Yes, There Really Were Apples in Apple Valley

Simone Graham – Editor: Nat’l Day Calendar: Part of Spring Valley Lake is also a part of the Town of Apple Valley. For that reason we take a few moments today to tip our hats to the man who is famous across all of our vast country for the legacy he left behind. As for us, Apple Valley did have apple orchards in the early 1900’s and award-winning apple orchards by the 1920’s (see photo below). Unfortunately, with the Great Depression, the cost of pumping water irrigation, and blight, the orchards died off in the 1930’s. If you have any kids in grade school, you can remind them tonight at the dinner table that the story of Johnny Appleseed is a true story about a man who really lived and made a difference, well, one tree at a time.

On National Johnny Appleseed Day, we honor the man who made apple (and pear) trees grow heavy with the bounty of their fruit across most of this country. On September 26, we commemorate the day of his birth and celebrate his legendary wit, wisdom and enduring story.

In Fort Wayne, Indiana in Johnny Appleseed Park there is a grave marking the spot where the legendary sower of apple seeds rests. He was born John Chapman on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts to Nathaniel and Elizabeth Simons Chapman. Not much is known about his early life other than his mother died when he was two. His father packed up Johnny and his sister (an infant brother had died the previous year) and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. His father served as a Minuteman and fought at Bunker Hill.

Then in 1797, Chapman shows up in northwestern Pennsylvania propagating his apple seeds and working his way steadily into the frontier of West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and eventually as far west as Illinois and Iowa and as far north as Michigan and Wisconsin.

In his wake, he left orchards and the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish spiritual leader whose books he would buy with whatever payment he might receive for his endeavors. In turn, Johnny would give the books away as he traveled and planted.

Mostly, though, he planted his seeds and seedlings for free along with his wisdom, his broad-brimmed pasteboard hat keeping the sun from his eyes as he went. Often shoeless, he traveled mostly by foot and sometimes by horseback or canoe. His appearance was nearly as noteworthy as his accomplishments, but so was his kindness. There was always a place at the table if Johnny Appleseed were to come visiting.

There are many stories told that the man would travel many miles to nurse an ailing orchard when word would reach him of its poor condition. Bringing the trees back to health would be his chief endeavor while dispersing wisdom, care and kindness as he did.

Across the Midwest, landmarks pepper the countryside honoring the man that brought fruit to the frontier. Warren County, Pennsylvania lays claim to Johnny Appleseed’s first tree nursery.

Mansfield, Ohio honors the man with a monument in South Park.

In his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts there is an entire park named after the man who nurtured the land and made apple trees bloom across a young nation.

Johnny Appleseed Day is celebrated on either March 11th or September 26th. The September date is Appleseed’s acknowledged birth date. The March date is sometimes preferred due to the planting season. While there is some vagueness concerning Appleseed’s death and burial, it is known he became ill in early March and passed soon after.

Max Ihmsen, publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper, developed 320 acres of apples and pears in the area in 1915. The fame of Apple Valley spread as Ihmsen fruit won many agricultural awards. Apple Valley did not officially get its name until its first post office was established in 1949.

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