- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

If Johnny Appleseed were alive today, he wouldn't recognize several varieties of the fruit that made him famous. The American folk hero from Leominster, Mass., also known as John Chapman, is remembered for planting apple seeds in unspoiled Midwest territory.
Since the era of Johnny Appleseed, many new apple varieties have been created because of grafting, says Robert Lewis, owner of Lewis Orchards in Dickerson, Md. Mr. Lewis, whose orchard has been in his family for more than 100 years, grafts his apple trees. He owns about 500 apple trees and plans to plant 2,000 new ones in the spring.
The Jonathan apple and the Golden Delicious apple have been grafted to make the Jonagold, for example.
"If you have a small branch, and you cut it on an angle, and you cut another branch off another tree on an angle, you wrap them together, and the bottom one would start roots," Mr. Lewis says. "It takes three years for grafted trees to bear fruit and five to six years for seedling trees."
Mr. Lewis' most popular apple is the Stayman. Ann Morton of Bradenton, Fla., buys Stayman apples every year while visiting her sister, Linda Decamp of Rockville.
"You can't get them in Florida," Ms. Morton says. "They have a certain taste that the others don't have." The orchard will be closed for the year the day before Thanksgiving.

John Chapman was born on Sept. 26, 1774, and his mother died when he was 2 years old, says Bill Jones, founder and president of the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center Inc. in Mansfield, Ohio.
Since his father was fighting in the Revolutionary War, Chapman and his older sister were cared for by extended family members. After returning from battle, his father remarried and had 10 more children.
Scholars believe that throughout Chapman's lifetime, he traveled from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Indiana, buying about 1,200 acres of land along the way, Mr. Jones says. Research shows that Chapman owned nurseries in places such as Warren, Pa.; Franklin, Pa.; Marietta, Ohio; and Brilliant, Ohio.
"He could have planted apple seeds as early as 1797 in Northwestern Pennsylvania," Mr. Jones says. "The first land holdings that we can prove he owned were in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1809." He says Chapman was noted not only for planting apple seeds but also for flower bulb and herb distribution.
Mr. Jones says researchers believe that Chapman's Christian faith was the motive behind his seed planting. He followed the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century scientist and philosopher from Sweden. The apple business provided money for him to engage in missionary work.
Johnny Appleseed was known for holding up the Bible and saying, "Good news fresh from heaven." There are many references to planting seeds and bearing fruit in the Bible, Mr. Jones says. For instance, Galatians 5:22-23, says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
"John's faith was that every living thing was a physical symbol of a spiritual entity in the spiritual world," Mr. Jones says. "He went about doing good for others. He lead a life of selfless acts."
Due to his faith, Johnny Appleseed disliked the grafting of apple trees. He believed the method interferes with God's original design, Mr. Jones says. Unlike planting seeds, grafting unites a shoot or bud from one plant with another growing plant to create a new plant.
"Apples in this country have been crossbred so many times," Mr. Jones says. "The United States doesn't have very many people planting seedlings anymore. A lot of researchers go to Kazakhstan. Many of the trees there have not been grafted and provide some characteristics that we don't have in our apples here."

Dick Biggs, owner of Rock Hill Orchard in Mount Airy, Md., says when he plants trees he knows exactly what kind of apple they will bear.
"Johnny Appleseed planted seeds that produced seedling trees with apples, but there is no telling what type of apples they produced," says Mr. Biggs, who has a Johnny Appleseed scarecrow in his field. His orchard closes today.
When Mr. Biggs plants apple trees, he prepares the ground years ahead of time. Then, he grows grass on the ground. He usually plants trees every March.
"We have a lot of training to do to make the branches grow in the direction we want," he says. "And all fruit-tree growers have major problems with deer destroying the trees as they are trying to train them. It is a constant battle to keep replanting."
Mr. Biggs says he is grateful for the attention Johnny Appleseed brings to the apple industry.
"He is good publicity," the orchard owner says. "He is so well-known."
Dave Ferree, who holds a doctorate and is a pomology professor at Ohio State University in Wooster, Ohio, says many of today's apple varieties could have originated from seedlings spread by Johnny Appleseed.
"I don't know any specific cases where that happened, but two of his seedlings could have crossed naturally through a honey bee spreading the pollen from one tree to another," he says. "That could have been a potential parent for one of today's varieties."
Mr. Ferree says it's difficult to distinguish the legend of Johnny Appleseed from the facts.
"The thing you can be sure of is that he was a good person," he says. "He wanted to take care of people. Apples in the early days were very important, especially to make into vinegar for preservatives. Apple butter was also a popular preserve."
Todd Butler, co-owner of Butler's Orchard in Germantown, Md., says his company had its annual Johnny Appleseed weekend last month. He plans to close his orchard for the year on Dec. 24.
"Apples were spread because of him," Mr. Butler says. "At the turn of the century, everyone with a homestead had a couple of apple trees."
Mr. Jones, of the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center Inc., says anyone who knows anything about Johnny Appleseed loves him.
"Everyone needs heroes," Mr. Jones says. "He is accorded today unlike other American heroes."

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