In February of 2021, we wrote an article about the plight of the Johnny Appleseed Museum and Educational Center and the work of the Johnny Appleseed Foundation and Society to save it as a wonderful ongoing resource for our community and for the many potential future visitors we hoped to welcome from near and far. Without help, this valuable historic collection would have left the community for good.
Thanks to the work and gifts of many, and especially to the wonderful generosity of a major anonymous donor, Browne Hall in Urbana will continue to be the home of The Johnny Appleseed Museum and Educational Center.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Franklin University permanently closed Urbana University in 2020. This closure shuttered The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum, sealing off its collection from the public.
Now, the Johnny Appleseed Foundation will become the new owner of Browne Hall, just outside the gates of the former campus.
This beautiful, 141-year-old building, originally donated to Urbana University around 1918 for “educational purposes,” will again house the museum’s collection and educate visitors about the life and lessons that make Johnny Appleseed a legend and true folk hero.
About Johnny Appleseed
Born John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1774, he is very much a part of Urbana-Champaign County history, as he planted apple tree orchards on several sites in this county around 1802. Johnny Appleseed professed and lived by a set of values that included generosity, humility, stewardship, thrift, entrepreneurship and caring for one’s fellow man – values always needed in society.
For over a quarter-century, The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum has taught these values to scholars, children, travelers and community groups from its location on the campus of Urbana University. The Museum and Educational Center has trained teachers, provided educational materials for classrooms and published books for children.
It will now continue to house the world’s most significant and complete collection of information about Johnny Appleseed, making its extensive research collection available again to be used by historians and scholars.
There is much work ahead of us in preparing to reopen to the public, as the collection is presently in boxes that will need to be unpacked, inventoried and displayed in a way that tells the story of John Chapman’s life, character and contributions to the settling of the frontier and this area.
In addition, there are needed repairs to be completed on Browne Hall. Our hope is to have a grand re-opening in late September, coinciding with a celebration of Johnny’s Sept. 26 birthday.
How to contribute
$50,000 matching fund campaign: To help cover the costs of reopening, the same generous anonymous donor has pledged to match individual gifts to The Johnny Appleseed Museum and Educational Center, dollar for dollar, up to an additional $50,000. The Johnny Appleseed Foundation is a 501c(3) charitable organization, so gifts are tax-deductible.
Checks may be sent to: The Johnny Appleseed Foundation, P.O. Box 799, Urbana OH 43078.
One can donate and learn more about The Johnny Appleseed Museum and Educational Center reopening by going to its website: www.johnnyappleseedmuseum.org
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation also has a GoFundMe page, where one’s gift will be matched. https://au.gofundme.com/f/save-the-johnny-appleseed-museum
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation History
In 1990, The Johnny Appleseed Foundation, for many years based at the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, was re-incorporated in Urbana, Ohio in order to raise the public and private funds with which to create the first museum wholly devoted to Chapman’s legacy: The Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum. The museum collection, originally displayed in Bailey Hall on the Urbana University campus, was relocated to the campus gateway at Browne Hall in 2018.
Urbana University’s connection to John “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman goes back to the middle decades of the 19th century, when Chapman – woodsman, orchardist, entrepreneur and Swedenborgian missionary – encouraged the founding of a college to prepare young men and women to spread the “good news straight from Heaven” he found in Swedenborg’s writings. Urbana College (later Urbana University) was the fruit of that encouragement, as the apple was the fruit of his orchards.
In 2014, Urbana University, then in dire financial straits, was acquired by Franklin University as a branch campus. Franklin invested roughly $30 million in new or improved programs and facilities at Urbana University over the next six years; but when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, and the state of Ohio temporarily closed all college campuses, Franklin, fearing further losses, permanently closed the institution.
The Johnny Appleseed Foundation Mission states: The Johnny Appleseed Foundation exists to support and further the public’s awareness and understanding of John Chapman (also known as Johnny Appleseed). The Johnny Appleseed Foundation provides resources that support the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum.
The Johnny Appleseed Society
Nearly three decades ago, Urbana University faculty and friends came together, in what would become the Johnny Appleseed Society, to spark interest in creating a museum dedicated to the life and work of John Chapman. For information about the Johnny Appleseed Society, contact Jeff Taylor, PO Box 93, Urbana, OH 43078 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Betsy Coffman is chairperson of the Johnny Appleseed Foundation.