The voices in his head told him that if he planted sees, mainly apple seeds and grew trees that the world would be at peace. Listening to his words but meeting the many people that he encounters along the way you wonders if he will be able to complete his mission. Johnny Chapman was a nurseryman, who throughout the timeline created in this novel during the early 1800’s planted acres of apple orchards along America’s western frontier. Also known as Johnny Appleseed, many people like Dead Mary, Andy Craig and others wondered about him, treated him with disrespect and even those who needed his help to deliver messages placed him in dire danger with the military and others along the way. Born on September 26, 1774, in Leominster, Massachusetts. His goal throughout the novel is to plant all of his orchards from seed, meaning his apples were, for the most part, unfit for eating. He did not know the main skills needed for grafting instead as the New Englanders they learned that the apples were better for creating apple cider then for eating.
Dealing with the Indians and learning their customs, Johnny had to adhere to their rituals and then finds himself traveling to many different places. Some dealing with him rudely and others taking him in for a while and then sending him out in the bad winter storms and then finds himself back with some friends. Growing apples was his mainstay but the apples we eat today are not like the ones he planted and created.
Chapman hears voices within his head as he is reading from a book, hears the voice of his mother and then the voice of the author telling him where he’s headed, his beliefs and what his life’s work should be. A follower of the New Church also called the Church of Swedeborg, he travels far and wide to spread his faith while hoping to establish orchards and at the same time preaching to the indigenous people and the Anglo American people his beliefs. When looking at him at first glance many of those he meets will realize that he’s mode of dress is quite unsettling and threadbare and often lacking shoes and he did wear a tin hat.
The timeline is the early 1800’s until the start of the war of 1812 and the tranquil peace is broken and the living conditions reprehensible and civilized laws not in place. But the settlers living in Ohio and in the Old Northwest had a stake in what they owned and hoping to build a better live for themselves in the new frontier.
John Chapman knows the land and using the voices in his head, his religious views and teachings will share the voices of angels who speak to him throughout the story. He allows readers to understand that God promised him that by spreading his knowledge of fruit and planting his fruit, peace will come. Would anyone believe that and how would he convince the settlers?
We learn about the war chief Tecumseh and his brother; the Prophet begins creating an Indian coalition. But this Prophet who emerges or comes out is a reformed drunk and part of the Shawnee, and who claims to have spoken with the Great Spirit, Waashaa Monetoo. Prophet begins building an Indian coalition hoping to take their land back.
Each chapter introduces many people that interact with Chapman and some that are not quite sure how to take him. Meeting Aaron Burr and William Henry Harrison, hoping to create a new empire. But, the angels speak to him, control his movements and he hopes to spread his word everywhere he goes. Many accept his calling and some shun him for his beliefs but Chapman struggles on and at times works hard to assist others on the land, hoping to plant his seeds and make his mark wherever he goes but traveling to many destinations is his goal and he never seems to remain in one place for a long time.
Finally, however, his faith is challenged when war breaks out in the land, leading to the bloody battle of Tippecanoe between Harrison’s army and the Shawnee Prophet’s warriors, and ultimately to the declaration of the War of 1812. A violent massacre near the northern Ohio town of Mansfield leaves its citizens terrified and vulnerable.
In a desperate act of faith, Johnny promises the people that he can save them. Thus, he dashes off on a midnight run, seeking to spread peace across a land on the brink of war. With so many lives at stake, Johnny must confront the ultimate test of his convictions.
His character whether fact or fiction reflects and interest in the frontier settlement during a period of expansion in the far western part of the continent.
In the early part of the 1800’s the author shares his encounter with John Stedden who might not have accept all that Chapman spoke about but he did listen to him and then five years later another settler in Ohio met Appleseed. Dressed in rags he tied two canoes together filled with apple seeds while paddling along the Ohio River wearing his signature tin pot on his head as hat. Chapman would travel the country moving west each year hopefully finding a proper spot He educated farmer about nurseries and orchards.
Reverend Corpus and his wife join forces with Johnny on their way to Mansfield. Leading them in the right direction and realizing that they needed guidance they come upon Otis and Millie who offer them for a fee lodging and a wagon with horses to get them to their destination. But, Otis is not the best host, the children get antsy and their final destination is to bring the horses to the stable and hopefully find a new home. Before he leaves Otis he hands him a page from his book and tells him the angels from heaven are speaking to him but Johnny has to read the words but will Otis understand the message?
The novel moves to many places where Appleseed tries to spread his word but in Chapter 20 we hear from the Indians who are now meeting with William Harrison the Governor hoping to avoid a war. But, Harrison double crosses more than the Indians as giving Bantzer the title of General using him for his own purposes and then stabbing him in the back giving him the lowest detail to handle.
Things change as Tecumseh and his brother have a falling out. Tenskwatawa is brooding and hoping that as the Prophet as Chief Arm Strong comes in front of him asking for help and mercy for his people but it’s not granted and he remains seated, unwillingly to move unless there is an emergency. Tecumseh was in an antagonist mood starting with the Treaty of Fort Wayne. But Harrison betrayed him and because of the treachery, Harrison had been able to annex the southern Indian Territory into his empire, and Tecumseh had no doubts that he had further aspirations and designs on the upper Wabash including Prophetstown. With the British backing him up he took small actions against the Long Tongues and one thing about them was diplomacy that Tecumseh could not understand their mode of speech phony you might say. He agrees to go to Vincennes to meet with the governor but the end result will surprise readers as everything does not turn out the way he might have expected. Flashing back to Harrison and Bantzer and we learn more about hoping for a truce and his hate for Appleseed. We also learn more about Mona and why Frank left her and his hope to return to her.
Massacres happen when things get out of control and the battle of Tippecanoe, Creek takes place. Tenskwatawa resents the fact that Tecumseh left him and Harrison gathered all soldier within his jurisdiction and Tenskwatawa’s scouts saw the huge American forces and prayed even more. General Fran Bantzer climbed to the sentry turret at Fort Harrison but things would change when meeting with Harrison. The raping, killings and strafing their village were commonplace for these soldiers and the end result for the local Delaware tribe was horrific. But, Bantzer learns that he was being used and believing Harrison was a mistake. But, Tenskwatawa has some harsh realizations and the magic of his prophecy might be gone. Chapter 21 encompasses the battle and the end result on both sides will leave many dead.
Now just a Captain Bantzer decides to take action even more against the Indians and the scenes are graphic, as he allows his men to rape and kill many women and Chief Arm Strong cannot protect his own.
Reverend Corpus tries to defend his own and realizes that the soldiers that would visit him are dangerous and although his wife stands by him the end result will be more than tragic and we once again here the voice of Appleseed.
Fresh News Straight From Heaven is heard when he rips out a page of the Philosopher’s great book and hands it to Dead Mary hoping she will be able to work the miracles of Fog Mother. Read the passage on page 338. Johnny finally arrives and faces Andy Craig and Marge and he and Johnny are about to square off and things take a different turn when he once again meets up with Otis and Millie as she is preparing for a miracle.
Can prayer and hope bring peace? Violence is all around him and he escapes to the Great Black Swamp and prays fro guidance. What he learns and realizes enhances his visions. Corpus’s massacre creates many victims and Banzter finds himself in a position that means he might have to change directions but where? Johnny makes several midnight runs and hopes his word will encourage people to understand prayer, unite and bring everyone together. Where does he wind up? What is his final destination? Is he work ever done? Will he come around and spread the word even more? Find out when you read the dramatic ending of this fact based and fiction-based novel of a man that so many have grown to love.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ network/MJ Magazine