Friday, September 25th, 2009
By William Kincaid
New growth for historic Appleseed tree site
  ROCKFORD - The 235th birthday of America's earliest forester and environmentalist - the wandering Johnny Appleseed - was celebrated in Rockford on Thursday afternoon with a special tree planting.
Two genetically authentic Johnny Appleseed Rambo trees were placed in the ground at the site of a former apple tree nursery. Located at 109 W. Bridge St., 1,000 apple trees planted by Appleseed once sprouted on the property now owned by Rockford resident Mike Schumm.
"When we bought this ground, we had no idea," Schumm said about the historical importance of the once flourishing apple nursery.
Officials from American Forests, the Johnny Appleseed Foundation, the Museum at Urbana University and the village of Rockford, as well as students from Parkway High School and Mercer County commissioners, were on hand for the event.
The event was part of a week-long Johnny Appleseed birthday celebration and tree planting tour initiated to repopulate the 19th century sower of trees.
According to Schumm, original landowner Col. William Hedges signed a contract with Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman on April 29, 1828, to plant 100 trees on the property each year for a decade.
Asked what happened to the trees, Schumm said, "who knows, time itself might have taken care of that."
Before the tree planting, Schumm presented copies of the original land contract to Joseph D. Besecker, director of the Johnny Appleseed Society at Urbana.
Denny Lane, a purported direct descendent of Appleseed originally from Indiana, also was present.
"I don't know if it's true or not, but in my heart it is," he said.
Jennifer Rankin of American Forests said this is the second stop on the organization's tour, pointing out that tree planters are the caretakers of tomorrow and the custodians of Earth.
Trees, Rankin said, are so important because they provide food, oxygen, furniture, paper and even ingredients for tooth paste. They also act as a natural soil cleaner, she said.
Rockford Mayor Amy Joseph said she was happy so many students were present at the birthday celebration, adding that it's important to remember the village's history.
At the end of the event, Hank Fincken of Indianapolis, Ind., gave a zany, barefoot portrayal of Appleseed.  
Appleseed, who lived from 1774 to 1845, planted apple trees across more than 100,000 square miles during his lifetime. His apples were a staple for many settlers moving West after the American Revolution.
The last known living apple tree planted by Appleseed still grows on a farm in Nova, Ohio.
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