The real Johnny Appleseed

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 25, 2015

No more important fruit tree graces the homesteads, farms, and backyards of Appalachia than the apple. When early settlers headed west from the eastern seaboard, they took apple seeds because they didn’t weigh too much or take up too much space.

And no figure from American folklore personifies the spread of the apple into the heartland like Johnny Appleseed, aka John Chapman. Not a great deal is factually known about him, and by now the tall tale spinners have probably entirely obscured the full reality of the man himself. He was a strict vegetarian. He also primarily wore discarded clothing or would barter some apple saplings for used clothes. He walked alone in the wilderness, without gun or knife, slept outdoors, walked barefoot and ate berries. Stories that he wore a cooking pot as a hat, however, seem to have been stitched on at a later date.

John Chapman aka Johnny AppleseedReproduction of an illustration depicting John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, published in A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County From the Earliest to the Present Date by H. S. Knapp, 1863.

One thing is clear: he was as his legend suggests a man who moved around a great deal. Born in Leominster, MA, on September 26, 1774, John became a Christian minister who beginning in 1802 and for 43 years thereafter planted apple orchards from western Pennsylvania, across central Appalachia into Kentucky, and on throughout Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. While doing so, he spread the word of God as a self-appointed missionary for the mystical Swedenborgian church.

Legend says Chapman’s first seed scatterings were culled from the orchards he frequented as a child. It’s said that he gathered canoe-fulls of apple seeds from western Pennsylvania at cider-making time as he headed westward.

It’s easy to forget that Chapman, painted as a romantic mystic, was a level-headed, if eccentric, orchard businessman. For example, he owned more than 1074 acres of land in fifteen different tracts in Ohio. He sold his seedlings for three cents each, or planted an orchard for six cents a tree, earning about three dollars a day (compared to laborers in Philadelphia who earned about a dollar a day.) One of Johnny Appleseed’s authenticated varieties, the Albemarle Pippin (also known as the Newtown Pippin) is today one of the premier mountain varieties.

There are no records to indicate John Chapman had a wife or children, but according to the Johnny Appleseed Education Center & Museum in Urbana, OH Chapman had a sister and a brother. His brother died in infancy and mother soon after. Chapman’s father remarried and had an additional family, thus giving Chapman ten half brothers and sisters. Visits to them help document his whereabouts at various points in his life.

We know, for example, that in 1816, while visiting family members in Center Township, OH he planted at least one orchard in Bristol Township for a Mr. Fuller.

Chapman’s last Ohio visit, in 1842, included a trip to Moscow Mills in Center Township in Morgan County to see his brothers Nathaniel and Parley and sister Sally Whitney, who lived there. In March 1845, Johnny Appleseed passed away at age 70 in Fort Wayne, IN.


One Response

  • chris says:

    I enjoyed the story of Johnny appleseed. I must, however, call attention to an error contained therein. The Newtown Pippin, aka Albemarle Pippin was not a variety originated by mr. appleseed. Originating on Long Island, NY around 1700, it was in commercial cultivation in North Garden, Albemarle Couny,Virginia before Mr, Appleseed was born. I hope this helps to stop the further dissemination of misinformation on the internet.

    Chris Johnson

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The Man Who Married The Thunder’s Sister

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 24, 2015

In the old times the people used to dance often and all night. Once there was a dance at the old town of Sâkwi’yï, on the head of Chattahoochee, and after it was well started two young women with beautiful long hair came in, but no one knew who they were, or whence they had come.

They danced with one partner and another, and in the morning slipped away before anyone knew that they were gone; but a young warrior had fallen in love with one of the sisters on account of her beautiful hair, and after the manner of the Cherokee had already asked her through an old man if she would marry him and let him live with her.

To this the young woman had replied that her brother at home must first be consulted, and they promised to return for the next dance seven days later with an answer, but in the meantime if the young man really loved her he must prove his constancy by a rigid fast until then. The eager lover readily agreed and impatiently counted the days.

In seven nights there was another dance. The young warrior was on hand early, and later in the evening the two sisters appeared as suddenly as before. They told him their brother was willing, and after the dance they would conduct the young man to their home, but warned him that if he told anyone where he went or what he saw he would surely die.

He danced with them again and about daylight the three came away just before the dance closed, so as to avoid being followed, and started off together. The women led the way along a trail through the woods, which the young man had never noticed before, until they came to a small creek, where, without hesitating, they stepped into the water.

Cherokee storyteller Ayâsta, 1888Ayâsta, one of three Cherokee storytellers interviewed extensively by James Mooney between 1887 and 1890 for this collection. “She was the only woman privileged to speak in council among the East Cherokee.” Photo by the author, 1888.

The young man paused in surprise on the bank and thought to himself, “They are walking in the water; I don’t want to do that.” The women knew his thoughts just as though he had spoken and turned and said to him, “This is not water; this is the road to our house.” He still hesitated, but they urged him on until he stepped into the water and found it was only soft grass that made a fine level trail.

They went on until the trail came to a large stream which he knew for Tallulah River. The women plunged boldly in, but again the warrior hesitated on the bank, thinking to himself, “That water is very deep and will drown me; I can’t go on.” They knew his thoughts and turned and said, “This is no water, but the main trail that goes past our house, which is now close by.” He stepped in, and instead of water there was tall waving grass that closed above his head as he followed them.

They went only a short distance and came to a rock cave close under Ugûñ’yï (Tallulah Falls). The women entered, while the warrior stopped at the mouth; but they said: “This is our house; come in and our brother will soon be home; he is coming now.” They heard low thunder in the distance. He went inside and stood tip close to the entrance. Then the women took off their long hair and hung it up on a rock, and both their heads were as smooth as a pumpkin. The man thought, “It is not hair at all,” and he was more frightened than ever.

The younger woman, the one he was about to marry, then sat down and told him to take a seat beside her. He looked, and it was a large turtle, which raised itself up and stretched out its claws as if angry at being disturbed. The young man said it was a turtle, and refused to sit down, but the woman insisted that it was a seat. Then there was a louder roll of thunder and the woman said, “Now our brother is nearly home.” While they urged and he still refused to come nearer or sit down, suddenly there was a great thunder clap just behind him, and turning quickly he saw a man standing in the doorway of the cave.

“This is my brother,” said the woman, and he came in and sat down upon the turtle, which again rose up and stretched out its claws. The young warrior still refused to come in. The brother then said that he was just about to start to a council, and invited the young man to go with him. The hunter said he was willing to go if only he had a horse; so the young woman was told to bring one. She went out and soon came back leading a great uktena snake, that curled and twisted along the whole length of the cave. Some people say this was a white uktena and that the brother himself rode a red one. The hunter was terribly frightened, and said “That is a snake; I can’t ride that.”

The others insisted that it was no snake, but their riding horse. The brother grew impatient and said to the woman, “He may like it better if you bring him a saddle, and some bracelets for his wrists and arms.” So they went out again and brought in a saddle and some arm bands, and the saddle was another turtle, which they fastened on the uktena’s back, and the bracelets were living slimy snakes, which they got ready to twist around the hunter’s wrists.

He was almost dead with fear, and said, “What kind of horrible place is this? I can never stay here to live with snakes and creeping things.” The brother got very angry and called him a coward, and then it was as if lightening flashed from his eyes and struck the young man, and a terrible crash of thunder stretched him senseless.

When at last he came to himself again he was standing with his feet in the water and both hands grasping a laurel bush that grew out from the bank, and there was no trace of the cave or the Thunder People, but he was alone in the forest. He made his way out and finally reached his own settlement, but found then that he had been gone so very long that all the people had thought him dead, although to him it seemed only the day after the dance. His friends questioned him closely, and, forgetting the warning, he told the story; but in seven days he died, for no one can come back from the underworld and tell it and live.

Source: “Myths of the Cherokee,” by James Mooney, Bureau of American Ethnology, 19th Annual Report to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Congressional Serial Set, publ. by US Government Printing Office, 1900

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The MM Shepherd store of Hendersonville, NC

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 23, 2015

Sturdy oak rocking chairs beside a pot-bellied stove, shelves generously filled with the needs of farm families, and, more than anything else, Mrs. M.M. Shepherd herself, accounted for the popularity of Shepherd’s store.

Susan Frances Patton Shepherd had had no experience as a merchant, nor had her three daughters and a son left her time to spend in her husband’s store. But when he died in 1929, only a month after moving the business from the old Drake’s store on First Avenue East and Main Street to a site a block-and-a-half north, Mrs. Shepherd had no choice but to take charge, and for sixteen years she offered merchandise that satisfied a multitude of needs.

Bakers Art Gallery (1890s); Wooden building located across from Henderson County Courthouse on 100 Block east side. Stood for more than 120 years: Town's first store, first post office, infirmary for yellow fever patients, and photography studio. M. M. Shepherd Dry Goods beginning in 1929.

Bakers Art Gallery (1890s); Wooden building located across from Henderson County Courthouse on 100 Block east side. Stood for more than 120 years: Town’s first store, first post office, infirmary for yellow fever patients, and photography studio. M. M. Shepherd Dry Goods beginning in 1929.

For women there were cotton prints, wool & silk, and shoes suitable for Sundays as well as those for everyday wear. For men she carried work clothes and semi-dress pants and jackets, and especially for farmers the ever-popular work shoe claiming to be “Stronger than the Law.” Often she fitted a child’s shoe measurements marked on a stick or to the outline of a foot drawn on a piece of cardboard.

Spools of mercerized cotton sewing thread were displayed on dispensers, and a glorious aroma from Kenny’s High Grade coffee, freshly ground with a particular green coffee bean and brewing on the pot-bellied stove pervaded the entire store. There were staples and canned meats, and cheese and soda crackers for people to stay their appetites on the long ride home. From Balfour Mills Mrs. Shepherd brought in sheeting forty inches wide, and for ten cents a yard she sold it to women who sewed a flat-felled seam between two widths and hemmed the sides, making their own sheets at very little cost.

During the years of the Great Depression there were times Mrs. Shepherd didn’t collect enough money in the course of a day to bother locking it in the cash register overnight, and certainly not in the store’s huge metal safe. Instead, she secreted it underneath a pile of merchandise. In many cases she was obliged to give credit, and bills were never sent, for she knew the people would pay when and in what manner they could.

One customer who came regularly on summer Saturdays brought two cups of shelled butter beans, which she had figured were worth fifty cents. Mrs. Shepherd gave her fifty cents worth of credit, and the family remembers eating butter beans at Sunday dinner for as long as the season lasted.

With another customer who felt the pinch of hard times, Mrs. Shepherd made a deal. The woman crocheted centerpieces and her son needed shoes. Mrs. Shepherd swapped the shoes for a centerpiece, and for the satisfaction of knowing the little boy was shod for another winter.

Shepherd’s store was a gathering place for men and women from the four corners of the county. Mrs. Shepherd’s unflagging cheerfulness prompted women to tell their husbands to go on and do what they had to do, “but I’m a-gonna set wi’ Miz Shepherd awhile.” As time permitted, Mrs. Shepherd joined in the conversation of the women rocking by the pot-bellied stove. On bitter-cold days, men came in from the street to warm themselves before going on. Once one of them dozed by the fire, and when he woke, Mrs. Shepherd asked, “What’s going on out in the world today?” “Waal,” the man drawled, “they’s people a-dyin’ who ain’t never died before.” And he left the news at that.

Excerpt from ‘Shepherd’s Store; a Legend in its Own Time,’ from “Remembering Henderson County: a legacy of lore,” by Louise Howe Bailey, The History Press, 2005

Louise Bailey
loved telling stories of the people and places of Henderson County, NC, and chronicled its history in weekly newspaper columns and nine books. After earning her biology degree at Winthrop College in South Carolina and later graduating from Columbia University in New York with a degree in library science, Bailey got to know the poet Carl Sandburg. She worked as an assistant to Sandburg, typing up the manuscript for his first and only novel, “Remembrance Rock”. But Henderson County residents got to know Bailey through her weekly column, which ran in the ‘Times-News’ for 42 years.

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Plumb out of Tennessee and nearly out of Georgia

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 22, 2015

Up until the early 1970s, if you found yourself surrounded by Lookout Mountain’s crisp autumn air, steaming apple cider and hot gingerbread, handmade dolls, working craftspeople and sawdust trails through the woods punctuated by the pottery of Charles Counts and the woodblock prints of Fannie Mennen, you had probably landed smack in the middle of the annual Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show.

pillow by Fannie Mennen, Plum Nelly GATrapunto Pillow (Plant) by Fannie Mennen.

Plum Nelly is not actually a town, but a sort of farm name. It is “Plum” out of Tennessee and “Nelly” out of Georgia. This two-acre crafts center in the New Salem community, located on a spur of Lookout Mountain, was owned by artist Fannie Mennen (1903-1995). And there she conducted her annual “clothes line” art show for 26 years starting in 1947.

The Chattanooga native did not consider herself an artist until after she had taught art in schools for many years. Stricken with polio in her first year of life, Fannie’s childhood years in the early 20th century were marked by many doctor visits, surgeries and long convalesces. Despite her physical handicaps, Fannie studied music and art at Peabody College in Nashville, TN.

For many years she assumed that she herself was not an artist, but nonetheless recognized how she naturally inspired others to do artwork. For thirty years she taught art in Chattanooga, and on weekends she would retreat to her studio/home in Rising Fawn, GA. In the quiet of Plum Nelly Fannie would paint watercolor pictures of the wildlife around her.

One Christmas, she and a group of artist friends decided to make linoleum block-print holiday cards. Fascinated by the possibilities in printmaking, Fannie knew she had found her medium. For the rest of her working life she was a prolific printmaker, depicting scenes and sayings of the rural mountains. Working from a wheelchair most of the time, Fannie was known for her tireless commitment to her work and the arts community.

In 1947, on the second weekend in October, she invited local artists to hold an outdoor art show at her home. Called the Plum Nelly Clothesline Art Show, it attracted 300 visitors the first year, raising money for a local bookmobile. In the following years it became enormously successful, attracting as many as 16,000 people up the winding roads to the perilous bluff for the two-day, outdoor event. The arts and crafts represented were some of the finest in the region, and the Clothesline Art Show did much to develop the art community around Chattanooga. Georgia’s New Salem Mountain Festival continues this tradition annually every fall, and is now held at the New Salem Community Center.


4 Responses

  • Alan George says:

    For many years I have owned and enjoyed a print by Fannie Mennen titled “Owl” 20”by 5″ the print is framed. I am interested in selling it; it is in wonderful condition. Anyone interested should contact me at

  • bobby mckeel says:

    i think i won 3rd prize in 47 or 48 when i was in 7th grade at northside jr high. how can i find out for sure?

  • Harry Abell says:

    Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park is a 501c3 charity that provides volunteers and money to Cloudland Canyon State Park for maintenance and support.

    We are sponsoring “Mountain Arts and Crafts Celebration” on November 2 & 3 in the Group Shelter for the first time this year We hope to have this become an annual event. Cloudland Canyon State Park is located in Northwest Georgia near the Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia border.

    We have 12 indoor spaces and about the same outdoors. Any information or guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Details for the event can be found on our website and click on the Upcoming Events tab.

  • Wayne Kelley, Sr says:

    Miss Mennen taught me art at Northside Jr. High in Chattanooga. I remember she would have something for us to draw and I remember several times as I moved around the room to get a good view of item she would say “I dare you.” This meant draw from this position. I was the only student for some time that she allowed to push her in her wheelchair to her car and at least once as I pushed her down the hall just out from the library she kept telling me to go faster and faster. And I did! Well, I was almost expelled for pushing her so fast but she came to my defense. I remember her well, her wit and her wonderful criticism of my work in class.

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Eddie said he was just keeping his pledge to Joe

Posted by Dave Tabler | September 21, 2015

You could get the best refreshments in Fulda, OH at the Fisher Saloon. It was hopps fired brewed German beer, sparkling and crystal clear. Mrs. Frank Fisher grew the family’s own hopps, fire cooked brewed the hopps, set them in a 10-gallon stone jar with sugar added, let it ferment for five days till worked off, then bottled, let set for five more days, then it was ready to drink. It was very good; people would come for miles to get a drink.

Frank came to this country as a single man. He married Margaret Hupp, and they built their home on Lot 7 in Fulda and raised 7 children there. Frank had learned the cobbler business from his father in Fulda, Germany. He ran the cobbler shop in the same room Margaret ran the saloon, so you could have a good drink while you got your shoes repaired or your harness or saddle repaired.

Fisher Saloon in Fulda, OH. Photo courtesy Digital Shoebox.

Fisher Saloon in Fulda, OH. Photo courtesy Digital Shoebox.


Eventually, Joseph Fisher took over the cobbler shop from his dad. Joseph was a bachelor. After his mother died he and Eddie Crock became great pals. Eddie and Rosey Crock bought the Ed Johanning home and store, which was directly across the street from the Fisher Saloon.

Eddie and Joe spent a lot of time in each other’s place of business, visiting with each other and the customers. They got to having a morning eye opener each day until it got to be a must. This went on for years without missing a morning.

They made a pledge with each other, that if one died the other would bring an eye opener and visit the grave. Joe died first and was buried in the 3rd addition to the cemetery, which was in sight of the church.

Each morning Eddie got up and poured two glasses of schnaps, one for Joe and one for himself. He would pick up Joe’s in his left hand and his in the right hand, tap them together and say “Here’s to you Joe,” then up and drink his, turn around and drink Joe’s.

He would then get his walking stick and along with old Shep, walk up past the church and down through the cemetery to Joe’s grave. He’d lean against Joe’s tombstone, take his left hand, open his fly and pee on the grass in front of the tombstone, and say “Here’s to you, Joe.” Then he’d rest a little bit and walk back home.

This picture of the Fulda General Store was taken in the spring of 1921 or 1922. Proprietor Ed Crock (1891-1967) is shown with two of his children, Herman (1915-1981), and Dorothy (b. 1920). Photo courtesy of Lee Crock of Noble County, OH.

This picture of the Fulda General Store was taken in the spring of 1921 or 1922. Proprietor Ed Crock (1891-1967) is shown with two of his children, Herman (1915-1981), and Dorothy (b. 1920). Photo courtesy of Lee Crock of Noble County, OH.


Eddie did this for several years each morning without fail.

Father Donaldson came to Fulda as the parish priest and noticed Eddie going by the church each morning at 8:00 AM prompt and that Eddie went to the same tombstone. One day when Eddie was going home, Father asked Eddie why he always went at exactly 8:00 AM and to the same tombstone. Eddie told him that was the grave of his pal Joseph Fisher, that he and Joe always had a morning eye opener for over 40 years, and that he was taking Joe’s down to him.

Father said he never saw Eddie carrying an eye opener and it looked more like he was peeing on Joe instead. Eddie said he was just keeping his pledge to Joe, but he hadn’t said he wouldn’t run it through his kidneys first.

from Life of John Crock and Descendants, Born in 1811, Father of all Crocks in Ohio, by Leander Crock, publ. by Noble County University, Caldwell, OH, 1996 Online at

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