ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
3 1833 02975 5003
Gc 977.202 F77appc
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
ABOUT THE COVERS
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
Fort Wayne Public Library
"> ■ (J'
PO Sox 227^^"«M ^
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
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.
I. EARLY YEARS
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-
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.
II. THE OHIO FRONTIER
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
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
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
III. THE SWEDENBORGIAN MISSIONARY
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-
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
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.
IV. MYTHS IN THE MAKING
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
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.
V. WESTWARD TO INDIANA
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
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.
VI. DEATH AND BURIAL
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
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
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
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.^^
NOTES AND REFERENCES
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,
3. Robert Price, Johnny Apple seed , Man and
Myth (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954),
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):
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.
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
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
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
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
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
59. Rapin Andrews, Diary, Entry for April 17,
1845. Manuscript Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana
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 ,...»/;
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
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
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
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
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.
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