The Garlock-Elliott Family

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Yellow Creek Stories


Chapter XIX

Apples And Dog Fennel

This letter by E. H. STEWART of Hammondsville was handed to me in the spring of 1944 and is as follows:

"I wrote to the Ohio Horticultural Society for a history of the Wells apple tree on my father's farm. My father told me this Wells tree was bearing apples when he was a little boy, and was born in 1837, and his father moved on this farm in 1820. The society says this tree was, "'n all probability planted by John Apple Seed.' I am sending you the story of Jno. Appleseed, by a man who knew him well."

This story of "Johnny Appleseed" was written by W. M. GLINES who was born in Marietta November 12, 1806, and died there August 2, 1887. In order to shorten the story I have used no quotation marks; used my own words and much change in his arrangement.

The CHAPMAN family came from Wales, the first by that name being Nathaniel Chapman, who was a Captain in the American Revolution and spent two good farms to aid this cause. He was married twice and by his first wife, her first child was John Chapman, who born near Bunker Hill, on September 26, 1774.

This child was a bright boy up until the age of twenty-one when he received a kick from a horse which fractured his skull, "which was trepaned [sic] at that time." From that event on he showed that all was not normal; so that at the age of twenty-eight he induced his younger half-brother, Nathaniel, then aged fourteen or fifteen years old, to run away from home. They made their way by foot, through the wilderness, and came to what was then Fort Duquesne, now Pittsburgh, Pa. Here they started up the Allegheny River, to Olean, New York, and remained for a part of the year. When their meagre [sic] stock of provisions gave out, the older brother John caught a muley steer and rode it to Pittsburgh, the trip taking four weeks. During this trip of John's Nathaniel would have starved to death had not some roving friendly Indian hunters found him and furnished him food.

They remained on the Allegheny for more than one year when they got word to their parents and made a proposal to meet them at Pittsburgh on a specified date. The family came as requested and together they dug a large "perogue" from a poplar tree and all floated down to Marietta, where they landed April 7, 1798. They lived in Marietta for a year or two, then moved to Duck Creek and made some improvements.

It was here that John Chapman entered upon the business of planting nurseries, having procured the seed from the cider mills near Marietta. From Duck Creek he went to Delaware, Ohio, where he planted a nursery on school land, as Section XVI was then called.

From Delaware he went to Sandusky, from thence to Mansfield in 1819, and on to Fort Wayne in 1823. On several occasions he came down our river front and his last visit was in October, 1842.

Nathaniel Chapman, John's half-brother, was a near neighbor of Mr. Glines, and it was at his home that Johnny came to visit in 1842. It was here that Johnny saw a large tree that had been rendered into fence rails by a bolt of lightning, but Chapman firmly believed that this was one of God's special favors to save the owner from all this hard labor. He insisted that all such acts of nature were special Divine favors from God as a token of his goodness. The owner of this tree asked Johnny, "When you got lost in the wilderness, in the dead of winter, and caught in a deep snow storm, did you consider it a special favor of God?" Well," answered Chapman, "wasn't I a great fool for putting myself in such a situation, but wasn't it a great favor of God to send snow so that I could dig a hole in it and keep from freezing?"

One night Chapman was overtaken in the wilderness by a great snow storm, when he found an old tree had fallen with the top down the hill. He crawled into the hollow tree and thought what a kind act of Providence, when he found that an old bear was using the same tree for his winter hibernation.

"Well," said Johnny, "I never disputed for one moment for the bear got there first and I left him to enjoy his comforts and I sought quarters elsewhere."

Here I digress for a moment from Mr. Glines' narrative of Chapman, and add a few items played by this eccentric man in this vicinity.

Record was left that Mr. William STOAKE, south of Knoxville, bought a few apple trees from Chapman at a very early date.

In early 1900 Mr. Frank JOHNSTON, living near the Sugar Grove M. E. Church, said: "His father planted a small orchard from Appleseed Johnny, and at that date many were living and bearing, almost a century after they had been set out in 1806. His father had traded an old buckskin hunting coat for these trees." The above date seems corroborated by a statement in our local history by an eyewitness who reported, "A pioneer of Jefferson County said the first time he ever saw 'Johnny' he was going down the river in 1806 with his canoes lashed together and well laden with apple seed, which he had obtained at the cider presses in Western Pennsylvania." He might have obtained some of this seed opposite the mouth of Yellow Creek, for Jacob NESSLEY was our greatest pioneer orchardist and originator of best varieties of apples west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We have quite a lot of evidence that this unique man had a nursery on the west side of the Ohio a few miles below the present town of Mingo, and it might have been from this nursery came the trees that were sold to those in this territory. This was in 1806. The price charged for an apple tree was "a fip penny bit" or 6-1/4 cents.

Appleseed Johnny is given credit for distributing the now obnoxious dog fennel to the buyers of his trees. He loved it for its rugged growth, pungent odor and supposed healing and curative qualities. Like all eccentric people, he was surrounded by a halo of mystery and wisdom.

Now using Mr. Glines' story, it goes on to state that John Chapman wore strange clothing, but preferred buckskin and wore moccasins in the winter. He would often be seen with pantaloons with one leg of one color of cloth and the other an entirely different kind and color—shoes he abhorred. At one time he used a coffee sack for a suit of clothes by cutting holes in it for his limbs and head.

He preferred to eat by himself, and only ate one food at a meal, and if possible he did all his eating out of doors—be it black walnuts, apples or corn mush.

He was never without money, was kind to everybody, and gave freely to benevolent purposes. He would never beg and would often travel long distances barefoot through the snow.

He had a tin kettle which he carried on his head in lieu of a hat. This hat would be used to boil his mush, which he ate warm—a favorite dish. He was never known to destroy life, save one copperhead snake which fastened on his foot. He would often examine old wood that he was about to put on the fire to see that it did not harbor any form of life; and if it did, he would knock them off or throw this wood aside.

Quite a web of superstition was woven about this strange man, much of it plain imagination. We find that Chapman gave to the pioneer settlements more than apple seeds. As the Indians were his friends, Chapman was always using his efforts to keep the peace between them and the early settlers. It was well known that Chapman was a follower of the religious doctrines of Emanuel SWEDENBORG and was a faithful missionary for the church of New Jerusalem. That he died penniless was nonsense; for records show that he owned 172-1/2 acres of land, on file at Fort Wayne, and he is buried at Fort Wayne, and he is buried at the north edge of that city. Like many men of great value, his worth was appreciated too late; but, like the truly great, his name lives on.

John Chapman never was married nor settled long in one place. With all his hardships, he was a kind-hearted, inoffensive, harmless old man who placed his whole trust in Providence and died in full faith of a future life on March 1845, aged 71 years.



Janice Garlock Donley
700 Tenth Street • Oakmont, PA 15139 USA


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