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Johnny Appleseed in a Rich Land

Author Peggy Welch Mershon

Review by William Ellery Jones

Author of Johnny Appleseed - A Voice in the Wilderness

It is a rare occasion when something new is discovered about John “Appleseed” Chapman. Although several biographies have been offered in recent years, few have included any new revelations about the man. This has all changed with the publication of Johnny Appleseed in a Rich Land, by Peggy Welch Mershon, Turas Publishing, 2019.

Living and working in Richland County, Ohio throughout most of her adult life, author Mershon is familiar with the region’s past and Appleseed’s association with it. In her own words this book is, “…the beginning of the Johnny Appleseed legend as told by those who lived it or heard it first-hand.”

It’s no surprise that most of Appleseed’s early biographers lived in old Richland County, Ohio, as well, because this is where Appleseed worked and lived for most of his middle adult life. Mershon introduces us to these authors and drives home how important they have been in formulating Appleseed’s story. The result is a book that presents a deeper understanding of how this unique American icon has become the beloved, albeit misunderstood, folk hero that we recognize today.

Mershon, having written for north central Ohio newspapers, now turns her discerning eye to separating Appleseed fact from fiction. As such, this book is enhanced by the inclusion of heretofore unpublished, as well as some published materials that haven’t been seen in the public domain since Appleseed’s day. Also, she artfully parallels earlier authors’ works with their personal relationships to Appleseed while suggesting which elements of their findings are likely authentic and which are not. In addition, her style delightfully poses questions that tempt the reader’s imagination to crave more.

Whether one is a professional historian or a novice to Appleseed, casual or serious student of history, readers will find this book enlightening. This is, not only, an important work for anyone interested in Ohio history—it is a must read!

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