“For Johnny (Chapman), October 15, 1799, was like a sudden lapful of scalding tea. His life changed forever.”
Prior to this time, young John Chapman had spent his life in search of his true calling. Looking for a way to infuse his love of God, the outdoors, and people into a life mission, destiny led him to Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, and to William Van Kirk’s cider press:
“ ‘You’re throwing away the apple seeds?’
“ ‘Sad to say we’ve no use for them here, Mr. Chapman [’, said Van Kirk. “] We lack the open space to grow more nursery trees. A shame, for these hungry pioneers appreciate every apple they can find.’
“ Thunder and lightning! Johnny fell to the earth, trembling. Finally, the Spirit of the Lord had shown him the way…
“ On his knees, he spread out his arms and shouted, ‘I shall gather apple seeds and plant them in the borderlands on behalf of the pioneer folk! Thank you! O Lord, thank you for revealing my life’s mission to me!’”
With little more than a bag full of apple seeds, a saucepan that served as his hat, and a Bible tied around his waist, Chapman set out on a fifty plus year journey throughout the wilderness of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and beyond, planting apple orchards and getting to know many pioneer families, soldiers, Indians, and even having a brief meeting with Abraham Lincoln. An outside observer might have found the soon-dubbed “Johnny Appleseed” a bit odd by his appearance and behavior, but to those in the wilderness, Johnny was a gentle life-saver who tried to bring peace and happiness by sharing his own source of joy: the apple.