In his book, a young John Chaney in 1965 traces the history of the Old Stone House in Chester, West Virginia. The home still stands today on Carolina Avenue near the spot once occupied by Rock Springs Park. Both the park and the house have histories which include Native American and early pioneer visitors including, it is widely believed, George Washington on one of two trips in the area. But Chaney also mentions another legend that may have passed through on his way to Ohio – a legend whose name is carved into a wooden border in the kitchen of the nearly 200-year old home.
"A DREAM OF HOME"
"I saw the Old Stone House and faces I love,
I saw Chester's valleys and hills,
The apple trees that swayed and seemed to say,
Johnny Appleseed came thru this way!
I listened with joy to the echo of the old village bell.
The log was burning brightly,
'Twas a night that should banish all sin,
The bells were ringing the Old Year out and the New Year in."
This marker located in Franklin, PA, 84 miles north of Pittsburgh, describes French Creek as the area where Mr. Appleseed lived between 1797 and 1804!
Many know Johnny Appleseed as a folk hero, but unlike Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, Johnny was a real man. “(Chester) area lore has it,” wrote Chaney, “that one John Chapman stopped and spent a night at the Old Stone House when he was distributing his apple seeds in the area. John is better known by the name given to him by folklore as 'Johnny Appleseed."
According to Richard Price, John Chapman's only biographer, Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26th, 1774. He left home at fifteen to travel west, starting in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he began to plant apple trees. A devotee of the philospher, Emanuel Swedenborg, claimed John saw planting apples as part of a spiritual journey in a time when many in the United States were interested in philosophies that emphasized the importance of 'nature'. Apples were also smart to plant financially. They could be eaten fresh, used in pies, dried and made into cider, hard and not hard. In many ways Johnny Appleseed was indeed an early ecologist, realizing that planting trees was not only good for pioneers but for the environment.
About 1800, John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) and his brother collected a large quantity of apple seeds near Pittsburgh and floated down the Ohio River in canoes to what is now Wellsburg, W. Va., where they planted several apple nurseries. So it is not only possible, but very likely that Chapman like Samuel Marks only a few years later came to Chester by flatboat.
Coming Soon: Rock Springs Park owner, C.A. Smith, acquires the Stone House as part of a huge land deal, but it is his wife who rescues it from destruction.