By any standards John Chapman was an odd character. Even those folks on the frontier who adored him during his lifetime could hardly imagine the tremendous national respect and veneration such an unlikely character as barefoot “Johnny Appleseed” would attract in the centuries after his time on Earth.
There wasn’t anyone who met him in Richland County however, who could ever forget him. He was a wholly memorable person: the kind of man who inspires legends; the kind of man who deserves to be remembered.
The last time anyone around here saw him was in the 1830s. By 1900 there were few folks alive who had actually stood in the presence of John Chapman.
In 1900 there were still apple orchards bearing fruit that had been planted by Chapman’s hand, which stood as strong memorials to the genius of heart that he represented. But an apple tree, like a human memory, has a limit to its term on Earth.
The way we have to remember people in America in the generations after their life has ended is by the most durable method we know: stone. Granite, preferably, which can stand up to decades of weather; but sandstone will do if that’s what is at hand.
Fifty years after John Chapman was in his grave, folks in Mansfield imagined there might come a day when some new future generation of Richlanders might grow up not hearing the stories of Johnny Appleseed unless they committed his memory to stone that could weather the failing memories of old folks.
Money was raised, funds were allocated, stone was harvested and engraved, and a special scenic knoll was chosen in the city’s new park system where the memory of John Chapman could be permanently enshrined into the public imagination.