Freedom’s Way lies in the heart of apple country—Johnny Appleseed Country! John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, was born on September 24, 1774 in Leominster, MA. Son of Nathanial Chapman, who served under General Washington in the Continental Army, and his wife, Elizabeth, John Chapman undertook an apprenticeship as an orchardist under Mr. Crawford, who had an apple orchard and began his journey of planting apple trees. As a young man he traveled through the Pennsylvania and Ohio frontier, establishing nurseries and orchards with tart apples that were better used for hard cider and applejack than eating. Fencing his orchards, he left neighbors to tend them, and sell trees on shares. Every few years he would return to tend them.
Far from the random sowing of apple seeds his folk hero persona espouses, Chapman’s planted strategically, and established land claims that upon his death totaled approximately 1,200 acres of valuable land, which he left to his sister. He also owned four plots in Indiana and as well as a nursery, with over 15,000 trees.
His eccentric qualities of a threadbare wardrobe, which often did not include shoes, and a frequent use of a tin pan as a hat, lead to the legendary character and image popular today. Although there are discrepancies between the historical record of John Chapman and the folk hero, he did indeed spread apple seeds and trees into the frontier as the western expansion took place, claiming his place in history as Johnny Appleseed.