EARLY SETTLERS OF DE WITT COUNTY
F - M
Names In Alpha Order
EDMUND W. FRUIT
The following article appeared in the 19 January 1900 issue of the Clinton Register.
SUCCESSFUL IN LIFE. Much Achieved By a Tunbridge Township Farmer.
Edmund W. Fruit was a caller at the REGISTER office Tuesday, and in talking of his early life in
DeWitt county gave some interesting facts, as well as thoughts that would be very valuable to
young men, if acted upon.
Mr. Fruit was born in Christian county, Ky., Sept. 21, 1823, and is in his 77th year. While he
is nearly four score years, he has the appearance of being much younger, though no man in the
county has been more active through his whole life. His parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Fruit,
came to Illinois, settling in what is now Tunbridge township in 1834, this county being a part
of Macon county. Edmund was 11 years old at that time and had attended school about three
months. When the family came to Illinois, he had to assist his father in making a home in the
then "Wild West," and had no opportunity to attend school. He remained with his father until
20 years old when he traded a horse for 40 acres of land, which is now a part of his homestead
near Kenney. This was the beginning of the building up of a landed estate that consists of
over 2,400 acres of as fine land as there is in DeWitt or any other county. The highest he paid
for any land was $85 an acre. He does not own an acre in any other county, and none of his
farms are over two and half miles from market. He owns near Kenney 1,400 acres that can be
traveled over without stepping foot on land owned by another. He says that he would not take
$100 an acre for all the land he has. He says he may not live to see the time it is worth that
amount, but his children will. He thinks the people do not realize what Illinois land will be
worth. Mr. Fruit's wealth shows what can be done by industry, and economy. When Mr. Fruit
bought his first 40 acres, he made rails and fenced it. Then he borrowed $50 to buy 40 acres
joining, making 80 acres. Then he built a log house, made his beds, tables and chairs, and the
doors were hung with wooden hinges that he made. He says the mistake many young men make is in
buying fine furniture, an organ or piano before they have their home paid for. He thinks there
is ample opportunity for young men to accumulate property in Illinois if they are industrious
and use good judgment.
He personally oversees his vast estate, and asks only grain rent except for lots and pasture
land. He does not ask grain rent because he thinks the farmer who does his work well, and for
causes he cannot prevent, his crop is short or a failure that he should be made to stand the
whole loss. He says the man who owns the land is usually more able to stand the loss than the
man who rents it. Though Mr. Fruit has done such a large business, he has never been a party
to a lawsuit. He always fills out two leases, one of which he gives to the tenant, so that he
may know at any time just what he has agreed to do. In this way there is no cause of
misunderstanding, hence no lawsuits.
Mr. Fruit's life has been such that young men can learn a lesson from it that would be valuable.
In addition to being industrious, and economical he has never gone in debt beyond his means.
He has never used tobacco in any way, and was never under the influence of liquor. He strongly
condemns anyone who is not honorable and upright; and believes people should not encourage those
who are inclined to be reckless and not economical by giving them credit beyond a reasonable
limit. He is ready to help those who help themselves, and there is perhaps not a more lenient
landlord in DeWitt county.
A few years ago Mr. Fruit decided to retire from active farm life and bought a fine farm of l75
acres joining Kenney and built a fine residence at the north limits of that town. Besides his
landed interests he owns business property in Kenney. At a fair estimate, his property is worth
$200,000. The accumulation of this vast estate is due to Mr. Fruit's foresight, industry and
economy. Beginning his business in a log hut with puncheon floor, furnished with rude
furniture made by himself he made money by attending strictly to business; and by putting his
surplus into land he was able to add a farm to his estate every few years. His age marks the
growth of his county. He knows its progress better than compilers of its history write it. In
the sixty-five years he has lived in it, he has witnessed the beginning of and growth of Clinton
as well as other places in the county. Where Clinton is was then prairie, and his father built
the first house which was across the street west of the city hall. He thinks part of the
building now there is a part of the house built by his father.
While Mr. Fruit has never been active in politics he has always been a Democrat, and his advice
has often been sought by those more active in political work.