Johnny Appleseed to visit Apple Butter Day

 Photo courtesy of the Ohio Humanities Council
 Hank Fincken as "Johnny Appleseed."

Groveport’s Apple Butter Day is approaching and who better to extol the day than "Johnny Appleseed" himself.

Noted historical actor Hank Fincken of Indianapolis will portray the legendary 19th century apple grower John Chapman, also known as "Johnny Appleseed," at Apple Butter Day on Oct. 11 in Groveport’s Heritage Park. He will appear in free, half hour, performances on the main stage at 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 5 p.m.

Fincken said Johnny Appleseed, who established apple orchards and provided apple seeds for pioneers in Ohio and Indiana as well as in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Kentucky, and Illinois, lived from 1774 to around 1845. He noted Appleseed did not really become famous until about 30 years after his death when stories about his exploits were spread and embellished.

Fincken added Appleseed was a religious man, a member of the Church of New Jerusalem whose doctrine believed Heaven, Hell and Earth flowed together and that the Second Coming was near so one had to do one’s best work without delay.

"Johnny Appleseed was thought of as an eccentric," said Fincken. "He was different from many in his era. He never settled down and married, he enjoyed telling stories, his religion seemed weird to people, he got along with the Indians when most whites did not, he dressed strangely and did not care much about his appearance, and apparently he used humor in his sermons."

Fincken said Appleseed played an important role on the frontier. By creating apple tree lots he could provide trees to newly arrived pioneers, who in turn could then develop their farms quickly.

"Apples were important," said Fincken. "Pioneers got land cheaply, but were given five years to develop their lots at which point that had to begin paying taxes. At three years they had to have the land cleared and orchards established. He (Appleseed) got there before the pioneers and was able to give them a head start on their land. He tried to do kindness every day. His goal was not profit."

Apples played a vital role in the pioneer agricultural economy and daily life.

"Apples were the only fruit that could be kept well year round," said Fincken. "They could also be used in a lot of products like dried apples, apple butter, apple jack, apple brandy, and apple chips."

Fincken also performs other times as Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Francisco Pizarro, and as a pioneer on the California Trail. He began portraying Johnny Appleseed in 1981.

"I taught poetry, fiction, and theatre," said Fincken. "Another teacher asked if I could portray Johnny Appleseed and I thought, ‘This character has potential.’ I liked his message of peace and his respect for all peoples and creatures."

Apple Butter Day is near

Want to get involved with Apple Butter Day?

The Groveport Heritage and Preservation Society (GHPS) will meet Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor of Groveport Town Hall, 648 Main St. The meeting will begin with a presentation by Kathy Mast Kane, who is preparing the application for Groveport Elementary to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. The remainder of the meeting will deal with finalizing the plans for Apple Butter Day.

If you want the true "apple butter day experience," then try your hand at stirring apple butter over an open fire in Groveport’s Heritage Park. Volunteer apple butter stirrers and canners are needed on both Oct. 4 and Oct. 11.

"Stirrers begin early at 6:30 a.m. and we welcome them all day long," said Carla Cramer of the GHPS.  "Canners are needed around noon and are usually done in a few hours.  There is a potluck on Oct. 4 for the workers. Bring a dish and enjoy!"


The GHPS is also seeking fourth and fifth graders to compete in the Apple Butter Day spelling bee.

If you haven’t been contacted and would like to volunteer to work during the festival, call Cramer 836-9113.  

Pumpkin carver to appear

A special feature of this year’s Apple Butter Day, to be held Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Groveport’s Heritage Park on Wirt Road, will be the appearance of pumpkin carver Gus Smithhisler. See some of his work online at

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