Today is the birthday of John Chapman, who was born on this day in 1774.
You may never have heard of John Chapman, but you've probably heard of his nickname, Johnny Appleseed.
Chapman was born in Massachusetts, and the street where he was born is now called Johnny Appleseed Lane.
As a young man, Chapman became an apprentice to an orchardist named Crawford. The image most of us have of Chapman, traipsing through the country planting one apple tree at a time is off base. Chapman actually traipsed through the country planting entire apple orchards. He protected the grove by building a fence around it, and then arranging a deal with a neighboring farmer to sell trees from the orchard in exchange for shares. It was a genius setup.
During his life, Chapman had a particular regard for and relationship with Native Americans who regarded him as a medicine man. At the same time, Chapman wanted early American settlers to succeed; he often acted as a one-man welcome wagon, showing up at the door with a gift of herbs as a gesture of support.
For his part, Chapman was an expert in more plants than just apple trees; he was one of our country's first naturalists and herbalists. Chapman used many herbs for healing like catnip, hoarhound, pennyroyal, rattlesnake weed, and dog-fennel. In fact, dog fennel (Eupatorium) was also called "Johnny weed" because Chapman planted it, believing it was antimalarial. Whenever you hear Eupatorium, you can deduce that the plant is closely related to joe-pye weed. Unfortunately, dog fennel was not a good thing to spread around; it's a noxious weed.
The Johnny Appleseed Center on the campus of Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio, holds the most extensive collection of memorabilia and information on Chapman. In 1999, seedlings from the last-known surviving Johnny Appleseed tree were transplanted into the courtyard around the museum.