By Rev. Pete Hyde
His name was John Chapman. He was born just before the Revolutionary War, and died in the mid 1800’s at the age of 70. He was an American pioneer that one might know as Johnny Appleseed. He became an American legend while he was still alive as a nurseryman and missionary. He was a kind, generous man who is best known for living a subsistence lifestyle introducing apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia.
The image most have of Johnny Appleseed is that as he journeyed through what was then the western reaches of the New World, he spread apple seeds randomly from a seed bag over his shoulder; that’s the image most have of him from old animated films and stories.
The facts tell a little different story. He planted nurseries rather than orchards, built fences around them to protect them from livestock, left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold the trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. Since apples grown from seeds are usually sour, they were used to make hard cider and a drink called apple jack.
When Johnny Appleseed died, he left an estate of over 1200 acres of valuable nurseries to his sister. He also owned four plots in Allen County, Indiana, including a nursery in Milan township, with 15,000 trees.
Here was a man who sowed seed. He didn’t just sow the seeds of apple trees, but sowed the seeds of kindness, generosity, leadership, and Christian values as he spread the good news of the Gospel. Though he died owning some property, he lived a basic, subsistence lifestyle wandering as a pioneer through what then was the rugged wilderness of the American Midwest. Here was a man who was a legend in his own lifetime and in many stories was elevated and exaggerated to almost “tall tale” fame. But yet, he is known to many for only one thing – planting seeds.
There may not be anyone who reads this story today who is or who will be considered legends in their own life times, except maybe in one’s own mind. But perhaps one will have the privilege of being known as someone who planted the seeds of Christian faith, kindness and generosity. Some will plant, water, or feed a seed in someone else’s life today, even if they have no idea they have done it. May the seed one plants, waters or feeds today be a God seed, a kind seed, a generous seed, a seed that will grow in God’s kingdom.
Rev. J. Pete Hyde, Senior Pastor
Santa Rosa Beach Community Church