Johnny Appleseed Was A Real Person (And A Christian)
For more than twenty years Johnny Appleseed had been making his name one to laugh at and love in the log cabins between the Ohio River and the northern lakes. In 1806, he loaded two canoes with apple seeds at cider mills in western Pennsylvania and floated down the Ohio River to the Muskingum, along which he curved to White Woman Creek, the Mohican, the Black Fork, making a long stay on the borders of Licking Creek and in Licking County, where many farmers were already thanking him for their orchards. As he ran out of seeds he rode a bony horse or walked back to western Pennsylvania to fill two leather bags with apple seeds at cider-mills; then in the Ohio territory where he tramped, he would pick out loamy land, plant the seeds, pile brush around, and tell the farmers to help themselves from the young shoots. He went barefoot till winter came, and was often seen in late November walking in mud and snow. Neither snakes, Indians nor foreign enemies had harmed him. Children had seen him stick pins and needles into his tough flesh; when he sat at a table with a farmer family he wouldn’t eat till he was sure there was plenty for the children. Asked if he wasn’t afraid of snakes as he walked barefoot in the brush, he pulled a New Testament from his pocket and said,
“This book is protection against all danger here and hereafter.”
When taken in overnight by a farmer, he would ask if they wanted to hear “some news right fresh from heaven,” and then stretch out on the floor and read, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” and other Beatitudes. A woman said of his voice that it was “loud as the roar of wind and waves, then soft and soothing as the balmy airs that quivered the morning-glory leaves about his gray beard.”
Once the camp-fire of Johnny Appleseed drew many mosquitoes which were burning; he quenched the fire, explaining to friends, “God forbid that I should build a fire for my comfort which should be the means of destroying any of His creatures!” During most of the year he wore no clothes except for a coffee sack with armholes cut in it; and a stump preacher once near the village of Mansfield was crying, “Where now is there a man who, like the primitive Christians, is traveling to Heaven barefooted and clad in coarse raiment?” when Johnny Appleseed came forward to put a bare foot on the pulpit stump and declare,
“Here’s your primitive Christian.”
A hornet stung him and he plucked out the hornet from a wrinkle of the coffee sack and let it go free. He claimed that his religion brought him into conversations with angels; two of the angels with whom he talked were to be his wives in heaven provided he never married on earth. What little money he needed came from farmers willing to pay for young apple trees. As settlements and villages came thicker, he moved west with the frontier, planting apple seeds, leaving trails of orchards in his paths over a territory of a hundred thousand square miles in Ohio and Indiana.
From: Carl Sandburg. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. 1926. Chapter 25. This is among the most accessible history books written.