[nafex] The Las Living Johnny Appleseed
Lon J. Rombough
lonrom at hevanet.com
Tue Jun 27 17:18:58 EDT 2000
Scott Skogerboe is a NAFEX member, of course. I have his e-mail, if
From: "Ward Barnes" <ward_p_barnes at hotmail.com>
To: nafex at egroups.com
Subject: [nafex] last living johnny appleseed
Date: Tue, Jun 27, 2000, 9:26 AM
I do not know if this info has made the NAFEX list or not but I thought it
to of interest. The article concerns the last living tree planted by Johnny
Appleseed and the availability of cuttings.
Coastal Zone 7
Click <http://cfapps.insidedenver.com/keywordlist.cfm> for a list of
Nurseryman gets a piece of Mr. Appleseed's last tree
By Rebecca Jones
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
FORT COLLINS Scott Skogerboe's search for the remnants of a historic tree
led him down many blind alleys, from one Ohio farm to the next, through
yellowed newspaper clippings, school secretaries' recollections and county
historical society files.
But he finally got his tree.
The nurseryman, of Fort Collins Nursery, spent more than a year
tracking down the last living apple tree planted by Johnny Appleseed.
Skogerboe now has a greenhouse full of cuttings from that tree, grafted onto
rootstock and ready to transplant into the yards of others who share his
fascination with historic trees.
"What surprised me most is that there are so many things people assumed
others would take care of but they didn't," Skogerboe says. "At least this
tree won't ever be lost."
Johnny Appleseed was born in Leominster, Mass., in 1774. His real name was
John Chapman, and his father was one of the Minutemen who fought at Concord
on April 19, 1775.
Little is known about Chapman's early years, but historians know he started
westward around 1797, moving ahead of the pioneers, planting orchards with
seeds he got from cider mills. He envisioned the day when his apple trees
would feed hungry settlers.
He was an odd figure, traveling alone through the wilderness, always
barefoot, never sleeping indoors, befriending Indians and settlers alike,
sharing his seeds and his religious tracts.
Historians say Chapman or Appleseed, as he was usually called befriended
Conrad Fridline, a settler in Jeromesville, Ohio, in 1821, and as a token of
their friendship planted nine trees on Fridline's farm. It's unknown whether
he planted just seeds or seedlings he'd raised elsewhere. But Fridline's
grandson, Alonzo Fridline, recalled seeing seven of the nine trees in his
grandfather's "Johnny Appleseed Orchard" while he was growing up.
Alonzo Fridline lived on that farm until his death in 1962. Roy and Dorothy
Funk bought the farm in 1959 and live there still. The last surviving Johnny
Appleseed tree there died in 1965, when it was more than 140 years old.
Enter Skogerboe. In the early 1990s, he'd obtained a cutting from Cornell
University from the "Flower of Kent" apple tree, a descendant of the tree
under which Sir Isaac Newton sat one summer day in 1665 and watched an apple
fall, setting him to thinking about the laws of gravity.
"I thought, 'Ooooh, that is so cool!"' Skogerboe says, enchanted by the
notion of the tree's history. "That's the No. 1 apple for British pomology.
But I thought, 'Now I have to find something similar from America."'
The legend of Johnny Appleseed immediately came to mind. Skogerboe began
researching the legend and read that at one point a surviving tree was known
to exist in Ashland County, Ohio. He contacted the Ashland County Historical
Society but was told no such tree was there. Society officials suggested he
check out a farm in another county. That led nowhere, but he got another
lead, and then another.
"It was wild goose chase after wild goose chase," Skogerboe says.
Finally, he stumbled onto Funk, who acknowledged that he once had an
Appleseed tree but that it had been dead for 30 years. Skogerboe asked
whether any cuttings had ever been taken from the tree. Yes, Funk said, he
seemed to recall some schoolchildren from Brunswick, Ohio, visiting the tree
in the early 1960s, and they had taken some cuttings.
Skogerboe began calling schools in Brunswick, hoping he could find someone
who remembered a long-ago class trip to the tree. Eventually, he learned the
children had given the cuttings to a local orchardist, Bill Eyssen.
He called Eyssen. Eyssen said he had grafted the cuttings onto an old tree
on his farm.
Yes, Eyssen said in response to Skogerboe's frantic question, the tree still
lived. And yes, he'd be happy to send him some cuttings from it.
Skogerboe received those first cuttings nearly five years ago. Some he gave
away, and one he grafted onto hardy rootstock in his own yard. He's hoping
the fast-growing tree will yield its first crop of apples this year.
The cuttings he has for sale in his nursery $25 apiece come from the
tree in his yard.
Skogerboe doesn't expect that the fruit will be memorable. Few Johnny
Appleseed trees ever yielded really good-tasting apples. But he likes to
quote Carl W. Ellenwood, an Ohio State University professor of agriculture
from 1909 to 1950, who tracked many Johnny Appleseed trees and visited the
Jeromesville tree several times. "There's no economic importance in the
story of this tree, but you get something of a lift standing in its shadow,"
Ellenwood told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1961. "I've run a knife into
thousands of apples, but there was just a little different feeling when I
took a slice from one from this tree. I guess the quality was not exciting,
but I can't remember. I was thinking about the fellow who planted the tree."
For information on obtaining cuttings from the Johnny Appleseed or
Isaac Newton apple trees, call Fort Collins Nursery, (970) 484-1289.
June 24, 2000
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