WARREN - When the Ohio Chautauqua comes to Warren this month, one character most children and adults likely will know is Johnny Appleseed.
Portraying John ''Johnny Appleseed'' Chapman is actor Hank Fincken, who is marking his 10th Ohio Chautauqua, with this being his third as Johnny Appleseed. For the past 25 years, Fincken has toured the United States, Europe and South America, performing as eight different characters from history.
Fincken said Johnny Appleseed was his first character. He recently performed as Appleseed near his birthplace in Massachusetts and this spring he performed as Appleseed for the Swedenborg Library in Chicago.
Fincken dresses his character in simple clothing with pants from an 1840s pattern, a period shirt, burlap vest and an ugly woolen hat. Accounts vary in whether he rode a horse or walked barefoot. There were rumors of his being barefoot while others have him wearing a saucepan hat.
Fincken said he wrote the script to have Appleseed tell tales based on the broadest details of his life. The humor would be balanced with a section based on Appleseed's historic 1812 ride, Fincken said said.
''Johnny deserves our respect not for any one thing he did or didn't do, but because of his basic humanity,'' Fincken said. ''Johnny gives us all hope that generosity matters, a smile cures and our efforts might endure.''
Johnny Appleseed was the name given to John Chapman, a pioneer who has become a legendary figure in American history. In the early 1800s, Chapman was seen along the Ohio River and became known to his frontier neighbors as ''Johnny Appleseed'' because of the way he distributed apple seeds in central and northern Ohio.
Chapman accepted various items or amounts of money in payment for his seeds and sprouts. He also distributed herbs and medicinal plants and served as a frontier messenger during the War of 1812.
Chapman was a preacher who sold apple seedlings to help support his ministry and tossed apple seeds everywhere. Chapman's seedlings gave the new arrivals a two- to three-year head start and made permanent settlement more likely.
The earliest sightings of Chapman was in 1797 in western Pennsylvania before heading west to plant more seeds. Records show Chapman worked in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Indiana.
Fincken said before his performances, he does research to find anything new about his character.
''Johnny Appleseed was my first character that I started in 1982. I have found there is always more to learn. People come up with new information but I have to find whether the sources are reliable,'' he said.
For the Chautauquas held in Ohio, he adds more information on Ohio history, such as the War of 1812.
Warren has always had large crowds attend, including for his last visit, when he portrayed Henry Ford, he said.
Fincken serves as the troupe leader. He and the other actors all appear briefly on the opening night as teasers to what their character will do.
''This gives the audience a taste of the five characters. Many people have a preconceived idea of who Johnny Appleseed was based on the Walt Disney character. He did kind deeds for so many people. It's a sweet, lovable story but he was a more complex person,'' Fincken said.
''He preached for peace and non-violence and for tolerance in accepting all people,'' Fincken said.
Fincken said he was writing novels and plays when he was approached by teachers wanting to do stories on American Indians and teaching students through plays and the arts.
His children's workshop held during the Chautauqua is ''Becoming Johnny Appleseed,'' during which he tells of the costumes and research.
''I ask the children what stories they have heard about Johnny Appleseed and where the stories come from,'' he said.
Sue Shafer, Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator, said the performers are as much historians as they are actors with all the research done in preparing.
''Hank is very talented. I heard him when he performed as Christopher Columbus. He went to Spain to research his character. I find that incredible that he would put in that much time and effort.
''He and the others don't just memorize, they do a lot of research on the characters and create their own presentations,'' she said.
Shafer said she is impressed that the performers after their presentation will answer questions in character then come out of character and answer questions as themselves.
The event is co-sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, Trumbull 100 in partnership with Ohio Humanities Council and Trumbull Tourism Bureau.