With Illinois' 200th birthday coming up in December, the Illinois State Historical Society is providing trees reflective of the state's history.

The bicentennial of Illinois statehood is December 3. To commemorate the occasion, the Illinois State Historical Society wanted a special and possible rare variety of tree to offer for each of the state’s 102 counties to plant in a public space. ISHS selected a descendant of an apple tree with historic roots — a Johnny Appleseed Tree.

The Henderson County Bicentennial Committee recently obtained and planted one of these historic trees on the Henderson County Historical Society’s Museum’s grounds in Raritan. The tree is dedicated to Art Kane and Jim and Doris Cook for their life time of commitment to the county’s history. The Raritan 4-H Explorers plans to maintain the tree under the guidance of Chris Enroth, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

The story of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is a favorite. Chapman planted apple nurseries in the early days of the 19th century in Illinois as well as Indiana, Ohio and other states to the east, using seeds from a cider mill near his original home in Pennsylvania. He then sold apple trees to settlers.

The last known surviving tree planted by Chapman is at the Algeo Farm in Nova, Ohio, which was one of his wayside stops. Some claim the tree produces a Rambo apple, but most arborists call the tree the “Johnny Appleseed” variety. Unlike the mid-summer Rambo, the Johnny Appleseed ripens in September and is a baking and applesauce variety similar to an Albemarle Pippin.

Fresh scion wood from the Nova, Ohio, tree was used to grow 102 Johnny Appleseed trees for planting in Illinois’ 102 counties in 2018. Each tree comes with a letter of authentication from the ISHS.

The next meeting to plan the County’s Bicentennial activities is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 9 at the Henderson County Library in Biggsville. For more information, contact Bobby Allaman at (309) 299-4415.