“Secrets” is a multi-part series contributed by Ann Corfman. Ann is a retired teacher and member of the Johnny Appleseed Society at Urbana University. Along with her writing partner, Nancy Sherwood, Ann is an authority on this local celebrity. Ann and Nancy’s book “Appleseed Values” illustrates John Chapman’s (aka Appleseed) values and asks readers to consider whether or not they live by the same.
One of the best kept secrets in Champaign County is the Johnny Appleseed Learning Center and Museum. Located in historic Bailey Hall at Urbana University, the museum houses the largest collection of Johnny Appleseed memorabilia and materials for research in the world.
Visitors can see a cider press owned and used by Colonel John James, wood from Johnny’s original apple trees, books, dishes, statues, pictures, letters and many other artifacts crucial to the study of this remarkable man. In addition, there is a genealogical chart where visitors can check their relationship to John Chapman. Since he had one older sister, five half-brothers and five half-sisters, this database is huge.
Twenty years ago, a core group of university faculty, staff and administrators began the work necessary to turn an old chemistry laboratory into a museum. Since then, the Johnny Appleseed Society has been devoted to furthering the values that John Chapman lived during his seventy-one years of life.
The museum has hosted elementary and home-schooled children, senior citizen groups, education majors, historical societies, authors doing research, and many local visitors and those from other towns and states.
So, what are all these people coming to see? They are visiting to learn about John Chapman – famous pioneer, patriot, farmer, businessman, peacemaker, traveler and legend. Was he a real person? That question is often asked by visitors to the museum and at festivals we attend. The question isn’t as bizarre as you might think when you consider how often he is grouped with characters such as Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan.
For the record, yes, he was a real man born in Leominster, MA in 1774. After a long productive life, he died in Fort Wayne, IN in 1845. What happened to this remarkable man between these two dates will be described in “Secrets – Part II.” Better yet, plan a visit to the museum soon, you will be amazed to see how much you can learn in just one day. Volunteers from Urbana University and the Johnny Appleseed Society serve as tour guides through his world.
Consider joining the Society while you are there. It’s only $25 a year and proceeds benefit the continued growth and operation of the Educational Center and Museum. Better yet, become a volunteer to help us continue this good work.
The Johnny Appleseed Society, Historic Bailey Hall, Urbana University, 579 College Way, Urbana, Ohio 43078 – (937) 772-9297
News & Renovation Updates at The Gloria
Keep up with the latest news, events, and renovation updates at the Gloria Theatre!