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Bill Jones has spent a lot of time learning about and educating people about John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed.
He has conducted several projects throughout the years exploring the famous figure, and now, Jones has helped establish the Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway, unveiled by the Ohio Department of Transportation in May.
The byway is the 27th established by Ohio. The route extends from Ohio 39 in Loudonville, goes northwest through Perrysville and Lucas and wraps up in Mansfield and on Ohio 603 by Mifflin to Malabar Farm, ending at Ohio 95.
Chapman lived in Ohio for an extended period time between 1806 and 1826, and the byway goes past his land holdings, apple nursery, Native American villages and homes of people Chapman associated with in Ashland and Richland counties, Jones said, including the home of mountain man Jedediah Smith and author Rosella Rice, an author from Perrysville.
Jones had been working on developing the byway route for years, he said, finally getting to focus on it in 2014.
Jones grew up in the mid-'50s and idolized characters such as Davy Crockett and Hopalong Cassidy, he said. But Johnny Appleseed stood tall as Jones' biggest hero, and became a lifelong fascination for Jones, who grew up in Holmes County and attended Ashland College.
"John Chapman, for some reason, I would go back to. Perhaps because he wasn't noted for his big knife or arrow," Jones said.
While attending Ashland College, Jones started to seriously research Appleseed.
"I finally started learning more and to my complete delight, he had traveled and lived here," Jones said.
Stops along the byway also are in line with Chapman's life as an outdoorsman and a person who spreads faith, Jones said. Areas highlighted among the route include the Mohican State Forest and Park, Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center and Amphitheater and Malabar Farm.
"The byway doesn't just tell the story and different kinds of ways that Chapman lived in the area, it takes people to other areas or close to places that exist and are vital to Appleseed today," Jones said.
In a statement from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the byways are intended to support the area in a variety of ways.
"The Ohio Scenic Byway Program is a grassroots effort to heighten awareness of Ohio's historical and intrinsic resources: cultural, historical, archaeological, recreational, natural and scenic -- which collectively enhance the overall traveling experience," the ODOT statement reads.
Signs for the byway have not yet been placed, but they will be along the route.