
a folk tale; the rest, if they know him at all, know 
him as Johnny Appleseed. 

This pamphlet presents some of the facts about 
John Chapman. It is primarily based on Robert Price's 
book, Johnny Appleseed, Man and Myth, published in 
1954. In this pamphlet we will examine some of the 
myths and stories which sprang up around this fron- 
tiersman. We will try to trace the stories back to 
their sources to show where they originated, how 
they developed into myths, and how they have been 
perpetuated as "facts" in the Johnny Appleseed story. 
Some of these stories are very old. Many of them 
were first told around the hearths and campfires of 
the earliest settlers of Ohio, even while Johnny was 
still alive. By the time they came to be written down, 
the memories of the original storytellers had become 
a bit hazy, and their imaginations had begun to fill in 
the missing details. 


The storytellers, generally have Johnny born 
somewhere inMassachusetts, Connecticut, or Pennsyl- 
vania. More than a dozen places claim his birth; in 
1768, or 1774, or 1775, or 1787, but almost always 
in the spring of the year . Every storyteller, trying 
to find some portent of the new baby's future fame, 
mentions the beautiful apple blossoms which gar- 
landed his birth. In some versions the wind blows 
the boughs against the window of the nursery; some- 
times the baby John reaches for the branches outside 
the window, and sometimes the blossoms are a bouquet 
picked by a loving husband to grace the bedside of a 
beloved wife. Always there are apple blossoms. 

John Chapman was actually born in Leominster, 
Massachusetts on September 26, 1774. ■'■ There wasn't 
an apple blossom in sight. His father, Nathaniel 
Chapman, was a farmer and carpenter, but he was 
apparently no great success at either trade. The 
Chapmans lived in a small rented house in Leominster . 
The house has long since disappeared, although the 
sight was marked in 1940 by the Leominster Bicenten- 
nial Committee. ^ Soon after the birth of the baby John, 
Nathaniel Chapman enlisted in the Continental Army. 
He was one of the original Minutemen, fought at 
Bunker Hill, suffered through the winter at Valley 

Forge, and was eventually discharged from the 
service because of some question regarding mis- 
management of military stores entrusted to his care. "^ 

John's mother was Elizabeth Simonds, also of 
Leominster, a frail woman whose soldier husband 
left her to manage the household and care for the 
infant John and his older sister, also named Elizabeth. 
Elizabeth Chapman, the mother, died July 18, 1776, 
shortly after delivering her third child, a boy named 
Nathaniel who also died within a few weeks. 

We do not know what happened to the two young 
Chapman children, Elizabeth only six and John not yet 
two, but they probably stayed with relatives in the 
area. Both the Chapman and Simonds families had 
long been established in Leominster, and there were 
many aunts and cousins nearby. 

In July 1780, Nathaniel was married again, this 
time to Lucy Cooley of Longmeadow,^ where he took 
up residence. In the next twenty-two years, ten 
children were born to Nathaniel and Lucy." The little 
frame house, already old in 1780 but still standing 
in 1950, rapidly grew so crowded that the oldest boy 
might well have been encouraged to leave home as 
soon as he could make his way in the world. 

Indeed, the details of young John's life up until 
1797 are completely lost, except to the imaginations 
of the storytellers. Perhaps the most persistent 
story from this period is that John attended Harvard 
College, graduating with honors, according to some 

This myth apparently had its origin in a purely 
fictional novel entitled The Quest of John Chapman, 
published in 1904. This story makes John's father a 
Massachusetts cleric and John himself a ministerial 
student at Harvard. The Harvard story was retold 
and some quite serious biographers, perhaps trying 
to account for Johnny's remarkable intelligence and 

understanding of religious doctrines, seized on it 
and perpetuated it as fact. The fact is that a con- 
siderable amount of searching over the years has 
failed to turn up any record of Johnny as a student at 
Harvard . ' 

The Quest of John Chapman also provides an 
example of another recurring theme in the Johnny 
Appleseed myth, the lost love. Even the earliest of 
the written recollections, some set down only ten or 
fifteen years after his death, contain vague allusions 
to an unhappy love affair. None of these can be docu- 
mented. It may be that the real source for the stories 
is the desire of the storytellers to account for the 
eccentricities of a strange old bachelor. In any case, 
the form of the story which is most widely told is 
exemplified in The Quest: Johnny loves one Dorothy 
Durand, but their two families are bitter enemies --a 
difference of theological opinions - -and the lovers are 
separated. The Durands move west and Johnny sets 
out to search for his beloved. He finally locates the 
family only to learn that Dorothy has died shortly 
before of a broken heart. Other authors follow the 
same sequence of events, but change the name of the 
girl. Henry Pershing, in his purported biography of 
Chapman titled Johnny Appleseed and His Time , pub- 
lished in 1930, called her Sarah Crawford and had 
h'er reunited with Johnny but dying on their wedding 
day. These stories all close by asserting that, many 
years later, Johnny returned to plant apple blossoms 
over the grave. 

The detailed record of John Chapman's activities 
as a young man is yet to be discovered, but the 
general trend of his young life can be inferred. 
Sometime before 1797 Johnny learned to read and write 
very well. He learned something about the culture 
and propagation of fruit trees. He learned how to 
take care of himself in the wilderness of the frontier. 

He embraced the religious doctrines of Emanuel 

Some early stories say that Johnny was appren- 
ticed to an orchardist or that he spent several years 
around 1790 working as a Swedenborgian missionary 
along the Potomac River. These tales may have some 
basis in fact, but Henry Pershing's story that John was 
certified a minister at the Conference of the Sweden- 
borgian Church in Boston in 1786 is pure bunk. The 
first General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the 
United States of America was not held until May, 
1817,^ by which time John was a widely known and 
respected Swedenborgian. In 1786 he would have been 
twelve years old, too young for even the most preco- 
cious missionarying. 

Many stories relate different versions of John's 
beginnings as an itinerant nurseryman, but the earliest 
reasonably reliable account brings John on stage 
in the middle of a freak snowstorm somewhere in 
the wild western wilderness of Pennsylvania in Octo- 
ber 1797, on his way to the new town of Warren which 
then consisted of a single log building. This account 
was written in 1853 by Judge Lansing Wetmore. ^ It is 
apparently not based on first-hand evidence, as 
Judge Wetmore did not come into the area until 1815, 
but the judge did draw on the memories of the earlier 
residents and he himself saw the remains of one 
of Johnny's early nurseries. Wetmore, who was 
interested in recording many aspects of the early 
history of the Warren area, seems to have kept 
closely to the verifiable truth. Further evidence that 
Judge Wetmore was honestly recording local history 
and not merely seeking to appropriate some of the 
glory of the Appleseed legend, as did so many later 
writers, is that he never once used the name "Johnny 
Appleseed." Either he had never heard of the nick - 
name or he never connected it with the John Chapman 

who planted apples in Warren. 

The only hard; that is documentary, evidence 
which might confirm Johnny's presence in the Warren, 
Pennsylvania area is the ledger of a nearby trading 
post which shows several entries for a John Chapman 
around the year 1798. ■'■^ There is, however, no 
definite proof that this was the same John Chapman 
who became known as Johnny Appleseed. 

Johnny did not stay long in the Warren area. 
Judge Wetmore's narrative concludes, "The demand 
for fruit trees being limited, and unable to obtain a 
livelihood by his favorite pursuit, he went to Franklin 
where he established another nursery." 

It is at Franklin about 1800 that historians are 
first able to document and chronicle the activities of 
John Chapman. His name appears several times in 
trading post ledgers. He shows up in the 1800 census 
of Venago County, actually completed in April, 1801, 
living alone in Irwin Township a few miles southwest 
of Franklin. 11 In 1804, at Franklin, John signed two 
lOU's, each for one hundred dollars; one in favor of 
the children of Elizabeth Rudd, his sister; and the 
other in favor of "Nathaniel Chapman" although it is 
not clear whether the Nathaniel referred to was John's 
father or his half-brother also called Nathaniel.!^ 

This second note, to Nathaniel, contains the 
first documentary evidence of John's interest in apple 
trees. It reads, in part, "I promise to pay Nathaniel 
Chapman . . . the sum of one hundred dollars in land 
or apple trees." 

Numerous stories, including some serious 
biographies, place John in Pittsburgh during the late 
1790s. Frequently they have him working in the boat 
yards building the flatboats used by early migrants. 
There may be a grain of fact behind some of these 
stories. John's whereabouts in the early 1790s, from 
the time he left his father's home in Longmeadow 

until his appearance in that mountain snowstorm near 
Warren in 1797, are totally unknown. He may very 
well have been traveling in the Pittsburgh area, 
although it is doubtful that he held a steady job there. 
One piece of documentary evidence which might place 
John in the Pittsburgh area does exist. In 1794, a 
John Chapman (no provable connection) took an oath 
of allegiance to the new United States in Somerset 
Township, Washington County, a few miles southwest 
of Pittsburgh. 1^ 

The full development of the Pittsburgh story, 
which has Johnny running a sort of travelers' aid 
station for migrants in the city of Pittsburgh, and 
incidentally handing out little leather bags of apple 
seeds to the new settlers, can be traced to a novel 
titled Johnny Appleseed, the Romance of the Sower, 
written in 1915 by Mrs. Eleanor Atkinson. The 
Romance was another purely fictional book, but like 
so many other stories, it contained just enough logic, 
historical fact, and convincing detail that it was 
widely accepted as the whole truth and nothing but the 

No deed or other record of land owned by Johnny 
in Pennsylvania has yet been found. ■'■'* It is probable 
that John never succeeded in establishing title to any 
Pennsylvania land, so it is almost impossible to trace 
the locations of the early nurseries. Early county 
histories reliably locate one orchard, possibly his 
first, on Big Brokenstraw Creek in Warren County 
and another on French Creek near the town of Franklin 
in Venago County. Both of these nurseries were in 
operation during the period roughly from 1797 or 
1798 to 1804. Less reliable sources and local tradi- 
tions tell of other nurseries scattered around the 
general area. John seems to have located his nur- 
series near the main settlement routes and then 
traveled from one to another to care for the trees 


and to sell seedlings to the settlers. 

Apparently, as Judge Wetmore indicated, John 
did not have much success in Pennsylvania. In the 
early 1800s he moved farther west into Ohio. It has 
been suggested that the two notes John signed in 
Franklin in 1804 were for the purpose of obtaining 
funds to finance his westward expansion. 


Whatever the reason, John's decision to move 
into Ohio was a sound one. Vast areas of the east 
central portion were now open to settlement. In 1801, 
the year generally established for Johnny's first en- 
trance into Licking County, the county held only three 
white families. •'■^ John Larabee was living in a huge 
hollow sycamore tree while he built a cabin and tried 
to get a claim established. -■■" By the end of the decade, 
most of the land had been taken up, towns platted, and 
families moved in. In 1800, the population of Ohio 
was not above 40,000. By 1830, when Johnny moved 
his base of operations farther west into Indiana, it 
was almost a million.-'-^ Many of these new settlers 
became customers of Johnny Appleseed. 

In these days of supermarkets, vitamin -enriched 
diets, and home freezers, it is easy to overlook the 
importance of apples to the early settlers. Apples 
provided a welcome accent in an otherwise monotonous 
pioneer diet. Apples were the easiest of all fruits to 
get into production and were also the easiest to store 
for year-round use, without the addition of expensive 
sugar. Pioneer families customarily dried many 
bushels of apples for winter eating and cooked many 

more bushels into apple butter. Apple cider by the 
barrel, one source estimates seven to ten barrels or 
250 gallons for a large family, ^^ was pressed at 
community cider mills. Many more barrels of cider 
were distilled into apple brandy, called "applejack" 
on the frontier. Applejack had the virtue of com- 
manding a much higher price in relation to its weight 
and bulk than almost any other product grown in the 
west, a fact which made it an important cash crop for 
export in the days when all transport was primitive 
and expensive. -'•^ So important was apple growing 
considered that in some parts of Ohio, a new settler 
was required to plant a certain number of trees, fifty 
or more, before he could receive the full title to his 
land. 20 

With a guaranteed market and an ever-growing 
number of customers, many nurserymen were drawn 
to the new state of Ohio . John Chapman was by no 
means the only seller of apple trees in the new terri- 
tory; he was not even the first. By 1796, Rufus Putnam 
had an extensive orchard consisting of many varieties 
of high -quality, grafted trees located near Marietta. 2■'• 
In 1808, Washington County, around Marietta, counted 
774 acres of fruit trees. 

Nor were Johnny's apple trees of the best quality. 
Johnny steadfastly refused to improve any of his trees 
by grafting good quality branches onto the seedling 
roots, a common and well-known practice even on the 
frontier. Instead, John insisted on growing his trees 
strictly from seed, even though he must have known 
that trees grown in this manner will almost certainly 
produce inferior fruit . 

The advantages that Johnny enjoyed over his 
competition were two; volume, and a sense of loca- 
tion, what Robert Price called "strategic geog- 
raphy. "^^ No other orchardist planted as many 
nurseries as did John, and no other orchardist located 


his nurseries so carefully, always just ahead of the 
first settlers in an area and frequently just where a 
new center of population would spring up . 

The list of Johnny's verified nurseries in Ohio 
is long, and there is hardly a city, town, or country 
crossroads throughout central Ohio that does not 
claim in its local traditions that "Johnny Apple seed 
planted trees here." In his biography of Chapman, 
Price listed in Ohio alone, thirty nurseries for which 
he could locate at least one reliable early reference. 
These were established nurseries, usually operated 
over a period of several years, and given regular 
care. It also appears that Johnny was in the habit of 
making other plantings wherever he happened to be 
in his wanderings, perhaps at the home of a farmer 
who gave him lodging for the night or simply in a 
natural clearing in the woods, no matter who owned 
the land. 

Judging from the records available to us, it was 
apparently John's practice to scout a likely location 
for a nursery and then to beg, buy, or lease a plot of 
ground on which to plant his trees. He would clear 
the ground, prepare the soil, erect a fence to keep 
out browsing cattle and deer, and plant his seeds, 
carefully gathered from cider mills in the more 
settled areas he had just left. If the nursery was to 
be a major one, Johnny frequently would build a 
lean-to or rough cabin to provide himself with shelter 
or would arrange to board with a nearby farmer. 

Some idea of the time involved may be deduced 
from a bill for boarding submitted to John's adminis- 
trators after his death. In 1836, Johnny bought 
seventy- four acres of land in Wabash Township, 
Jay County, Indiana. The next year John boarded for 
twelve weeks with Joseph Hill who lived near this 
land. In 1838, he stayed eighteen weeks and in 1839, 
ten weeks. In 1840, and for the years following 

up until his death, he stayed only two, three, or four 
weeks. "^ Presumably, these first three years were 
taken up in the major labor of establishing the nursery 
after which it required only periodic care and main- 
tenance. Most likely this pattern was repeated time 
and again at other nursery locations. 

Except for two town lots purchased in 1809 in 
newly -platted Mount Vernon, no record exists that 
John formally obtained title to any land during his 
early days in Ohio. It is probable that, up until 1814 
or 1815, John was concentrating on planting his trees 
on land already owned by other farmers who could 
be relied on to watch over the trees in return for a 
share of the new -grown seedlings. 

On May 31, 1814, John changed his method of 
operations and began the first of a series of sixteen 
verifiable land acquisitions. Eventually he bought or 
leased and sometimes forfeited or sold more than 
eleven hundred acres of land and six town lots, 
sometimes paying with thepromise of apple trees, but 
more often paying cash in hand. Despite the custom - 
ary portrayal of him as a man living in poverty, 
eating only the most meager food, and wearing ragged 
clothing, John was a man of considerable substance, 
''ispecially in rare ready cash; although he used his 
wealth for charity and to further his work, not for his 
own personal comfort. 

In Cincinnati markets in 1806, the price of a 
seedling apple tree hovered between six and seven 
cents, 24 which seems to support the price which 
Johnny traditionally charged for his trees, a "fip- 
penny bit" which was worth about six and one -half 
cents in Ohio at that time.^^ These same traditions 
also insist that, if the purchaser was unable to pay in 
cash, Johnny would willingly accept cast-off clothing, 
a bit of cornmeal, or even a promise to pay at some 
unspecified time in the future. He was reported to 


have given trees to needy families, often with a gift 
of money as well. 

Several documents pertaining to Johnny's busi- 
ness dealings have come down to us. An order for 
trees from one of his nurseries was discovered in 
1952 in the possession of Mrs. Grace Culler of Shiloh, 
Ohio, a niece of the Rosella Rice whose recollections 
of John have added so much to the Appleseed myth.^^ 
The order, dated August 21, 1818, at Richland County, 
is obviously addressed to the caretaker at one of 
Johnny's nurseries. It reads, "Mr. Martin Mason: 
Sir, please to let Eben Rice or bearer have thirty- 
eight apple trees and you will oblige your friend. . . . 
John Chapman." Another order, now in the possession 
of the Mansfield Boy Scouts, is dated October, 1812, 
and reads in part, "For value received I promise to 
pay . . . Benjamin Burrell, one hundred and fifty 
apple trees at my nursery near John Butlers and the 
mouth of the Mohican, such as they are when called 
for." A note dated August 25, 1820, reads simply, 
"Mr. Odle: please to let Ebenezer Rice have the 
hoops." Nobody knows what it might have meant. 
Notes and orders such as these, along with a number 
of leases, deeds, tax records, and voters lists pro- 
vide the framework of facts upon which that which is 
definitely known about Johnny's activities has been 
built . 


Most people today remember John Chapman only 
for his appleseeds and his charity. In his own time, 
he was almost as well -known for his religious beliefs. 

John was baptized in the Congregational Church, 


but throughout his adult life, he was a follower of the 
beliefs of Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg was a 
brilliant eighteenth-century scientist and philosopher 
whose investigations led him to believe in a spiritual 
world closely paralleling the real one, a world in 
which each person had a corresponding spiritual ex- 
istence which continued after his death. Swedenborg 
also taught that the way to happiness in the spiritual 
world was to live a life of service and self-denial in 
this one. ' The doctrines were complicated and the 
religion was one which appealed mainly to intellec- 
tuals . 

It is well known that John lived his life in 
accordance with these teachings, but it is not known 
when he first accepted them . Consequently, the story 
of his conversion to Swedenborgianism has become a 
favorite one for imaginative storytellers. Henry 
Pershing wrote that John first became acquainted with 
Swedenborg' s teachings during those mythical years 
at Harvard. Mrs. Atkinson had him introduced to the 
doctrines during a visit to Isle le Beau where Harman 
Blennerhasset lived in kingly splendor. A long- 
standing, but still unproven, tradition in the Sweden - 
borgian Church states that John's first contact with 
the teachings was through Judge John Young, a western 
Pennsylvania lawyer and member of the Church of the 
New Jerusalem. This tradition also claims that 
Judge Young supplied Johnny with many of the books 
he later distributed in the West. Perhaps the only 
provably accurate statement which we can make about 
John's conversion is that it is not known when or how 
it took place but that it was certainly very early in 
his career. 

Other details of John's missionary work can be 
more definitely established. In fact, the earliest 
printed reference to John Chapman yet discovered 
appears in a New Church report printed in January, 


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1817, in Manchester, England. ° The account, taken 
from a letter from a Philadelphia correspondant,does 
not mention John by name. However, it gives details 
of his ascetic life, describes his planting methods, 
and says, "the profits of the whole are intended for 
the purpose of enabling him to print all of the writings 
of Em.anuel Swedenborg and distribute them." This 
report also contains the first mention of John's prac- 
tice of dividing a book into parts for greater distri- 

Numerous letters written by New Church mem- 
bers mention John, One, dated May 15, 1821, from 
Daniel Thunn to Margaret Bailey, ^^ mentions an offer 
by John Chapman to deed to the New Church 160 acres 
of land in return for payment in New Church books, 
then states, "This is theAppleseed man you certainly 
must have heard of." Another letter, this one written 
by William Schlatter, ^^ a wealthy and prominent 
New Church supporter, dated November 18, 1822, 
contains the earliest written mention of John's nick- 
name. It reads, in part, "there was but one receiver 
and that was Mr. John Chapman, whom you must have 
heard me speak of. They call him John Apple seed 
out there." This letter, and an entry under the name 
"John Appleseed" in the ledger of the Fort Wayne 
trading firm of Hamilton and Taber in 1840, establish 
the name by which John Chapman was known during 
most of his life. The diminutive, "Johnny Appleseed" 
apparently became used as the legends about him 
grew and flowered. 

John was apparently a very active missionary 
for the New Church. Numerous tales and memoirs 
tell of his capable and intelligent discussion of the 
doctrines of Swedenborg and many of them mention 
specific instances of theological arguments, most of 
which, of course, Johnny won hands down. 

In at least one documented instance, John appears 


to have been instrumental in establishing a New 
Church congregation, at Mansfield, Ohio. A letter 
from William Schlatter to John in 1820, obviously a 
reply to a previous request from John, details the 
procedure to be followed in order to have brother Silas 
Ensign, a converted Methodist minister, licensed as 
lay reader for the group. ^■'■ 

The most enduring story of John's missionary 
work, repeated over and over, has him begging lodging 
and food at some lonely settler's cabin, then pulling 
out his Testament and offering to read some "news 
right fresh from Heaven. " Afterward he would offer to 
leave some of his Swedenborgian books, obtained from 
Church members in the East . Many references record 
that he would divide a book into several parts and leave 
only one section at a time to widen its circulation. 


By the middle part of his sojourn in Ohio, Johnny 
Appleseed was rapidly becoming one of the most 
storied characters of the frontier, known in person 
or by reputation all over the state. Most of the tales 
have come down to us through the works of three 
authors. The earliest of these was Henry Howe's 
Historical Collections of Ohio, first published in 1847. 
Howe traveled throughout the state of Ohio collecting 
local traditions and personal recollections as well as 
documented facts. Unfortunately, he neglected to 
distinguish the facts from the memories in his book. 
Later editions of the Historical Collections added a 
section on Johnny written by Rosella Rice, daughter 
of the Ebenezer Rice to whom Johnny gave those 
mysterious hoops, who knew him when she was a 


child. Throughout the 1850s, Rosella published ' 
numerous letters and magazine articles containing ' 
her romanticized recollections of Johnny, The most 
widely circulated and still the most famous account of 
Johnny appeared in an article written by W. D. Haley i 
in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in November 1871. 
All three of these accounts collected the stories 
popular in the years after Johnny's death. The stories 
were repeated as fact over and over in the many county 
and local histories published in the ensuing years. 

Here was the small, wiry man with the un- "' 
shaven beard and penetrating eyes; the ragged, cast- 
off clothing; and the pasteboard hat with the huge 
brim .^ The tin pot hat seems to have been purely a 
fabrication by Henry Howe."^"^ The picture of Johnny 

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is variously supposed to have been drawn by a student ^ 
at Otterbein College who knew Johnny or from a -^ 


description given by Rosella Rice. Other stories told 
of the man filled with remorse for having killed a 
rattlesnake which had bitten him; the man who would 
quench his campfire to prevent a mosquito from being 
burned; the man who would sleep in the snow to avoid 
disturbing a sleeping bear and her cubs. Here were 
the stories of matrimonial disappointments and of 
the man who brought gifts of calico and ribbons to 
delight the little girls. Among the tales of Johnny's 
philanthropy and kindness, was the story of how, 
out of a misguided belief in the healing properties of 
the evil -smelling weed called dog -fennel, Johnny 
sowed its seeds in the vicinity of every cabin he 
passed until, in the words of W. D. Haley, "to this 
day the dog -fennel ... is one of the worst grievances 
of the Ohio farmers." 

Many of these stories are probably based on 
fact. Some of them are attributed to early pioneers 
who claimed to have heard them directly from 
Johnny. Others can be documented from independent 

A story which may contain more fact than fiction 
describes John's role during the Indian unrest of 
1812. That summer, after war was declared with 
England, there were a number of Indian attacks and 
scares in the Mansfield -Mount Vernon area. Johnny, 
who knew the forest trails better than anyone else, 
either volunteered or was retained to travel to the 
outlying cabins to keep the settlers warned of Indian 
activities. After at least one false alarm, a real 
Indian attack took place in September at Mansfield. 
The ten white families in the area immediately 
retreated to the blockhouse and decided to send for 
help to Mount Vernon, thirty miles away. John 
Chapman volunteered to make the trip. Although the 
earliest account of the event insists that Johnny rode 
horseback, ^^ the story most often told is that John 


ran all the way, stopping only to warn isolated settlers 
with the cry, "the tribes of the heathen are round 
about your doors and a devouring flame followeth 
after them." At any rate, Johnny made the trip and 
returned with the soldiers early the next morning. 

The most widespread of all the Johnny Apple seed 
folk tales is the so-called "primitive Christian" 
episode. The location, the details, and the name of 
the minister vary from one account to the next, but 
the classic story goes something like this: Johnny is 
among the audience listening to an itinerant mission- 
ary who has been sermonizing at considerable length 
against evil and vice of all sorts. Trying, by con- 
trast, to shame his listeners, some of whom have 
begun to indulge in the carnal vanities of calico cloth 
and store -bought tea, the missionary repeatedly 
inquires of the audience, "Where now is there a man 
who, like the primitive Christians, is traveling to 
Heaven barefooted and clad in coarse raiment?" 
Finally, in the words of W. D. Haley, "When this 
interrogation had been repeated beyond all reasonable 
endurance, Johnny rose from the log on which he was 
reclining; and advancing to the speaker, he placed 
one of his bare feet upon the stump which served for 
a pulpit; and pointing to his coffee sack garment, he 
quietly said, 'Here's your primitive Christian. ' The 
well -clothed missionary hesitated, stammered, and 
dismissed the congregation." 

One clue to the identity of this missionary is 
given in a letter written by John W. Dawson to the 
Fort Wayne Sentinel in response to the article in 
Harper's. Dawson states that, in 1830, an itinerant 
preacher named Adam Payne came to Fort Wayne and 
proceded to "scold the Devil" on a downtown street 
corner. At the end of the "scold, " Johnny, who was 
again present, went forward and reminded Payne of 
the incident at Mansfield. According to Dawson, 


Payne recognized Johnny at once. If Payne was the 
minister involved, Haley's description of him as the 
"well -clothed missionary" is singularly inapt. Payne 
was another widely -known figure on the frontier. He 
was every bit as shabby in his personal appearance 
as was John. 


Sometime before 1830, Johnny decided to move 
his base of operations farther to the west. Ohio was 
rapidly becoming a settled and civilized country, and 
the market for his services was moving steadily 

Several different dates have been given for 
Johnny's first trip through western Ohio and into 
Indiana, including some very early scouting trips. 
John's first documented trip into western Ohio oc- 
curred in 1828. His route can be traced by the trail of 
leases he left behind as he acquired small plots of 
land for nurseries; one at Fort Amanda, another at 
St. Mary's, and a third at what is now the town of 
Rockford. The route suggests that he may have 
continued on into Fort Wayne floating down the 
St. Mary's River to the Maumee and then back down 
the Maumee into Ohio.^^ Working from leases, deed 
registers, tax payments, and similar records, Robert 
Price has identified a regular yearly cycle of travels 
starting from Mansfield in the spring and following 
westward along the southern route to care for his 
leased nurseries, but returning to Mansfield each 
August . 

Although the first documentary evidence of 


Chapman's presence in Fort Wayne dates from April 
and May 1834, when John paid $250 for two parcels 
of land along the Maumee River east of Fort Wayne, ^" 
local traditions place him in Fort Wayne much earlier 
than 1834. John Dawson gave the year as 1830. Helm, 
an early historian of Allen County, said that John 
arrived in 1828 and planted a nursery on the west 
bank of the St. Joseph River north of Fort Wayne. This 
nursery later figured prominently in the dispute over 
the location of Johnny's grave. Dawson mentioned it 
in his letter but no documentary evidence has ever 
been found to confirm its existence. Other, less 
reliable reports place the date of the first visit as 
early as 1822. ^"^ 

In documented records. Fort Wayne appears as 
the westernmost point in John's travels. In legend, 
however, Johnny visited with Daniel Boone in Kentucky 
and Abraham Lincoln in Illinois. He planted nurseries 
in southern Michigan and sang folk songs in northern 
Missouri. Robert Price reported a letter from a 
California woman seriously claiming that Johnny 
planted the first orchards in her state. Eben Chapman 
claimed that his father and Johnny once made a trip to 
Kansas, tying the tails of their horses together to 
avoid becoming separated while swimming across the 
Mississippi River. '^° 

The only written hint of a western journey is 
contained in a letter to A . Banning Norton of Knox 
County, Ohio from a former resident then living in 
Whitesides County, Illinois. The letter stated that in 
the fall of 1843 Johnny Appleseed passed through the 
county on his way from Iowa to a Swedenborgian 
Convention in Philadelphia.'^" However, there is no 
evidence that John was ever in Iowa, and he did not 
attend the Swedenborgian Convention."*^ 

By 1836, Johnny had completed his move from 
Mansfield to Fort Wayne. From that time on he 


considered himself a resident of Allen County, Indi- 
ana.^^ He continued to visit in Ohio every summer 
up until a year or two before his death, keeping up 
many of his nurseries and visiting old friends. The 
most lasting portrait of him as a saintly, white- 
haired, ragged old man was developed during these 
years and applied to the earlier stories, so that even 
in the stories of his early adventures he seems to 
appear old and worn. ^ 

In Indiana John bought five fairly large parcels 
of land for which records have been found. Besides 
the two plots already mentioned on the Maumee, John 
bought seventy -four acres in Wabash Township, Jay 
County; forty acres in Eel River Township, Allen 
County; and another eighteen acres on the Maumee 
River near one of his earlier plots. '*'^ 

Of the three tracts along the Maumee, only one 
was properly developed, but on that one plot of forty - 
two acres, John had a nursery of 15, 000 trees growing 
in 1845. The only other plot which Johnny is known 
to have improved was the one in Jay County. Johnny 
himself worked on this land starting in 1837, boarding 
at the time with Joseph Hill. Also, William Broom, 
who had married John's sister Percis, cleared about 
fifteen acres of land, built a log cabin, and hewed tim - 
ber for a barn on Johnny's land."*^ Since the Brooms 
lived nearby, it has been suspected that Johnny, by now 
almost seventy, was planning to move to Jay County. ^^ 
If this was Johnny's intention, death claimed him be- 
fore he could see it realized. 



Not even historians, let alone the storytellers, 
can agree on the circumstances of Johnny's death. 
According to the usual story, John was working at a 
nursery twenty miles from Fort Wayne when word 
was brought that cattle had broken into a nursery in 
Allen County. Johnny immediately set off to protect 
his trees, walking the entire distance in one day. On 
reaching Fort Wayne, John applied for lodging at the 
home of a Mr. Worth, but overcome by his exertions, 
he died during the night, or, as some say, after a 
short illness. 

The date of Johnny's death can be established 
with reasonable certainty. In 1934 his obituary notice 
was rediscovered in the March 22, 1845, edition of 
the Fort Wayne Sentinel by Miss Eva Peck of the 
Fort Wayne Public Library. The obituary reads 
in pait, "Died- -in this city onTuesday last (March 18) 
Mr. Thomas Mc Janet ... On the same day, in this 
neighborhood, at an advanced age, Mr. John Chapman 
(better known by the name of Johnny Appleseed.)" 
After a few laudatory remarks the notice concluded, 
"His death was quite sudden. We saw him on our 
streets only a day or two previous." 

The fact that the Sentinel did not give the exact 
date of death has supported the belief that the actual 
date was the "Tuesday last" of the previous week, 
March 11. However, the Fort Wayne Times and 
Peoples Press of March 22, also ran an obituary, not 
of John, but of the Thomas Mcjanet referred to by the 
Sentinel with these words, "Died- -In this city on the 
18th . . . Mr. Thomas Mcjanet." This confirms that 
John did indeed die on March 18, 1845. 

The circumstances of his death have not been 
so neatly confirmed. Nearly all accounts agree that 



John died of a disease which Dawson called the 
"winter plague," probably a form of pneumonia. 
Nearly all agree that he died at the home of a 
Mr. Worth in St. Joseph Township near the St. Joseph 
River . 

Early and traditional accounts placed this home 
on the west side of the river near the feeder canal 
and stated that the burial took place in the Archer 
Cemetery."*^ This is the site which was marked in 
1916 by the Indiana Horticultural Society. It has been 
developed into the present Johnny Apple seed Park. 
"When a commission was formed in 1934 to improve 
the memorial at the Archer gravesite,a rivalclaimant 
came forward. A considerable amount of tradition 
and some evidence was produced which seemed to 
indicate that the Worth cabin and John Chapman's 
grave were on the east side of the river on a farm 
later owned by Wesley S. Roebuck.^" Roebuck spent 
many years tracking down witnesses, relatives of 
early pioneers, and evidence to support his case. He 
and his researchers located much of the documentary 
evidence relating to Johnny Appleseed's activities in 
the Fort Wayne area. As with most of the other 
stories which grew up around Johnny, there was just 
enough fact and logic behind the Roebuck version to 
make it ring true. A look at the development of this 
controversy gives a prime example of how the latest 
Johnny Appleseed myth was created. 

The Christian name of the "Mr. Worth" has 
never been reliably established. Proponents of the 
Archer burial site pointed to the Dawson letter which 
stated that Johnny died "at the house of William 
Worth ... on the land now owned by Jesse Cole." 
Roebuck uncovered evidence which seemed to indicate 
that Johnny died at the home of a Richard Worth and that 
this home was east of the river on the Roebuck farm . 
Neither faction was able to produce any documentary 


Documented nurserie 

of John Chapman 

evidence, although Roebuck was able to prove the 
existence of a Worth family on the east bank of 
the river around 1845 from registers of deeds. 

Our own investigations in preparing this pamph- 
let have shown that the Worths were a large family 
group, members of which lived on both sides of the 
St. Joseph River. In 1840, a Richard Worth was 
living east of the river on or near the land later owned 
by Roebuck. A David Worth was living west of the 
river on or near land which was later owned by Jesse 
Cole."*^ The 1840 census does not indicate where 
William Worth was living, although church records 
show that he was in the area at the time.^^ 

Some of Roebuck's evidence was based on tradi- 
tions handed down in the family of Christian Parker, 
an early pioneer who had owned a sawmill near the 
disputed site. Parker claimed to have sawn the boards 
from which Johnny's coffin was made. The major 
foundation of the Roebuck case was the testimony of 
Eben Miles Chapman, who claimed to be a grandson 
of Andrew Chapman, brother of Johnny Appleseed. 
Eben Chapman's testimony was especially convincing 
as he pointed out the location of the Worth cabin, the 
graveyard, a spring, and an abandoned road. Descen- 
dants of Christian Parker were contacted and swore 
statements telling how the story of Johnny's burial in 
the eastern plot had been handed down in the family. 
Some of them visited the Roebuck farm and pointed 
out the supposed gravesite. 

Nor were the Archer supporters idle. Descen- 
dants of Christian Parker were contacted and swore 
statements telling how the story of Johnny's burial in 
the Archer Cemetery had been handed down in the 


family. "-'-^ Researchers discovered and published a 
letter written in 1903 by the grandson of David Archer, 
locating the Worth home on the Leo Road west of the 
river on Jesse Cole's land. 


The controversy raged hotter. The daughter of 
a man who helped build Johnny's coffin identified the 
site on the Roebuck farm where her father had told 
her Johnny was buried. The son of the man who got 
paid for building the coffin claimed his father told him 
that he, personally, buried Johnny at the Archer site. 
An old neighbor identified a site on the west bank as 
the Worth cabin. Broken pottery and rotted timbers 
were found on the site. Roebuck excavated a site on 
his farm and found broken pottery and rotted timbers. 

At the height of the controversy, Mrs. Mary Anna 
Wellsh came forward to declare that she was the 
niece of Johnny Appleseed, that his real name was 
John Sheffield, and that he was actually buried some- 
where near New Haven. 

In December 1934 the Johnny Appleseed Com- 
mission rendered its final verdict . The Archer site 
was confirmed. The Roebuck faction appealed to the 
American Pomological Society. 

Both sides spent the ensuing few years devel- 
oping evidence and consolidating their positions, and, 
at times the controversy became quite bitter. In 
1942, after seven years of study, the Pomological 
Society made its report. It accepted the Roebuck site. 
Strangely enough, there was no immediate explosion 
of reaction. For one thing, World War II had directed 
people's minds elsewhere. For another, new evi- 
dence had come to light, although it apparently had 
not been taken into account by the Pomological Society. 

In 1939, after considerable research, Florence 
Wheeler, public librarian of Leominster, Massachu- 
setts, succeeded in producing a documented lineage 
of John Chapman's ancestors and relatives. This 
evidence showed that Roebuck's star witness, Eben 
Miles Chapman, was mistaken in his most basic 
testimony. Eben Chapman had claimed to be de- 
scended from an Andrew Chapman, brother of Johnny, 


but Miss Wheeler's evidence proved that John had no 
brother Andrew, and the bulk of the Roebuck testimony 
was thus discredited. What remained was mostly- 
hearsay, and conflicting hearsay testimony was readily 
available to counteract it. A conflicting genealogy, 
produced by Mrs. Roebuck, ^^ which did trace Eben 
Chapman back to an Andrew Chapman, brother of 
John, was based on "family records and memories" 
and was given no more consideration than it de- 
served . ^"^ The Pomological Society report was largely 
ignored. The discredited Roebuck version has never- 
theless been printed as fact in a number of books 
and articles and has been used in some tellings 
of the folk legend of Johnny Appleseed. 

Nevertheless, neither Johnny's death nor burial 
site can be regarded as conclusively proved. There 
is a body of circumstantial evidence which still sug- 
gests that the death took place on the east side of the 
river on or near the land which later became the 
Roebuck farm. The Worths were established on the 
east bank of the St. Joseph River, as were the Parkers 
and other families associated with the funeral. John 
himself had several plots of land along the Maumee 
east of the St. Joseph, but there is no hard evidence 
for the supposed nursery on the Archer farm. The 
only man whom documentary evidence connects with 
the death and burial, Samuel C. Fletter who was paid 
for building John's coffin, lived east of the river. Most 
important, a statement by Richard Worth, recorded 
only thirteen years after the event and interpreted in 
light of our existing knowledge, seems to indicate 
that Johnny died on the land east of the river, even 
though that same statement makes it clear that John 
was buried in the Archer graveyard. 

In view of all this, the most definite conclusion 
we can draw is that Johnny is probably buried some- 
where on the mound in the old Archer Cemetery. He 


is almost certainly not buried at the very top under 
his marker. Samuel Fletter said the grave was on 
the east side, near the foot.^"* In 1914, John Archer 
located it "on the side of the hill, several feet south- 
west of the crest, "5^ even though fourteen years 
earlier, he himself had written, "at this time I doubt 
that any person could . . . come within fifty feet of 
pointing out his grave. "^" 

In the absence of documented facts, the story- 
tellers have turned Johnny's death and burial into a 
beautiful and touching tale of his last supper with 
the Worths; the reading of the Bible, especially the 
Beatitude "Blessed are the pure in heart;" the old 
man dying calmly and at peace with the world; the 
neighbors coming for miles to hear the funeral 
sermon; the pallbearers chosen from among the most 
prominent men in town; and, of course, the apple 
blossoms drifting silently down upon the coffin. 

This was a beautiful ending for the legend, but 
it was almost certainly not true. None of the men 
named as pallbearers, Thomas Swinney, Judge Thomp- 
son, or Henry Rudisill, ever mentioned the funeral 
in any writings which have come down to us. John H. 
Archer, grandson of David Archer, who may have 
attended the funeral, listed the names of the families 
present but did not mention any pallbearers or give 
any indication of an elaborate funeral service.^' 
Richard Worth, whom Pershing and others have 
named as the "well-known Methodist circuit -rider" 
who preached the funeral sermon, was, in fact, a 
Baptist elder who had been excluded from his church 
in a factional dispute the year previously. ^° Finally, 
the gently floating apple blossoms were only another 
fabrication. Johnny was buried soon after March 18, 
1845. The first apple blossoms in the Fort Wayne 
area that year did not bloom until April 17.^^ 



1. Birth record of John Chapman. City Clerk's 
Office, Leominster, Massachusetts. "John Chapman 
Sun of Nathanael and Elizabeth Chapman Born at 
Leominster September ye 26th 1774." 

2. Located "at the fork in South Nashua Street, 
Leominster, Massachusetts." 

3. Robert Price, Johnny Apple seed , Man and 
Myth (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954), 
p. 16. 

4. Vital Records of Leominster, Massachu- 
setts (Worcester: Franklin Price, 1911), pp. 37, 301. 

5. Richard Storrs, Proceedings at the Centen- 
nial Celebration of Longmeadow (Hartford, 1883), 
p7223^ ~ ' . .; 

6. Florence E.Wheeler. "John Chapman's Line 
of Descent from Edward Chapman of Ipswich, " Ohio 
Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 48 (1939): 
28-33. ' 

7. Letter from Clifford K. Shipton, Custodian 
of the Harvard University Archives, to Kenneth 
Dirlam, quoted in Dirlam, John Chapman (Mansfield: 
Richland County Historical Society, 1954), p. 19. 

8. Harlan Hatcher et al., Johnny Appleseed: 
A Voice in the Wilderness (Paterson, N. J.: The 
Swedenborg Press, 1947), p. 50. 

9. J. S. Schenck and W. S. Rann, History 


of Warren County , Pennsylvania (Syracuse, 1887), 
pp. 153-154. Copied from the Warren, Ledger, 1853. 

10. J. H. Newton, History of Venago County, 
Pennsylvania (Columbus: J. A. Caldwell, 1879)~ 

11. Federal Census of 1800, Venago County, 
Pennsylvania, p. 593. 

12. Johnny never paid off the two notes. Copies 
were presented as claims against his estate after his 
death but they were not paid. One of the real 
mysteries about Johnny concerns the Rudd note. 
Elizabeth Rudd's children had died in September, 1803. 
So why did John make this note payable to them? 

13. Henry Baldwin. The Henry R. Baldwin 
Genealogical Records. (Youngstown: The Public 
Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 1963), 

14. Price, Johnny Appleseed, pp. 28-29. 

15. Hatcher, Johnny Appleseed, p. 49. 

16. Price, Johnny Appleseed , p. 51. 

17. Merit Students Encyclopedia (1967), s.v. 

18. Alice A. Martin, All About Apples (Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976), p. 48. 

19. Price, Johnny Appleseed , p. 40. 

20. Ibid. 


21. N. N. Hill, History of Knox County , Ohio 
(Mt. Vernon: A. A. Graham, 1881), pp. 156-157. 
Hill names the early nurserymen in the area and 
gives details of their plantings. He barely mentions 
John, gives no details, and merely says that John did, 
"without doubt, much good." 

22. Price, Johnny Apple seed, pp. 25, 63. 

23. John Chapman Estate Papers, 11, Allen 
County Clerk's Office, Fort Wayne. 

24. Price, Johnny Apple seed, p. 285. 

25. Israel Ward Andrews, "McMaster on Our 
Early Money," Magazine of Western History 4 (1886): 

141-150. ~~~ '., . .-r: .. , .- -. 

26. Dirlam, John Chapman (3ded.), p. 25. 

27. "The Religion of Johnny Appleseed," in 
Hatcher, Johnny Appleseed, pp. 40-41. 

28. Society for Printing, Publishing and Circu- 
lating the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Report 
(Manchester, Eng: Jan. 14, 1817). . - ' 

29. Quoted Hatcher, Johnny Appleseed, p. 50. 

30. William Schlatter, Some Letters of William 
Schlatter 1814 to 1825, typescript, Cambridge, Mass. , 
New Church Theological School Library, letter dated 
November 18, 1822. 

31. Ibid., letter dated March 20, 1820. 

32. Authority for the pasteboard hat and the 


description of it is Rosella Rice, quoted in Henry 
Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio, 1891 ed 
p. 485. ~ 

33. None of the writers who claimed to have 
known or seen Johnny mentions the tin pot hat. The 
first recorded mention of the hat is in Howe, Histori- 
cal Collections of Ohio , 1847 ed. It is not known 
where Howe got his information. 

' 34. A. Banning Norton, History of Knox County 
(Columbus: Richard Nevins, 1862), p.~140^ 

' ' 35. Price, Johnny Appleseed , pp. 198-199. 

36. Entered at the Fort Wayne Land Office 
April 28, 1934 (fractional SE 1/4 N of M Sec. 28. 
Twp 3 N Range 14 E 42.11 acres) and May 23, 1834 
(fractional SE 1/4 Sec. 3 Twp 3 N Range 15 E 99.03 
acres). Robert Harris located a tract book contain- 
ing these entries in the Allen County Auditor's Office 
before 1955. 

37. William Glines, Johnny Appleseed by One 
Who Knew Him , (Columbus, 1922), p. 8. 

38. "John Chapman's Kin Points Out Grave and 
Cabin," Fort Wayne Journal - Gazette , December 10, 

39. Norton, Knox County , p. 135. 

' 40. Price, Johnny Appleseed, p. 218, quoting 
records of the New Church convention. 

' 41. In deeds, land applications, and other 
documents John listed his place of residence. By the 


mid -1830s, he was giving his residence as Allen 
County, Indiana. Probate proceedings after his death 
treated him as a resident of Allen County. 

42. Price, Johnny Appleseed, p. 225. 

43. Entered at the Fort Wayne Land Office 
March 10, 1836. (East fraction of SE 1/4 Sec. 4, 
Twp 31 N Range 15 E 18.7 acres.) 

Entered at the Fort Wayne Land Office March 11, 
1836. (SE fraction of NW 1/4 Section 3, Twp 24 N, 
Range 15 E 74.04 acres Jay County.) ,. ;■ '•^..^rim-r.r-.r^. 
Entered at the Fort Wayne Land Office May 16, 1838. 
(SE 1/4 of NW 1/4 Section 22, Twp 32 N, Range 11 E 
40 acres.) 

44. John Chapman Estate Papers, 6. 


45. Ibid., 4, 15. ,. . ;- , , -^ lui'r:;..^]) 

46. John had lived with the Brooms at Perrys- 
ville and later at Mansfield. Whatever home he had 
seems to have been with his sister, 

47. Most of these were based upon the Dawson 
letter and a series of letters written by John Archer 
in the early 1900s. 

48. Those interested in the development of the 
Roebuck version should consult the Roebuck Papers, 
the evidence, affidavits, and analyses compiled by 
Wesley Roebuck. They are available in typescript 
and microfilm versions at the Allen County- Fort 
Wayne Historical Society. ; ,.^l; ', ) ^,"-j\a _rjj to ?' luoo'i 

49. These names appear in the 1840 Federal 
Census of Allen County. Sincethe census was arranged 


in the order in which the census -taker visited the 
various families, it can be assumed that families 
whose names appear in close proximity on the census 
sheet also lived relatively near each other. In Wash- 
ington Township, the following names appear in this 
order: William Gloyd (Andrew Worth married Sarah 
Gloyd Jan. 11, 1843); David Worth; Jesse Cole; David 
Archer. In St. Joe Twp, the following names appear 
in order: Samuel C. Flutter; David Poland (Daniel 
Poland); Richard Worth. Elsewhere on the same 
page is the name Christian Parker. 

50. After considerable research into the rela- 
tionships of the Worth family, we have uncovered a 
few new facts and have formed some tentative con- 
clusions. Our findings and suppositions appear in 
the Appendix. 

51. Sworn affidavits of George A. Parker Sep- 
tember 6, 1934); Peter Parker (September 10, 1934); 
and William Parker (September 6, 1934) obtained by 
the Johnny Appleseed Memorial Commission. Now in 
the files of the Fort Wayne Public Library. 

52. Lizzie Roebuck, Genealogy of the Chapman 
Family: Relatives of John Chapman ( Johnny Apple - 
seed )~(Fort Wayne,~T947.) 

53. It also appears that some of the Roebuck 
affidavits were altered. The earliest affidavits pub- 
lished by the Roebucks claimed that Johnny died at 
the home of a Levi Worth according to the informants. 
When it became clear that no Levi Worth existed in 
the area at the time of Johnny's death. Roebuck 
accused H. B. Essex, his sales manager who had 
gathered the affidavits, of changing them to fit his 
own ideas (see the Roebuck Papers), and relieved 


Essex of his information -gathering duties. The 
Johnny Appleseed Memorial Commission also obtained 
an affidavit from Theodore Ashley, brother of Sarah 
Anne Doctor, one of Roebuck's early informants. 
Ashley swore that he was present when his sister's 
statement was taken and that "the statement originally 
signed was changed, added to and modified and that 
a number of statements contained therein were 
not made by affiant's (Ashley's) sister." Ashley's 
affidavit is now in the possession of the Fort Wayne 
Public Library. 

54. Quoted in Dawson's letter to the Fort Wayne 
Sentinel , October 21 and 23, 1871. ~~~~. 

55. Letter from Leonard Brandt to Cliff Milnor, 
/'Lines and Angles," Fort Wayne Journal -Gazette, 

November 19, 1964. Brandt was the Journal -Gazette 
photographer who photographed John Archer in 1914 
when the latter visited the Archer graveyard for the 
purpose of locating the gravesite. Brandt distinctly 
remembered the site John Archer pointed out as 
being "several feet from the crest." 

56. Letter from John H. Archer to O. P. Morgan, 
October 4, 1900, in A. J. Baughman, History of Rich- 
land County, Ohi^ (Chica^^ S.J. Clarke, 1908)7p. 217. 

57. Ibid . 

58. First Baptist Church, Records Book B, 
Entry under date April 20, 1844, Fort Wayne Public 
Library . 

59. Rapin Andrews, Diary, Entry for April 17, 
1845. Manuscript Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana 
State Library, 



Where did Johnny Appleseed die? 
Where is he buried? 

Any attempt to locate John Chapman's death and 
burial sites through deductive processes must proceed 
from an investigation of the members of the Worth 
family, to determine their names and places of resi- 

Most researchers have not recognized that there 
were several adult male Worths living in Allen County 
in 1845. We identified at least fifteen Worths, all 
related by birth or marriage, known to have resided 
in the area before 1845. At least two, probably three, 
and perhaps even four were married, heads of house- 
holds by the time that Johnny Appleseed died at one of 
their homes. The problem is somewhat complicated 
by the fact that two of the men bore the same name, 
Richard. Following is a list of the Worths, with birth 
and death dates where known: 

Richard Worth, Sr. b. 1780-1790 d. June, 1845 

Elizabeth Worth, Sr. b.l786 d.l869 

David Worth b.May 12, 1808 d.June 1, 1851 

Mahala Worth b.l817 

William Worth b. 1811 will dated 

Feb. 24, 1866 

Andrew Worth b.July 12, 1814 d. Sept. 6, 1896 

Sarah (Gloyd) Worth b. Sept. 26, 1824 d. Sept. 22, 1917 

John Worth b.l820 


Richard Worth, Jr. b.l822* d. Early 1864 

Nancy Worth b.l831 d.Jan.20, 1893 

Elizabeth (Worth) Noah b.l826 

James Worth ,...»/; 

Hanna Worth 

Agnes (Worth) Welch 

Polly Worth -i: * 

We found no mention of other Worth names 
prior to 1845. The 1850 census lists several more 
Worths who are identifiable as minor children of one 
of the above. It also lists a Mary Worth, age 24, and 
an Ellen Worth, age 4, living in the household of John 
and Rebecca (DeHaven) Worth. John and Rebecca 
were married only two months before the census was 
taken, so Ellen must be the child of Mary. Ellen's 
father is not known. It is possible that Mary was 
another Worth sister or sister-in-law, widowed, 
divorced, or deserted by Ellen's father. 

The family relationships among the various 
Worths have never been made clear, but we have 
formed some conclusions based on evidence un- 
covered while preparing this pamphlet. This new 
evidence has come from census returns, wills, deed 
registers, probate records, and the record books of 
the First Baptist Church of Fort Wayne, which num- 
bered many of the Worths among its early member- 
ship. For the first time, it is now possible to draw 

* The 1850 census lists Richard's age as 28; 
giving a probable birth date some time in 1822. In the 
1860 census, Richard's age is given as 40, requiring 
a birth date in 1820. If the latter figure is true, 
Richard may have been a twin to John, but, more 
probably, Richard simply rounded off his age in the 
1860 enumeration, a common practice at the time. 



Johnny Apple seed. 
(HARPER'S MAGAZINE, November, 1871) 

conclusions about the death and burial of Johnny 
Appleseed, based on a relatively large body of factual 
information about the people reported to have been 
most closely involved. 

Richard Worth, Sr. was the patriarch of the 
clan. He was the father of most, if not all, of the 
Worths in the above list. James Worth was either 
the brother or one of the elder sons of Richard, Sr. 
James Worth was not involved in the Johnny Appleseed 
story, having left the Fort Wayne area several years 
before Johnny died. His account with the trading firm 
of Hamilton and Taber was closed in 1837 with the 
notation, "runoff." He owed a total of $49.39. 

David, William, Andrew, John, Richard, Jr., 
Elizabeth, Jr., Agnes, Hanna, and Polly were prob- 
ably the children of Richard, Sr. Because of the 
uncertainty about the relationship between Richard, Sr. 
and James Worth, there is some chance, but absolutely 
no evidence, that one or more of these could have 
been the children, or wife, of James Worth who 
stayed on with Richard after James left the Fort 
Wayne area. 

We have determined the relationships among 
some of the Worths on our list. Mahala was Mrs. 
David Worth, according to the 1850 census of Whitley 
County, Indiana. The date of the marriage is not 
known, but they had a son, James Louis Worth, born 
July 10, 1836. Andrew Worth married a Sarah Gloyd 
on January 11, 1843. A Gloyd family lived next door 
to David Worth at the time of the 1840 census. Nancy 
Worth was the wife of Richard, Jr. Again the date 
of the marriage is not known so it is possible that 
Nancy was a member of the family in 1845, and she 
is listed accordingly. Richard and Nancy had a son, 
David Lewis Worth, born at Lorane, Indiana on Janu- 
ary 13, 1849. John and William Worth were both 
married after 1845. John married Rebecca DeHaven 


on March 27, 1850 in Fort Wayne. The only marriage 
record which has been found for William Worth shows 
that he married Sarah Baxter on September 17, 1858 
in DeKalb County with Richard Worth officiating as 
Justice of the Peace. At the time, William was forty- 
seven years old, but there is no evidence that he had 
been married previously. Elizabeth Worth, Jr. married 
Lyell Noah and was living in Washington Township at 
the time of the 1850 census. Although we have un- 
covered no direct proof, we believe that Elizabeth, Sr. 
was the wife of Richard, Sr. Elizabeth was the only 
female Worth known to have been of approximately 
the same age as Richard. After Richard died and the 
other Worth men moved away, Elizabeth stayed on 
until her death in 1869, living with Lyell and Elizabeth 
Noah who would then have been her daughter and son- 
in -law . 

Some confusion does still exist regarding the 
relationship among Richard, Sr., David, William, 
and Richard, Jr. Some accounts suggest that Richard, 
Sr., William, and David were brothers. Also, Robert 
Price, in his biography, Johnny Apple seed, Man and 
Myth, identifies Richard, Jr. as the son of William 
Worth. We believe that the confusion has stemmed 
from two sources: The general lack of information 
as to the number of Worths present in the area; and 
a statement by Thomas B. Helm, author of an early 
and usually quite accurate history of Allen County 
that, among the founders of the First Baptist Church 
were "Richard Worth and his brothers David and 
William and their wives." The church records make 
it clear that Richard, Sr. was a founding member 
along with David and William, but that Richard, Jr. 
was admitted to membership by baptism several days 
later . 

Nevertheless, we have learned that William, 
David, Richard, Jr., Andrew, and John were of the 


second -generation Worths in the area and we believe 
that they were all brothers, the sons of Richard, Sr. 
We know that their ages are distributed as we might 
expect in a father -son relationship. Richard, Sr. was 
born during the decade 1780-1790. Thus he was no 
younger than eighteen when David was born in 1808 
and no older than forty -two when Richard, Jr. was 
born in 1822. By contrast, David, the oldest of the 
"second -generation" was only fourteen when Richard, 
Jr., the youngest, was born. Obviously, Richard, Jr. 
can only have been the son of Richard, Sr. This is 
the relationship which will prove to be of prime im - 
portance in determining in whose home John Chapman 

There is other evidence which supports our 
conclusions about this relationship. On February 24, 
1866, in Butler, DeKalb County, William Worth wrote 
his last will and testament. In this document, William 
bequeathed to David Lewis Worth, the son and heir of 
Richard, Jr. who had died two years earlier, "all my 
right, title, and interest in and to the use of the patent 
shingle machine which I bought of my brother Richard 
in the county of Whitley, in the state of Indiana." 
Richard, Jr. lived in Whitley County, off -and -on, for 
many years; we could find no evidence that Richard, Sr. 
ever even visited the county. 

William Worth's testament provides other, rather 
circumstantial, evidence that he and Richard, Jr. 
were brothers. Having given his rights to the shingle 
machine to David Lewis, William left all the rest of 
his worldly goods to "my beloved sister, Mrs. Nancy 
Worth." Nancy Worth was the widow of Richard, Jr. 
and thus William ' s sister -in -law . If William had been 
the brother of Richard, Sr., Nancy would have been 
his niece. 


The Worths came to Fort Wayne from Ohio in 
1836 or 1837. Their records in the account books of 
Hamilton and Taber suggest that they were loggers 
supplying timber for the sawmills in the county, in- 
cluding perhaps the one operated by Christian Parker. 
They did not generally purchase land in Allen County, 
apparently preferring to rent cabins near their work 
sites or perhaps to live as squatters on the property 
of some absentee landowner. 

Only one parcel of land in Allen County is known 
to have been owned by one of the Worths. On Octo- 
ber 3, 1840, Andrew Worth bought a 40 -acre plot near 
the center of St. Joseph Township for $80. 00. On Octo- 
ber 12, he resold it to John Worth for that same 
amount. John held it until November 21, 1846 when 
he sold it to a John Gorig. Thus it can be shown that 
at least one member of the Worth family group owned 
land at the time John Chapman died --and east of the 
river in St. Joseph Township no less --but this land 
was located well back from the river and no one has 
yet suggested that Johnny Appleseed died or was 
buried on this particular plot. 

At the time the 1840 census was taken, a Richard 
Worth, almost certainly Richard, Sr., was living 
east of the St. Joseph River, in St. Joseph Township, 
on or near the land which later became the Roebuck 
farm. David Worth was living west of the river in 
Washington Township on or near the land which was 
later owned by Jesse Cole. Judging from the census 
data and from the very specific locations established 
by Dawson, John Archer, and Wesley Roebuck and 
confirmed by on-site digging, the two Worth cabins 
were directly across the river from each other, no 
more than one -quarter to one -half mile apart and 
perhaps even within shouting distance. The 1840 
census does not list any other Worths as heads of 
households, making it impossible to tell for certain 


where William was living at the time. 

It is difficult to reconcile the returns of the 1840 
census with the known facts about the Worth family. 
The 1840 census listed only the head of the household 
by name. Members of the household were indicated 
only by noting the number of persons who fell into 
various categories of age and sex. By matching dates 
and known relationships with the census data, we can 
determine that the David Worth household was com - 
posed of David (age 32); Mahala, his wife (age 23); 
two young sons, James Louis (age 4) and another whose 
name is unknown; and one other man (age 20-30). 
William, Andrew, John, and possibly Richard, Jr. 
could all fit these characteristics. 

In the Richard Worth household, it is much 
more difficult to assign names to the check marks. 
The household consisted of Richard (age 50 to 60); 
Elizabeth (age 54); two females (age 10 to 15), one 
of whom should have been Elizabeth (Jr.); another 
female (age 15 to 20); and three males (age 30 to 40). 
This last figure seems suspect. It is, after all, an 
unlikely distribution of ages in any family. It does 
seem more reasonable to assume that William C. 
Scott, the census -taker, making an entry on the 29th 
line of a long page of figures, simply miscalculated 
by one column and that the correct entry should 
read, "Males age 20 -30, 3." This interpretation would 
come much closer to fitting the actual ages of the 
Worth family members known to have been in the 
area at the time. 

The most useful single piece of information we 
uncovered in our research was found in the record 
books of the First Baptist Church. Richard Worth, Sr. 
died in June, 1845. Obviously then, the Richard Worth 
who filed a claim against John's estate for last 
sickness, funeral, and coffin expenses on August 19, 
1845 and who, in 1858, told the particulars of Johnny's 


death to the Reverend Thomas McGaw was Richard, Jr. 

If we are to make some definite statement pin- 
pointing the death and burial sites of John Chapman, 
we must base that statement on evidence of the 
highest possible quality. In evaluating any piece of 
evidence, we must consider three factors: opportunity, 
motive, and consistency. Did the informant have 
close, personal access to the information? Did he 
stand to receive any personal gain from his testimony? 
Does the evidence given remain consistent with itself 
and with other facts which can be documented inde- 

None of the testimonies usually quoted is totally 
consistent with the known facts in every detail. 
Nevertheless, the best evidence available would 
appear to be the statement which Richard Worth, Jr. 
made in 1858 in Butler, Indiana, then called Norristown. 
Richard was interviewed by his friend Thomas N. 
McGaw on behalf of Reverend James F. M'Gaw who 
was writing a novel in which Johnny Appleseed was to 
play a minor role. The Rev. M'Gaw elaborated upon 
and greatly romanticized the details furnished to him 
and, indeed, almost singlehandedly invented the myth 
of Johnny's tender, touching deathbed scene. The 
original letter from James McGaw was published in 
the Mansfield Ohio Liberal in August, 1873. Other 
testimonies commonly referred to are John W. 
Dawson's letter to the Fort Wayne Sentinel published 
in 1871; several letters written by John H. Archer, 
grandson of David Archer who owned the Archer 
graveyard, which were published at various times 
around 1900; and the oral and written testimonies of 
a number of Wesley Roebuck's informants, recorded 
in the period from 1920 to 1942. All other accounts 


of John's death and burial appear to be derived from 
one or more of the above . 

McGaw's report of Richard Worth's statement 
in 1858 contains versions of several common Apple - 
seed stories plus one or two for which it seems to be 
the original source. In only one short paragraph 
does McGaw quote Richard Worth directly but that 
paragraph directly addresses both questions of where 
Johnny died and where he was buried. McGaw wrote, 
" 'We buried him,' said Mr. Worth, 'respectably in 
David Archer's graveyard, two and one half miles 
north of Fort Wayne, he having died at my father's 
house, which to him was a comfortable and welcome 
home in his old age. ' " 

In chronological order, the second -earliest 
evidence is contained in the Dawson letter of October, 
1871. Dawson wrote his letter in response to an 
article about Johnny Appleseed in Harper's New 
Monthly Magazine. Dawson corrected factual errors 
in the Harper's account, related several stories of 
John's activities in and around Fort Wayne, and stated, 
"Johnny Appleseed died on the 11th of March, 1845, at 
the house of William Worth, in St. Joseph Township, 
Allen County, Indiana, on the land now owned by Jesse 
Cole, on the Feeder Canal. He was buried a reason- 
able time thereafter in a beautiful natural mound at 
the family burying ground set apart by David Archer . " 

Around 1900, when interest in Johnny Appleseed 
began to be rekindled, John H. Archer wrote several 
letters to various persons and newspapers setting 
forth his recollections of John. His statement most 
often quoted was included in a letter written to the 
Fort Wayne Journal - Gazette on March 22, 1903. He 
wrote, "He died 57 years ago at the home of David 
and William Worth a few rods northeast of the present 
home of Edward Pfeiffer, on the Leo Road, three 
miles north of Fort Wayne, and was laid to rest in 


Stone markers erected by W. S. Roebuck 
to mark the supposed locations of the 
Richard Worth cabin (top) and Johnny 
Appleseed's cabin (bottom). 

grandfather's private burying grounds." 

The most recent testimonies are those solicited 
by Wesley Roebuck. These were based on stories 
handed down among some of the early families of 
St. Joseph Township, some of which had been filtered 
through three generations before Roebuck recorded 
them . Roebuck was able to locate some informants 
who were alive at the time Johnny was buried and who 
claimed to have attended the funeral or visited 
the gravesite. The various testimonies elicited by 
Roebuck differed somewhat, as might be expected, 
but did enable Roebuck to locate the remains of a 
cabin and an apparent burying place at the sites indi- 
cated by some of the informants. 

In evaluating the testimonies, it is easiest to 
dispose of the Roebuck evidence. It cannot be proved 
that any of the Roebuck witnesses was present at the 
death or burial; in fact, Roebuck's principal witness, 
Eben Miles Chapman who even claimed to be a grand- 
nephew of Johnny, was not related to John at all. But 
much more damaging was the internal inconsistency 
of the Roebuck evidence. Early in his investigations. 
Roebuck attempted to show that John died at the home 
of a Hiram Worth. When this proved impossible, he 
fixed on the name Levi Worth and finally, as more 
facts became clear, settled on Richard. Roebuck 
showed a certain enthusiastic but uncritical accep- 
tance of evidence and there is evidence to show that 
Roebuck, or his researchers, would, on occasion, 
change or alter evidence to improve its coincidence 
with their theories. The best that can be said for 
the Roebuck investigation is that it uncovered a few 
really important documentable facts;* it provided the 

* Roebuck and his researchers should be credited 
with discovering the Chapman estate papers, the 


impetus for a general investigation which brought to 
light a good many more documentable facts; and it 
probably located within some fairly exact boundaries, 
the cabin in which Richard Worth, Sr. was living at 
the time of the 1840 census. 

John Archer's testimony is more difficult to 
evaluate. He was wrong about the date of John's 
death; but so was every other witness, bar none. The 
striking features of his testimony are the precise 
location of the "home of David and William Worth" 
and his insistence that John was buried in the Archer 
graveyard. If John Archer's testimony can be faulted, 
it would have to be on grounds of his access to the 
events. Archer was only eight years old when Johnny 
died. He did not set down his recollections until 
fifty -six years later and he may have been influenced 
somewhat by other stories and memories in the 

John Dawson's testimony is the most compre- 
hensive and the most widely quoted. It is also easily 
the most confusing and the most prone to error. 
Dawson had obviously done some research, talked 
to Samuel Fletter, and checked the Chapman estate 
papers. His research must have been hurried; his 
letter appeared in the Fort Wayne Sentinel on Octo- 
ber 21 and 23 in response to an article in the No- 
vember issue of Harper's. Throughout his account, 
Dawson includes many minute details which make his 
testimony believable; but his work is slipshod, with 
inexplicable mistakes amongst the most useful mate- 
rials. For instance, Dawson gives us our most 
detailed location for Johnny's often - mentioned but 

purchase of land by John and Andrew Worth, and with 
recording much of the local traditions of St. Joseph 


never -documented nursery on the St. Joseph River, the 
nursery he was supposedly hurrying to save when he 
was overcome by his fatal illness. Dawson located 
the nursery "at the northwest corner of the land of 
David Archer on the St. Joseph Road." The location 
noted would have been on the Leo Road. The St .Joseph 
Road ran east of the river, past Richard Worth's 
house. Similarly Dawson misreported the date of 
death as March 11, 1845 with such authority that it 
was sixty years before the true date was discovered. 
For many of his details and personal recollections, 
Dawson is the only authority, but some of his accounts 
have since been independently documented. Dawson 
himself was a local historian and newspaper pub- 
lisher and was seriously trying to determine the facts 
about Johnny Appleseed. Dawson claimed for himself 
no special knowledge about John's death; indeed he 
specifically credited Samuel Fletter as the source of 
much of the information he reported. 

The testimony of Richard Worth, Jr., as re- 
ported by James McGaw, is the least complete of the 
four; yet it contains seven words, mentioned only in 
passing, which give the strongest possible evidence 
for its authenticity. Throughout much of the McGaw 
letter, it is impossible to determine exactly which 
details Richard related to McGaw and which are the 
results of the "much inquiry" to which McGaw alluded 
in his introductory paragraph. In the passage relating 
to John's burial however, McGaw quoted Richard 
Worth directly and it is this direct quote, recorded 
only thirteen years after the event, that forms the 
basis for our conclusions about the sites of John's 
death and burial. Richard Worth stated that John was 
buried in the Archer graveyard and then added, "he 
having died at my father's house." Worth might have 
forgotten many of the details in thirteen years; he, 
like every other witness, might have misremembered 


the date; but it does not seem likely that he would 
have forgotten the name of the member of his own 
family in whose house Johnny Appleseed died. 

Having considered all of the preceding evidence, 
we can state in conclusion that John Chapman, Johnny 
Appleseed, died at the home of Richard Worth, Senior 
and that he was buried somewhere in the Archer burial 
ground . 

We voice this conclusion fully realizing the fact, 
indeed we wish specifically to point out that, while 
there exists no definite proof as yet, the preponder- 
ance of the evidence and the only documentary evidence 
available indicates that Richard Worth, Sr. lived on 
the east bank of the St. Joseph River, on or near the 
land which later became the Roebuck farm. 


''V> -•. ' > rf tZ'-'AW n ?■ ■: :. i ftr AS] 


JAN 97 

Bound -To -Pleasl" N.MANCHESTER,