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Did Johnny Appleseed pass through Bluffton?

A Bluffton News article provides some interesting theories

Did American folk hero John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman pass through Bluffton during his apple-tree planting career?


A recently discovered Bluffton News column reveals that possibility.


In truth, he tramped around northwestern Ohio dying in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1845. Still, on a technicality, he never stopped in a village called Bluffton.


Instead, hints exist he may have visited Shannon – Bluffton’s name prior to 1861.


The apple trees Chapman planted produced mostly cider apples. He made his last trip through Ohio in 1842. Apparently walking and keeping ahead of pioneers, he planted nurseries on spots where he predicted they would settle. And, yes he carried a bag of apple seeds. His tree plantings allowed him ownership of property.


According to a Sept. 16, 1895, Bluffton News account, a group of Bluffton residents traveling to Carey stopped and ate apples from a Johnny Appleseed-planted-tree in Mt. Blanchard. That’s only 18 miles from Bluffton.


A monument in Mt. Blanchard’s Island Park confirms Appleseed owned property and established a nursery on lots 51, 52, and 53, there in 1834.


It’s also known that he planted trees in at least two places in Allen County. Markers also document both those locations.


The first planting, in 1829, was an apple nursery near Spencerville, 35 miles from Bluffton.


Around that same year he planted trees in what is today the Shawnee school yard, 21 miles from Bluffton.


Here’s the smoking gun for his possible Bluffton – excuse us, Shannon appearance.


We believe it is pretty interesting.


This account from the Sept. 16, 1895, Bluffton News concerns a trip where a Bluffton committee visited Carey to see its new village water plant. The story, written by I.N. Heminger, then the News editor, follows.

You’ll witness Editor Heminger’s wit throughout this story. It tells us that dropping interesting observations, as he successfully does in this story, were common to his writing style. See if you can find them.


Sept. 16, 1895, Bluffton News –

A Trip to Carey: To inspect their magnificent system of water-works

Councilmen Triplett and Euller, Messrs. A Hauenstein, P. Althaus, Dr. G.C. Steingraver and the editor constituted a party that drove over to Carey Tuesday to see their new water-works plant. The party started at 4 a.m. and were nearly to Arlington when Mr. Hauenstein looked at his watch and announced that it was “plum” daylight.


A few miles farther on the party regaled themselves on a fine supply of apples from a tree planted by the wayside by Johnny Appleseed, of pioneer renown. Here Mr. Althaus astonished his companions by plucking a perfectly formed “sugar” pear from a Rambo apple tree.


There you have it – a Johnny Appleseed orchard, some 18 miles directly east of Bluffton.


Does this mean that in 1895 most residents of Bluffton were aware of a Johnny Appleseed orchard on the other side of the county line? It certain feels that way to us.


The remainder of the article doesn’t include apples, but, it offers insight to local thinking as Bluffton embarked on its first-ever village water system.


One interesting observation is that the village’s main interest in a water system was for fire protection, not drinking water piped into homes.


The story continues:

Upon arriving at Carey we met Cashier Bemmerly, of the People’s Bank, who turned the party over to J.A. Gibbs, the accommodating secretary of the plant. Mr. Gibbs showed his visitors the plat of the plant, and also the itemized statement of cost of all the different items in the construction and of the plant, all of which we published in this paper a few months ago.


In the afternoon he drove the party out to the pumping station, located at the extreme west end of town. Here were seen the boilers, two of 80-horse power each, and the pumps, of which they have two; one boiler, however, will run both pumps at once, the other having been put in with a view to electric lights in the future.

Shawnee school marker

While the visitors were there the engineer pumped the stand pipe, which is 16 feet in diameter and 115 feet high, so full that it ran over. The stand pipe can be filled to about 9 hours with one pump. The average use of the water requires about two hours pumping daily to keep the pipe full.


The engineer’s salary is $40 per month, and he has time to make all the service connections, etc., so that the total yearly expense of the plant does not exceed $600. Already they have 63 consumers, who pay an annual rental of from $6 to $25, and the total income from this source is already not less than $500 and the plant has only been in operation since July.


Sixty more have made application for water next spring, and among the present users are those who fought the enterprise the hardest, and who are now most enthusiastic about it.


The citizens claim their plant saved more than its cost at one fire which broke out in a furniture store in the center of town and which would have destroyed a whole block had it not been for the water-works.

Mt. Blanchard marker

J.D. Ewing, an old Bluffton boy, is captain of a hose company and for the Bluffton visitors’ benefit, he got out the hose wagon and connected a line of hose with a hydrant and gave an exhibition of the water pressure which was immense and capable of throwing four or even half a dozen streams over a three story building.


When the stream eventually struck Euller he emerged from the bath firmly convinced that no fire could live under such an avalanche of water. The lawns where water is used are growing with all the luxuriance and color of the early spring, while by their side are brown and parched lawns, virtually burned out by the drought and heat.


One man has erected a beautiful fountain in his yard, which is an ornament to the town. It cost him $55 and the water rent for it and his magnificent residence and lawn costs him only $9 a year. The water is pure and cold and very palatable and is used for drinking purposes almost exclusively by those wo have it connected.


Spencerville marker

The entire party was convinced that a water-works plant is a grand thing and that it is not only an efficient protection against fire but that is serves so many useful purposes that is a most desirable thing to have in any town and that if Bluffton can put in a plant for not to exceed $17,000, which the water-works committee of the council says they can give bond in any amount to insure, we should not hesitate to put in a plant at once.


Bluffton cannot afford as expensive a plant as Carey has, but the manner in which our town lies in the natural advantages we have which Carey did not have will make a saving of many thousand dollars and give us just as efficient a plant.


Perhaps Bluffton Forever’s motto should amend to:

Washington never slept here, John Dillinger robbed our bank,

Elvis stopped for gas, and

Johnny Appleseed may have passed through town when it was called Shannon


Map showing Johnny Appleseed trees planted near Shannon (Bluffton)




A portion of the Johnny Appleseed story in the

Sept. 16, 1895, Bluffton News


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