Lee County Biography

George and Henry G. Fruit
July 23, 1981 Franklin Grove 2nd Annual Harvest Festival Honors Fruit Brothers
By Eloise Van Hise
Contributed by Karen Holt
These articles appeared in local papers just prior to the event.

"This year's festival is dedicated to the Fruit Brothers, George and Henry," stands out in bold print on the top of the flyers fro the second annual Franklin Grove Harvest Festival, July 25 and 26. The decision came about naturally last month at a meeting of the representatives of service clubs in the community. They were finalizing plans for the 1981 festival when Kathy Clark, one of the representatives spoke up, "They [the Fruit Brothers] certainly personify the idea of the whole thing."

The community immediately too the idea to their hearts. Mementos of their lives are already on display in the Franklin Grove Public Library. Plans have been made for them to rise in the Miss Flame Parade on Saturday night when it leaves the high school at 7 p.m. George's antique 1909 Buick roadster and Henry's 1928 REO fire engine and 1941 Chrysler will also be in the parade. On Sunday their cars and truck will be part of the antique vehicle display in A-Last-A-Park while George and Henry work with their antique machinery in the threshing area south of the park. Their entire family is expected to be present at the concluding activity of the festival, the Concert-in-the-Park on Sunday evening when both men will receive certificates honoring them for their years of helping to keep alive the agricultural heritage of the community.

These are two remarkable men: George is 88; his younger brother, Henry, is a mere 86! They may be old in years, but that's all. Each is a colorful individual, full of fun, and have added fun to the life of the community together and individually.

Left: George and Ruth Wedding Day // Right: Henry and Ellen on their Honeymoon & later

A friend, Marge Cruce, laughs as she recalls the time a few years ago when the two entered a talent show with an act based on the Twenties. Wearing black hats and suits, they kept the audience "in stitches" with their antics. Mabel Henry, who Hank always said made the best pies in Franklin Grove, once said about George and Henry, "My, I hate to see those two fellows get old; they've had so much fun."

They're so enthusiastic that life is never dull around them. They are always into interesting projects. Seventeen years ago, when George was in his seventies and Henry hadn't quite reached that decade in his life, these two started a steam and gas engine show of their own. Henry owned forty acres just north of town, a perfect place for a show. Clear Creek ran through the property so what better name for their association when it was registered with the state than the Clear Creek Steam and Gas Engine Association. People came from everywhere to their shows, Henry says, from Freeport, Rockford, Elgin, Chicago, and Sycamore, to name a few. Theirs may not have been the biggest show in the state, but it was the most fun. And George and Henry loved it! Loved visiting with other steam engine buffs, the noise, the tinkering and adjusting of the machinery, the puffin of the steam engines-everything about it.

George and Henry and their three sisters were born and grew up on a farm just across the road north of the then thriving village of Carthage (Taylor Twp Ogle Co.), on the old stagecoach road. The village at that time had a blacksmith shop, a doctor's office, a general store, a stagecoach stop, schoolhouse, and post office. The railroad by-passed the village and instead went to Franklin Grove. Nothing remains except one old house and four very new houses, just west of Kuhn's corner on Flagg Road. The one-room school where the little Fruits went to school laws one block south from their home, so, of course, they always walked to school. The brothers' first teacher was Becky Gilbert, who later married and became the mother of Clair Colwell.

The old school stands no more, but the youngest of the family, Marjorie, bought the hardwood floors when the school was sold and torn down. She has them in her home at the north edge of Franklin Grove. Henry was married to the former Ruth Kump of Oregon in 1915. She was working in the Vassar factory in Rochelle, so George drove his horse to Oregon and got on the train on July 3 that year; she got on the train in Rochelle. They were married in Chicago that day.

The next day George rode his motorcycle in a race. "My first motorcycle didn't have a clutch," he recalls. "I'd raced before I was married. But the last race I rode in, I fell off my motorcycle, I already had a quarter-mile handicap when the race started. I fell off and got back on and won the race! It was a ten mile race," he said. When they were first married, George and Ruth lived in Oregon and he worked in a grocery store. First he delivered groceries with a horse and delivery wagon. "That was the darndest horse," he reminisces. "It would walk down the alley to the end of the block and wait for me."

George and his Car // George with the Engine

Always a mechanic at heart, George found that first year of marriage gave him spare time. He drove cars from the Rockford Model-T assembly plant to a dealer in Oregon. From pieces he found in junk yards, he built a car for himself. "It ran, too!" he comments. Then he got a Model-T. "Sometimes I'd ride with him," Ruth says. "He liked to scare me. He'd turn circles on the ice in a low place in the street where snow had melted and frozen. Another fellow saw him and he tried it, but he didn't calculate it right and hit a tree."

When George and Henry's parents moved to town in Franklin Grove in 1917, George and Ruth farmed the home place for three years. George got his first taste of steam-operated machinery in the threshing ring. He still holds a certificate of membership, #311, in the Illinois Brotherhood of Threshermen. He also developed his hankering to fly. "The man that tended the separator had a license to fly. It was just one of them things." George says. He had become a pilot.

He became a member of the Blackhawk Flying Club and still has his license to fly small engine planes. George also became a licensed Commercial Glider Pilot with license #416. He is still a lifetime member of the Dixon Pilots' Association which was organized in December, 1944. He even attended their most recent meeting last week.

Henry Fruit in the Cab of Ol 2852 // Henry Making Pancakes // Henry with his beard

When Henry came home from the service and wanted to farm, George went into construction work, first helping to build the blacktop through Nachusa. He operated a crane. Now the two brothers own two cranes and George has dug out the lake on "the forty" owned by Henry as well as other lakes and streams in the area. George is a certified operating engineer. Also a power engineer, George is qualified to operate a power plant. A few years ago George became a hero when he brought his Case engine to Nachusa Lutheran Children's Home and supplied the steam heat lost because of a fie in the building housing the regular plant.

He loves working on cars, too. He was an expert welder and mechanic, running his own garage before an airplane accident in October 3, 1932, injured his arm. "He was so stubborn," his wife recalls, "that he made himself learn to write and to do book work with his left hand. His right hand and arm were too still for hi to use them." In 1933 he became postmaster of Franklin Grove. George went to Douglas Aircraft in Chicago in 1940 on construction work.

When that finished, he and twenty-five other men signed up for a four month stint in the Alcan Highway, based in Alaska. The George Fruits have lived in their present house for 39 years. They started there with a three -room cottage to which they added little by little over the years. George still loves machinery, he was repairing a truck engine when I was there!

There is music in George Fruit, as well. George will be playing his melodica in Sunday's Concert-in-the-Park. "A truck drive came along one day. I was interested in music and he finally traded his melodica for the two stringed instruments I had," he says. This is not the first one he will be playing in the festival. "My first one had 26 keys, this one has 36 keys. I lost the old one. I bought this one at Westgor's in Dixon. "I took music lessons on the piano when I was a kid." He continues. "Flora Wicker drove out to the house with her house and buggy. Henry never was much interested in music. He loves to talk to much."

"I took violin lessons, too, from Billy King. Henry would walk over to Kings' with me. While I practiced on my violin, he'd sit in the kitchen and talk to Billy's dad. He really got a bang out of that. They'd tell jokes and Billy's dad's belly would shake." Henry was in love with railroads. When he retired from the C.B.& Q. Railroad in 1964, with time out for service in the 58th Brigade attached to the 58th Field Artilery in France from 1917 to 1919, he had fired engines for twenty-four years and eleven months and had been an engineer for twenty-three years.

Henry and the former Lillian Pahnke were married June 1, 1931, in the manse of the Presbyterian Church in Aurora by the Rev. Henry Moser. Their three-week honeymoon was taken in Alaska, with a steamer trip up the west coast of North America. Their first home was in Ottawa; they have lived in their present home in Franklin Grove for 39 years. Henry is gregarious by nature. He is very upset if he misses his daily trips at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to the local restaurant for "coffee." It's not really the coffee he gets anxious about, but the camaraderie of meeting with his buddies there. "Probably, it's good for him," says sister Marjorie, "since it gets him out of the house and among people."

"Henry worked the Rochelle to Mount Morris run on the Railroad in later years." Annis Spangler, a native Franklin Grover explains. "He'd make the run to Mt. Morris in the morning and stay all day. That's how he knows everyone three. And everyone knows him." The father-in-law of Rev. David Seyller, minister of the United Methodist Church in Franklin Grove, always looks Henry up when he comes to visit his daughter and her family. He knew Henry in Aurora. They go downtown for coffee, too.

Henry, too, is stubborn. He believes in working for what he cares about. A life long member of the Franklin Grove Masonic Lodge, the American Legion Post, and the Lighthouse Church Cemetery Association, he is a hard worker. "No one can make pancakes like Henry can," says Curt White, also a Legionnaire. Henry can and does make pancakes or oyster stew for the money-making events of the Legion and Cemetery Association. They are remarkable men; they have done a lot. They are very special! Just as Kathy Clark said, "they personify the idea of the whole thing."

(Information from Karen Holt)
FRUIT, Henry Gustave b Nov 15, 1894 Taylor Twp. Ogle Co. IL d Mar 16, 1996 Lee Co IL
Married Lillian PAHNKE June 1, 1931 in Aurora , IL. She died February 28, 1985 in IL. Both are buried in Emmert Cemetery.
Henry was honored by Franklin Grove with “Henry Fruit Day” on his 100th birthday.

FRUIT, George Harrison b 29 Nov 1892 Taylor Twp. Ogle Co. IL d Nov18, 1983 Lee Co IL
Married Ruth KUMP in July 3 1915. She was b b Jan 9, 1897 in Pennsylvania d July 25, 1998 in IL
Both are buried in the Franklin Grove Cemetery.

Parents: Charles Fruit b Nov 15, 1849 in Sweeden d Jan 22, 1928 in Illinois . Buried in Lighthouse Cemetery
Married: 1st Anna Bronson Aug 20 1884. She died Oct 30, 1889 in IL Buried at Lighthouse Cemetery
Married: 2nd Selma Anderson Dec 31, 1891. She was born abt 1870/71 in Sweden . She died Feb 8 1961 in IL Buried at Lighthouse Cemetery

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