Fruita History

Learn about Fruita, Colorado

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The first permanent homesteaders in the Fruita area were possibly Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lapham – when they settled in late 1882, they took up residency in a pre-existing cabin with a dirt floor and a blanket door. They were followed by other settlers, nearly all of whom were farmers. Attempts to organize a community in the Fruita area were unsuccessful until the present day town was established in 1884, by William E. Pabor, who formed the Fruita Town and Land Company for the purpose of selling town lots.

Pabor recognized the fruit producing potential of the area. Having worked with the Greeley colony, he founded the new town along the same lines, including the provision that no liquor was sold or manufactured in the town. This provision lasted until it was voted out in the late 1970’s. The original town site was planned to take in eighty acres with a park in the middle.

The first school was a log cabin, followed by a frame structure and then a brick building. Built in 1912, the old brick school house now serves as the Civic Center.

In the 1889-90 period fruit was planted throughout the area, mostly hardy apples and pears. During the early years, Fruita’s Chamber of Commerce worked to have area products shown in expositions and fairs throughout the U.S. In 1910 Mable Skinner was elected queen of the National Apple Show, and J.C. Wilson won a $500 prize for his Black Ben Davis apples.

Cattle and sheep ranching also became economically productive. The mainstay of Fruita agriculture has been farming, such as potatoes, sugar beets and winter wheat.

The telephone reached Fruita by about 1900. Water roared through a pipeline running from high-mountain reservoirs 20 miles away in 1907, using the newly built three span Fruita Bridge. Electricity came with the Interurban Railway from Grand Junction in 1910. In the 1930’s, there was a Public Service gas line, and sewers were installed within the water system. Ute Water began serving the area in the 1960’s.

In the 1930’s Fruita also participated in several government projects including the Grand Valley Resettlement Project (later Western Slope Farms). Settled in groups of two or three families per area, thirty-four families were relocated by 1937. Another program was Rural Electrification Project which brought electricity to between 800 and 900 farms. Fruita also had a Civilian Conservation Corps several Works Progress Administration projects including the town library, a federal loan for the new central school and the construction of the spectacular Rim Rock Drive to the top of the Colorado National Monument, elevation 8,000 feet.

Some of the best-remembered personalities associated with Fruita were John Otto, early proponent and first superintendent of the Colorado National Monument, Elmer Riggs, paleontologist from Chicago’s Field Museum who made major discoveries of dinosaur bones in our area in the early 1900s; author and naturalist Will Minor and popular African-American cowhand Charlie Glass, who passed away in 1936.

For more information visit Fruita Tourism’s website.