CINCINNATI (AP) — If you picture Johnny Appleseed as a loner wearing a tin pot for a hat and flinging apple seeds while meandering through the countryside, experts say you're wrong.
They're hoping that a traveling exhibit funded by an anonymous donation to a western Ohio center and museum will help clear misconceptions about the folk hero and the real man behind the legend.
"We want people around the country to know the real person, not just the myths and folklore," said Cheryl Ogden, director of the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum at Urbana University in Urbana. "We want them to know John Chapman's values of hard work, compassion and generosity."
Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed to generations of Americans, was a pioneer nurseryman in the late 18th and early 19th centuries credited with introducing apple trees to portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. While colorful stories and films depicting him living outdoors and wearing ragged clothes are probably partially true, researchers doubt he wore a pot on his head or just gave his seedlings and nurseries away.
"He apparently dressed, ate and lived as simply as a human being could," said Andrew Masich, president and CEO of Pittsburgh's Senator John Heinz History Center. "But he made money by selling seeds and planting trees for settlers."
At the same time, there are documented accounts of him going barefoot after giving his shoes to someone in need. He also widely distributed religious tracts as a missionary of the Swedenborgian Church, a Christian faith embracing individualism and spiritual growth.
Chapman, who never married and apparently had no children, was born in 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts, where a small replica of his home now stands. Researchers say Chapman headed west in the 1790s after the Northwest Territory opened to settlers, and he began planting nurseries with apple seeds from cider mills. He traveled ahead of settlers, selecting sites for his nurseries and planting and caring for the young trees. When settlers eventually arrived, those sites would be ready for sale, and Chapman also sold seedlings for them to plant.
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