Important Historical Events that Affected Western Colorado

Fruita History

Fruita History

Choose one of the following articles:

Meeker Massacre 1879 Meeker Massacre 1879
Railroad coming through the Grand Valley Major Railroad Comes Through Grand Valley 1882
Fruita is Formed 1884 The Town of Fruita is Formed, 1884
Fruit Orchards Fruit Orchards 1890's to early 1920's
John Otto John Otto & CO National Monument
Roller Dam Building the Highline Canal 1918

Interstate 70 Fruita

City Grows & Highway Comes Through Town

Fruita Union High School Fruita Schools: 1883 to present
Meeker Massacre (1879)

Utes Signed a Treaty

      The Ute Indians used to live in the area where the cities of Grand Junction, Palisade, Fruita, Delta, and Montrose are today. However, white settlers like Nathan Meeker tried to force the Ute Indians to learn farming in an effort to "civilize" or christianize them. They were forced to live in poor living conditions against the ways and traditions of their past.  The final breaking point for the Utes was when Nathan Meeker would not allow horse racing (a Ute favorite tradition).

        They revolted and killed Nathan Meeker and his staff. Although the Utes were also treated unfairly, the Meeker Massacre was the final excuse for the U.S. government to kick them off the land and cancel the treaties or written agreements with the Utes. The Utes were forced to move to a reservation in Utah in 1881.

For more info click here

A Major Railroad Comes Through Grand Junction(Nov. 1882), and Fruita Train Depot and Interurban Railway to Grand Junction (1910)

Railroad coming through the Grand Valley

Fruita Train Depot

Interurban Train to Grand Junction

       The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad came through the Grand Valley in 1882.  Before the railroad was built, people had to get to other places by wagons, horses, or walking.  It took a long time to do that and was hard to carry a lot of stuff.  It would take a couple of days or weeks traveling by horse, wagon, or on foot. It was much faster traveling by train, taking maybe a day or two, and you could carry stuff on a train a heck of a lot easier.  If you were a farmer or rancher and needed to sell your crops, cows, or other kinds of animals, you could just put them on the train and you could sell them farther away much quicker and easier.

    The train brought jobs to people in Grand Junction.  The train companies set up repair shops here to fix train cars and railroad tracks that were broken. The main railroad stop helped cities around Grand Junction grow like Fruita and Palisade.

     In 1910, Fruita built a train depot (dee-po) and Interurban railway to Grand Junction's large train depot. Many people traveled on the trains.  The train depot, or the building where a train stops at, became very important.  If your grandparents were coming from out of town, you would meet them there.  In addition, people would load crops, animals, and supplies to sell at other places at the depot.   They could also unload and buy the food and supplies that they needed from other places.

The Town of Fruita is Formed, 1884

Willam Pabor

           The first homesteaders could have been Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lapham. They settled in late 1882, and were followed by other settlers. They tried to organize a community but they failed. Then present day Fruita was established in 1884 by William E. Pabor. In the 1889-90 period fruit was planted throughout the area.

           Fruita had two little stores at first. There was one little school they had for kids to go to. It was a log cabin unlike today’s schools. They did not have sewer and more water systems until later. Mr. Pabor helped build canals from the Colorado River to the farms and bring water to their orchards and fields. Fruita also farmed potatoes, sugar beats, and winter wheat. The telephone reached Fruita by about 1900. Electricity came with the interurban railway from Grand Junction in 1910.

By Emily

Fruit Orchards, 1890's to early 1920's

Fruit Orchards

Packing Apples

Coddling Moth

          From around 1890 to 1920, Fruita was known for its apples. William E. Pabor  recognized the fruit producing area. Fruit trees were planted in the area, mostly apples and pears. The orchards had about 2,600 trees. A crew was kept busy year round with pruning, re-planting, irrigation, and maintaining the orchards.

           In 1887, when the first county fair was held, there were apples, pears, and strawberries from Fruita. In 1904, the Fruita Fruit and Produce Association was built on Mulberry Street. From there, they shipped apples, pears, and produce on trains to Grand Junction, then all over the country. The Starr family owned a successful apple orchard. Most of the apple and pear production was from Fruita. Strawberries and other soft fruit were grown by local farmers.    

           In 1911, Fruita’s crop was affected by a hail storm passing through the area, damaging the fruit; it caused $100,000 worth of fruit. In 1910, coddling moths started attacking the fruit. Another cause of damage was spring freezes that happened for several years. By the 1920s, most of the orchards had been chopped down. Potatoes, sugar beets, oats, wheat, corn, and alfalfa were grown on farms. We no longer grow a lot of fruit, but we kept the name Fruita.

By Emily

John Otto & CO National Monument, 1911

Colorado National Monument

John Otto trail builder

CCC Rim Rock Drive

Rim Rock Drive

       John Otto is the founder of the Colorado National Monument. Otto came to western Colorado in 1906 and lived in the canyons of the Monument alone. John Otto built many trails for free for people like you who visit the Monument. John named many formations he found such as Independence Rock. He had a hard time starting the Monument. Finally on May 24, 1911 President Taft signed the proclamation and the Monument was formed. Otto succeeded. The Monument started to bring more people from around the country to the Grand Valley. Some of the people moved here and others spent money here and created jobs.

         Some people thought that he was odd. He married a Boston artist, Beatrice Farmham, in June 20, 1911 at the base of Independence Rock. Soon after, he got divorced from Beatrice, although he didn’t want to. He got divorced because Beatrice didn’t want to live in a small shack.

         John spent over 20 years of his life with the canyons and mesas in the Monument. Mr. Otto was the first caretaker for the Monument. John was an expert trail maker. He wanted to have the Monument named Smith the Monument. He helped build a road called Serpant's Trail in 1921 to get to Glade Park. In 1933, Otto moved from Colorado to the mountains in California in search of gold. During his lifetime, he was put in jail three times for insanity. He was also put in jail for threatening the Colorado governor. Otto died in California at the age of 81. Otto loved the area so much, he requested to be buried here at Elmwood Cemetery.   

          In the 1930's the CCC and WPA built a road called Rimrock Drive through the Colorado National Monument. Click here for more information.

By Spencer

Building the Highline Project Canal System (1918) 

Highline Canal

Roller Dam

     Before the Highline Project many farmers and ranchers had dug their own ditches and small canals from the Colorado River to bring water to their land.  People in the Grand Valley got together and decided to build a better irrigation system.  It had several main purposes.  The canals were dug deeper and wider to bring more water from the river.  In addition, more canals were dug that went further away from the river. The extra water and new canals allowed more land to be used for houses, fruit orchards, and farms (in fact up to 50,000 acres).

     The canal system is controlled by a roller dam that was put across the Colorado River above Palisade in the DeBeque Canyon.  The dam has steel cylinders or rollers in it that go up and down controlling how much water that goes into the canals.  It is the largest roller dam in the nation! Watch for it next time as you are driving on Interstate 70 through DeBeque Canyon.

City Grows, 1884-Present

Fruita Circle Park

Fruita Downtown

           Fruita has been around for years now. Fruita’s population back in 1885 was 378. Fruita’s population in 2011 is 6,878. 6,500 more people live in Fruita today! That is really amazing!

            We believe that the first settlers in Fruita were Mr. and Mrs. Lapham. In 1885 there were two small grocery stores. In 2011, there is now one large store called City Market. Back in 1885 the young girls wore long skirts and dresses. Today the girls wear jeans and shorts with stylish tops. Fruita people in 1885 had horses and buggies. Today Fruita people have cars and trucks. Fruita schools in 2011 are made of brick. Back in 1885 schools were mostly made of wood.

            One thing Fruita is known for is Circle Park. In 1885 the town of Fruita planned to take 80 acres and put a park in the middle. A few businesses in Circle Park were Queen City Café, Park hotel, Svanson boots and shoemakers. Today, many of Fruita’s businesses are still around Circle Park. Fruita is a very cool place to live.   

By Libby

A Major Highway Comes Through Town (1960's)

Old Road

Interstate 70 Fruita

     In  the 1950's and 1960's, the government built better roads across the United States. In the 1960's they made Interstate 70 go through Palisade, Grand Junction, and Fruita.  Before the highway, the roads were bumpy, dusty, and narrow.  The new highway was much smoother and let you go much faster.  Since it was easier to travel on the new highways, people started buying more cars and traveled less by train.  In addition, semis became more popular to send food and other stuff to different cities, thus sending less stuff on trains.

     People traveling on the highway stopped in Fruita to eat at restaurants, sleep at hotels, see the beautiful scenery, buy stuff at stores, and get gas.  So, more businesses were able to open, more jobs were created in Fruita, and the city became larger.

Fruita Schools, 1883 to Present

Central School, 1887 to 1935

New Central School. Fruita Elementary, Civic Center

Fruita Union High School

1st Fruita Union High School burned down 1934

Fruita Union High School, later Fruita Middle School

              The Fruita schools have a long history! The first school was built in 1883 and was a 10' by 14' log cabin. That's small! The first teacher was B.J. Hughes. Hughes had 16 pupils. In 1884, a larger building was built.

           Fruita Central School was built in 1887. It was a brick building and a rear addition was added in 1894. The first class graduated from high school in 1893. New Central Elementary was built right by it in 1912. 1st through 8th grades went there. The older Central School was torn down in 1935 when additions were added to the New Central School building. In 1902, a teacher's salary was only $50 per month.

          In 1951, New Central became Fruita Elementary. In 1959, Shelledy Elementary was built for kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades. Dr. Shelledy donated the land that Shelledy is built on. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades still went to Fruita Elementary. In 1982, an addition was added to Shelledy and kindergarten through 5th grades went there. The New Central building became the Fruita Civic Center in the 1980's.

          Fruita Union High School was completed in 1905. It was east of where Mr. Reed's Dairy was. In 1934, the Fruita Union High School had a fire and was badly damaged. After the fire, students were taught in the Fruita Armory. In 1936 the new Fruita Union High School was built. In 1954, there was an addition built north of this building for a junior high school. In 1969, Fruita Monument High School was built and the old buildings became Fruita Middle School for grades 6th, 7th, and 8th.

         In 2007, so many students went to Shelledy Elementary and Fruita Middle School that they built Rimrock Elementary School and the Fruita 8/9 school. They split 6th and 7th grades going to the old Middle school, 8th and 9th grades going to the new school, and 10th to 12th grades going to Fruita Monument High School.

By Spencer

A New Fruita Hospital and Recreaton Center

Family Health West

Fruita Community Center

            A new hospital was built in 2009 on the place where the old little league baseball field was by Shelledy Elementary. The new hospital is very important for Fruita because it saves the long emergency response time to Saint Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. In an emergency situation, every minute counts and now Fruita has a lot closer and up to date hospital to get help. In addition, Fruita citizens can drive a lot shorter distance to get non-emergency medical help.

          In 2010, a new recreational center was built where the old Fruita Pool used to be by Shelledy Elementary. People in Fruita have access to an amazing place to work out, swim, play basketball or volleyball, and more. The rec. center has a very nice indoor and outdoor pool with many different sections. The library was able to move to a larger and more up to date space inside the rec. center. The Fruita Recreational Center provides an excellent place young people to do activities and families to play and work out, and only minutes away.