Melissa Cybulski holds copies of her debut children’s book, “Appleseeds: A Boy Named Johnny Chapman.”
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

LONGMEADOW — Melissa Cybulski had always heard the rumor that Longmeadow was once home to the legendary American folkloric hero Johnny Appleseed.

“I’d never seen any proof,” she said. After finding that proof, she decided to share it and introduce children to an everyday boy from colonial era Longmeadow, in the children’s novel “Appleseeds: A Boy Named Johnny Chapman.”

Cybulski, a member of the Longmeadow Historical Society, had always been fascinated by the town’s history, which stretches back to the founding of Springfield in 1636 and to the Native Americans who lived there before that. Three years ago, she began “a deep dive” into historical records and information that might connect John Chapman — the factual person behind “Johnny Appleseed” — to Longmeadow.

Cybulski said it was known that, prior to the Revolutionary War, Chapman’s father, Capt. Nathaniel Chapman, moved from Leominster to Longmeadow after his wife died in childbirth, and then married Lucy Cooley. To prove that his son resettled in Longmeadow with his father, Cybulski combed through records from people, businesses and the town’s church, which is now the First Church of Christ.

“I found him,” she said. A 1781 store ledger stated that Capt. Nathaniel Chapman purchased a pint of rum and sugar, and it was “delivered [to] your boy.” Cybulski explained that Chapman only had one child at the time and owned no enslaved people, therefore, “your boy” could only mean a 7-year-old Johnny Chapman. There is also a church record from a decade later which lists a pew assignment for a 17-year-old “John Chapman.”

Several months after finding the records to prove Chapman lived in Longmeadow, Cybulski said that after telling someone about finding the records, they remarked that school children should know about Chapman growing up in town. Cybulski was inspired to write a children’s story so they would know.

Rather than write about “Johnny Appleseed,” who did not become an orchardist until moving to the Midwest as a man in his 20s, Cybulski said her book is about “an 8-year-old child in the last year of the Revolution.” She was intentional about tying the plot of the book to the real-life locations in town that a young Chapman would have frequented, such as the brick schoolhouse located on what is now the Town Green. The book includes a map showing the places referred to in the story.

“I made him a child who would prefer to be outside and barefoot, just as his legend mentions,” said Cybulski. Because he would rather be outdoors than inside with books, she figured he would have struggled with reading and included that in the story. “The lesson of the book that Chapman comes to understand is that everyone has strengths,” said Cybulski.

Cybulski said people will be most interested to learn that Chapman was “a regular boy. He will grow up to be an orchardist, but in this book, he’s just a boy.” That said, Cybulski added, “I hint at apples” with details throughout the book.

Cybulski reflected on why this piece town of history is important, “Not every town has Johnny Appleseed, and we do,” She added, “This has been two years in the making. I’m excited to introduce the world to Johnny Chapman.”

The book’s official launch will be on April 13, 1-3 p.m., co-hosted by the Storrs House Museum and the Richard Salter Storrs Library, 697 Longmeadow St. There will be music, crafts and treats from the Batch ice cream truck. People will be able to tour the Storrs House Museum, view a new exhibit on Johnny Chapman and meet the book’s illustrator. Cybulski will also be reading from the book and signing copies. After the launch party, the book will be available on Amazon and at Razzmatazz Kids, 803 Williams St., Longmeadow. To register for the launchparty, visit tinyurl.com/3k6b8nxn.