John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who had a vision of making the wilderness fruitful. With his bag of appleseeds, herbs and sometimes evergreen seedlings, he traveled down the Ohio River trails, up the Muskingum, back and forth, through the central part of Ohio, and finally to Indiana where he died in 1845.
In small clearings he made plantings over the state. Through the years he traveled to tend his orchards, giving and planting more seeds. He lived a simple life, loving plants, creatures of the wood and all mankind.
In the 1930s, The Ohio Association of Garden Clubs had members who worked with the Ohio Roadside Council and attended the Short Course on Roadside Development that was offered by the Ohio State Highway Department and the Ohio State University. Gradually, the idea of selecting a highway planting as a statewide beautification project took form to beautify and soften the impact of Ohio’s developing highways.
In 1950, the “Johnny Appleseed Memorial Highway” was dedicated by the State of Ohio. It ran north from Pomeroy on the Ohio River through Columbus, to Toledo and on to Lake Erie via State Routes 33, 31 and 25. The project focused on roadside plantings of crabapples, native trees and shrubs to accentuate scenic views, landscapes, and points of interest along the routes.
Landscape architects of the State Highway Department designed plantings and maintained them. OAGC clubs from around the state supported the efforts financially and provided supplemental beautification plantings. (Source, The Garden Path archives, 1951)