They called me Johnny Appleseed, but my real name was John Chapman. I was born Sept. 26, 1774, near Leominster, Massachusetts. I was a pretty smart kid, and education made a big difference in my life. When I was 24 or 25, I became a nurseryman. That's someone who works with plants. I liked apple trees, and I planted them on the western side of New York and Pennsylvania. Some of the big orchards you can see there today started with my trees.
I was always looking for new places. In the early 1800s, I was one of the first to explore the rich, fertile lands south of the Great Lakes and west of the Ohio River when they were opened for settlers. They later called it the Northwest Territory - what became the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. I called this big territory home for almost half a century - that's 50 years.
The settlers named me Johnny Appleseed. Some called me the Apple Tree Man, because I had lots of apple trees to sell people so they could have their own orchards.
Here's how I did it: I went into the wilderness with a bag of apple seeds slung over my back. I'd walk around until I found a good place to plant my trees. Of course, I had to clear the land and chop brush and weeds by hand. Then, I'd plant my seeds in nice, neat rows and build a brush fence around them to keep animals from digging them up or eating them before they got a chance to grow. Some of my nurseries were about an acre or so. Others were quite a bit bigger.
I did it all by myself. I wasn't too lonely, though, because I had Indians for friends and wild animals for companions. I believed God would take care of me, and I lived by the Golden Rule: Always treat others as you want to be treated.
There's a story they tell about me that you might like: Once, I was caught in a really bad snowstorm and I took refuge in a big, hollow tree that had fallen to the ground. Boy was I surprised to find a mother bear and her cubs already in there! Still, I needed to get out of the snowstorm, so we just shared that tree all night long.
It wasn't always an easy life, but all I had to do was think about that wilderness filled with the sweet-smelling blossoms of apple trees, and think about how delicious those apples would be to the families who planted them around their log cabins, and I knew it was worth it.
I only charged a few pennies each for my trees, so everyone could afford fresh fruit. Some people had no pennies to spare, so I let them have their trees and told them they could pay me later. Not everybody could, but I had the satisfaction of knowing the trees were growing tall and strong, and that made me happy.
My life wasn't easy, but I loved it. I carried around a stewpot or kettle with me everywhere I went. I didn't eat meat, so I gathered berries and nuts. Sometimes people would give me milk from their dairy cows and potatoes from their gardens. Those were real treats.
Most of the time, I walked on my journeys, but I sometimes used a canoe or raft to help carry my load of seeds and seedlings along the rivers. I'd get those seeds from the cider presses of Pennsylvania, where they used machines to help turn apples into a wonderful drink called apple cider.
I never found a wife nor had children, but I had more friends than most people. Many of my friends were children, like you, who are fun to be around. Their families invited me to dinner at their homes and let me tell stories.
I lived a long, happy life, living in the great outdoors and enjoying the majesty of God's creations, until He called me home on March 18, 1845.
I hope you've enjoyed reading my story, and that you will remember that one person can make a big, big difference in the world. Just think of how many thousands of people planted my trees or ate my apples!
Ask your Mom and Dad if they know who Johnny Appleseed is, and see what they say. Maybe someday, people will be telling the story of your life!