County plants rare apple tree in conjunction with state bicentennial

RARE TREE–Randolph County’s Johnny Appleseed tree is pictured next to the Liberty Bell of the West Shrine on Kaskaskia Island. The tree was planted over the weekend.

It may not look like much at the moment, but the tree planted over the weekend next to the Liberty Bell of the West Shrine on Kaskaskia Island is rather special.

Earlier this year, the Illinois State Historical Society sent out a letter to each of the state’s 102 county boards. In the letter, they noted that to commemorate the state’s bicentennial, they wanted to acquire and offer trees to each of the counties, but they wanted a rare variety of tree to offer.

Guy Sternberg, the director of Starhill Forest Arboretum in Petersburg, IL, suggested the state consider a tree from John Chapman, who is more famously known as Johnny Appleseed.

Chapman had planted apple trees across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and a few other states in the early 19th century, using seeds from a cider mill near his original home in Pennsylvania.

The last known surviving apple tree that was planted by Chapman was at the Algeo Farm in Nova, Ohio. With the help of Forrest Keeling Nursery in Elsberry, MO, fresh scionwood from this original tree was used to grow 102 Johnny Appleseed trees, one for each of the Illinois counties.

These commemorative trees were then sold by the state historical society to the counties, and each came with a letter of authentication.

Emily Lyons, with Randolph County’s Historical Society and Randolph County Tourism Committee, told the North County News that the committee decided to get one of the trees for Randolph County. A donor provided the funding to purchase the tree.

For more on the Johnny Appleseed tree, please see this week’s print edition.