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A portrait of John Chapman, alias Johnny Appleseed, that separates man from legend and explores how one of the most extravagant myths about early America got born and grew--from the frontier wilderness to Walt Disney and beyond.
No American folk hero--not Davy Crockett, not even Daniel Boone--is better known than Johnny Appleseed, and none has become more trapped in his own legends. The fact is, John Chapman--the historical Johnny Appleseed--might well be the best-known figure from our national past about whom most people know almost nothing real at all.
Perhaps “the oddest character in all our history,” Chapman was an animal whisperer, a vegetarian in a raw country where it was far easier to kill game than grow a crop, a pacifist in a place ruled by gun, knife, and fist. He was welcomed everywhere. Stories about him floated from cabin to cabin, village to village, just as he did. He was also distinctly a man of his times: a land speculator and nurseryman with an uncanny sense for where settlement was moving next, and an evangelist for the Church of the New Jerusalem on a frontier alive with religious fervor.
Right Fresh From Heaven restores the flesh-and-blood man beneath the many myths of Johnny Appleseed. It captures the boldness of Chapman’s life and the sadness of his last years, as the frontier marched past him, ever westward. And it shows how death liberated the legend and made of Johnny a barometer of America’s feelings about its own heroic past and the supposed Eden it once had been. This is a book that does for America’s inner frontier what Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage did for its western one.
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