Is the teapot tree real? Or is it a myth, a legend, a figment of some moonshiner’s imagination? Time to go on the hunt and find out.

Years ago the most beautiful and youthful Elizabeth Taylor starred opposite the very youthful Montgomery Clift in a movie called Raintree County. It’s a Civil War era romance/tragedy, but the movie title is the key here. What is a “raintree”? And what does it have to do with the teapot tree? First, the raintree was supposedly planted somewhere in Raintree County by John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) and was still out there in the swampy areas growing taller and taller. The teapot tree is said to be where all teapots originate, crop after crop being generated each year.

I know what you’re thinking: “Aw, c’mon, teapots don’t grow on trees. People make them using different types of clay or other materials such as glass, silver, and brass.” I am well aware that those are the common tales told about teapots. But their veracity is a bit up in the air. In fact, it’s up in a teapot tree!

You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that teapots come in different sizes, from teeny weeny to super large. They also have all kinds of shapes and colors. This just proves my point. Apples also come in lots of sizes and shapes and colors. Apples grow on trees. Ergo, teapots come from trees. Right? Well, try this…

Once upon a time there was a guy named Johnny Teapottreeseed (no relation to Johnny Appleseed – any similarity is purely coincidental). The location of his birth is a mystery, but some say it was in eastern Canada and others say as far away as New Guinea. He certainly predates our War of Independence against the British Empire and is said to be the founder of the many potteries along Stoke-on-Trent in England. At some point he decided to come to the U.S. and head westward from Philadelphia. He planted seeds for teapot trees in a little town called New Stanton, just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they continue to bear fruit…uh, teapots to this day. He then traveled on west into Ohio and Indiana, finally working his way to the Midwest and somewhere along the way he planted his most special tree – the one that has become that legendary teapot tree!

The location of the tree is pretty secret, but I had a friend who has a friend who went to his high school prom with a girl who heard a rumor that an old woman living on the corner of her street had heard someone talking about having actually SEEN the teapot tree, so I took a chance and went to the old woman’s house but she didn’t live there anymore but the family that did said she had left them a map she’d made based on that conversation she’d overheard and I followed it and found the tree and was able to snap this photo:

Teapots ready for harvest from the teapot tree. (image by A.C. Cargill – no teapots were harmed in the making of this composite)

Teapots ready for harvest from the teapot tree. (image by A.C. Cargill – no teapots were harmed in the making of this composite)

Proof positive that there is a teapot tree still growing after all these years. We owe a lot to Johnny Teapottreeseed!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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