Most of us grew up familiar with American legend Johnny Appleseed. However, teachers only presented the gentle, animal rights environmentalist who traveled the Ohio Valley planting apple seeds. In reality, he also embodied a capitalist at heart.
Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman was born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts. A week before America declared Independence from England, Johnny’s mother gave birth to her third child. Soon after, she died of tuberculosis, followed by the baby’s death. Relatives raised 2-year-old Johnny and his older sister until their father returned home from fighting the Revolutionary War.
Johnny apprenticed at a local apple orchard as a teenage. By age 18, stories of the west enticed the nurseryman. However, not for the adventure, but for the opportunity.
Johnny recognized the future expansion of the west now that the United States was her own nation. Frontiersman willing to take the risk could claim land they settled on. However, land grants required the planting of 50 apple or pear trees. The perfect calling for a nurseryman. So, in 1792, Johnny headed towards the great unknown with his 11-year-old half-brother to stake his claim.
Yet, Johnny did not plant just one orchard. He planted several throughout the northern Ohio Valley, but primarily in Ohio. Johnny would determine the likely route of pioneers and journey ahead of settlers by several years. He planted seeds and raised seedlings in time to sell to arriving frontiersmen so they could meet their deed requirements. In addition, Johnny sold them his seeds, increasing his inventory and profit. Furthermore, Johnny planted herbs in his nurseries, which he sold for cooking as well as medicinal purposes.
His faith in the Swedenborg religion prevented him from grafting trees. As a result, the wild seeds he planted tended to produce apples too tart for eating. Instead, they were used for making hard apple cider, which suited the settlers just fine. As the local water was often unsafe to drink, cider became a staple at the dinner table. It contained about half the alcohol of wine and at that time was more popular than coffee, tea, wine and other common beverages.
Frontiersmen did not rejoice at the site of Johnny Appleseed because they wanted a fresh apple to eat. Hard cider was a survival item, not a luxury. And thanks to Johnny’s entrepreneurship, the needed apple trees existed upon their arrival.
When Johnny Appleseed died on March 18, 1845, he left an estate of 1200 acres and thousands of apple trees. Since he did not have a wife or children, his sister inherited it all. However, he did not always properly record his claims. As a result, his estate forfeited at least one orchard. Most of the other orchards, along with Johnny’s money, paid off back taxes and legal fees.
Regardless, the trees lived on and people still enjoyed the fruits of Johnny’s labor for decades. That is until 1920.
At the turn of the century, the temperance movement gained momentum. Because of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson imposed a limited alcohol ban in 1917 to preserve grain for food consumption. Two years later, states ratified the 18th Amendment which established prohibition. In addition, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which enforced prohibition. Alcohol was no longer allowed to be produced, transported or sold in the United States.
The government knew inedible, tart apples like Johnny’s specifically produced hard cider and were not eaten. As a result, over the next 13 years, they cut Johnny’s trees down. By the time the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition in 1933, government regulation and overreach had wiped out Johnny’s legacy.
Only one tree remains that is known to have been planted by Johnny Appleseed. The 176-year-old tree lives in Nova, Ohio, and produces fruit to this day. Even though Johnny would disapprove, grafting of Johnny’s tree has brought life back to his legacy. America also needs that same chance of revival.
Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt, government regulations have choked American entrepreneurs. The car industry in Detroit has been irradiated, much like Johnny’s apple trees. America no longer makes televisions, electronics, clothes or toys as government grabbed too much control. Even Steve Jobs, who started Apple Inc. in his garage, took his product production overseas due to the higher costs resulting from government intervention.
From Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman to Steve “Apple Inc” Jobs, America became great because people saw a need and filled it. That has been the American spirit for over 200 years. We can easily make America great again, but only if the government gets out of the way.
The Republican-led Congress is out of excuses. If they are still unwilling to roll back chocking legislation, such as Obamacare, EPA rules, climate change regulations and high taxes, then it is time we turn the ax on them.
But that’s just my 2 cents.