I did this activity (below) both as a listening and as a reading activity with my Omani writing, reading, and listening students this past week. It is interesting how so few people outside of the USA understand or have heard of the legend of Johnny Appleseed. (The material written below comes from 5 sources–some of which I have cited elsewhere in similar blog articles.)


One of America’s most colorful–and beloved–legends is that of Johnny Appleseed, the kindly and eccentric farmer who spawned the apple industry in Northern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, throughout Indiana, and parts of Illinois & Kentucky. In short, unlike many legends of famous people, his story is largely true. Many people think that Johnny Appleseed was a fictional character, but he was a real person.
Johnny Appleseed was born named John Chapman, and his real story is only slightly less sensational than the legend.

John Chapman was born in 1774, in Leominster Massachusetts, the son of a farmer and Revolutionary soldier, Nathaniel Chapman. His mother died during the war due to tuberculosis. When he was a young man, Chapman’s was apprenticed to a local orchard, which is where he learned all about apples. When he was 18, he left Massachusetts for Western Pennsylvania. Johnny became a skilled nurseryman who grew trees and supplied apple seeds to the pioneers in the mid-western USA.

Although the popular legend has Johnny Appleseed spreading seeds throughout Pennsylvania, the Ohio Valley, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois as a random act of generosity, the truth is that Chapman grew his apple trees for profit, albeit a slender one. His aim was to anticipate the arrival of large communities of settlers to what was, in the early 19th century, the western frontier of the United States. He’d establish a stand of one to two-year-old apple trees and sell them to the settlers for six cents a tree. Chapman established a few bases for his operation, in Western Pennsylvania and later in Richland County Ohio. He’d travel back and forth across the Ohio Valley, planting and tending to his orchards. He owned many tree nurseries in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana, where he grew his beloved apple trees and then sold or traded them. Apple orchards with sour apples were popular among the settlers because apples were used for producing juice and cider. In some periods of the settlement of the midwest, settlers were required by law to plant orchards of apples and pears in order to uphold the right to the claimed land. For these reasons Johnny Appleseed’s pre-planted orchards made for popular real estate on the frontier. Although he was successful with his trees, Appleseed lived a simple life.

John Chapman ascribed to a pacifist religion. This meant that he didn’t believe in war and was seen as a great peacemaker—even between the native American Indians and the settlers, who often fought over land. His faith was based on the writings of Edward Swedenborg, who promoted simple living and individualism. In keeping with these tenets, Chapman is said to have dressed in clothes made of sacks and used a cooking pot as a hat, living off of the land as he traveled. He was also one of the country’s earliest vegetarians.

John Chapman died suddenly of pneumonia on March 18, 1845 at the home of a friend. He had spent 50 years growing apple trees and traveling to spread his precious trees around his country so that people could enjoy apples. He is buried just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The life and work of Johnny Appleseed are still celebrated throughout the region. During the summer months, the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center produces an outdoor drama about the legend of Johnny Appleseed. In addition, several cities host Johnny Appleseed festivals each September. The largest of these is the festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana, near the arborist’s grave. Near Cleveland, Ohio, there is another major annual festival.


Main Idea Question:

(1) What is the main idea of the first paragraph? (2 Points)


(2) What is the main idea of the fourth paragraph? (2 Points)


(3) What is the main idea of the last paragraph? (2 Points)


Answer in complete sentence:

(1) What was Johnny Appleseed’s real name? (1 Point)


(2) Where did Johnny Appleseed walk? (1 Point)


(3) What are two words that might describe Johnny Appleseed? (1 Point)


(4) Where was Johnny Appleseed was born? (1 Point)


(5) What were Johnny Chapman’s father’s two jobs? (1 Point)


(6) How did Johnny’s mother die? (1 Point)


(7) How did Johnny learn to be an apple farmer? (1 Point)


(8) How did Johnny make money to pay for his travels and work in different places? (1 Point)


(9) Why did Johnny wear his funny clothes? (1 Point)


(10) What day did Johnny Appleseed die? (1 Point)


(11) What do American towns and villages do to remember Johnny Appleseed? (1 Point)


CHOOSE the CORRECT word that has the same meaning of word in sentence.

(1) Johnny Appleseed was a pacifist. (1 Point)

(a) peacemaker (b) man who carried a gun (c) man who works with Indians

(2) Johnny Appleseed was a vegetarian. (1 Point)

(a) meat eater (b) man who eats only vegetables (c) man who carried a gun

(3) Johnny Appleseed’s planting of trees was not a random act of generosity. (1 Point)

(a) accidental (b) on purpose (c) done with love only

BONUS: (1 Point)

Johnny Appleseed was an arborist (1 Point)

(a) lover of plants and animals (b) tree expert (c) long distance walker
Score: from 20 points: ___________

“Johnny Appleseed: a Pioneer Hero”, Harpers Magazine, November, 1871
“What’s the Story with Johnny Appleseed,” The Straight Dope, January 20, 1994
Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center Web site, October 15, 2007


About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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