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  • From: "Ward Barnes" <>
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  • Subject: [nafex] last living johnny appleseed
  • Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2000 09:26:23 PDT

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.

Ward Barnes
Coastal Zone 7
Wake, VA

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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 red oak tree from which Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale was hanged. The black walnut that served as a landmark for Confederate soldiers involved in Pickett's Charge at the battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. The sycamore that grew from seeds taken into lunar orbit by the crew of Apollo XIV ...

These trees are part of American history. And a Florida nursery specializes in preserving and transplanting cuttings from such historic trees.

Famous & Historic Trees nursery, in Jacksonville, has a catalog of several dozen historically and culturally important trees. The nursery is owned by American Forests, a nonprofit group promoting trees. The nursery has some Johnny Appleseed cuttings from a tree different from Skogerboe's.

Among the trees available from the Florida nursery are descendants of those listed above and of these trees:

  • The Southern magnolia that President Andrew Jackson planted at the White House as a memorial to his wife, Rachel.

  • The Siberian elm outside Harry and Bess Truman's home in Independence, Mo.

  • The crab apple planted at President John F. Kennedy's gravesite, in Arlington National Cemetery.

  • The sweetgum on the front lawn at Elvis Presley's Memphis, Tenn., mansion, Graceland, as well as the pin oak in the driveway, the weeping willow along the fence and the sycamore in the Graceland paddock, where Elvis kept his horses.

  • The black locust that grew at the site where the Declaration of Independence was drafted.

  • The sycamore that French Gen. Lafayette leaned against to have a leg wound treated during the Revolutionary War Battle of Brandywine, in Chadds Ford, Pa.

  • The sycamore that stood outside Betsy Ross' seamstress shop.

  • The sugar maple that grew outside the childhood bedroom of aviator Amelia Earhart.

  • The sycamore beside the Brown Chapel AME church in Selma, Ala., near which followers of the Rev. Martin Luther King gathered.

  • The silver maple shading the front porch of Roots author Alex Haley's Tennessee boyhood home.

  • The sweetgum from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Virginia home.

  • The honeylocust that's the last living tree that was present during the 1863 Gettysburg Address.

  • The Southern magnolias planted by Clara Barton as grave markers for Union prisoners who died at the Andersonville, Miss., prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War.

    For information on obtaining historic trees from the Famous & Historic Trees nursery, call American Forests, (202) 955-4500, or check the organization's Web site,

  • 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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