Fruithurst

Fruithurst is located in east-central Cleburne County in the northeastern part of the state. It has a mayor/city council form of government.

History

Fruithurst Fruithurst began being settled in the 1880s, after the Southern Railway laid down a line through Cleburne County to connect Birmingham, Jefferson County, and Atlanta, Georgia. The settlement originally consisted primarily of migrants from the Carolinas and Georgia in search of better cotton land. The area was originally referred to as Summit Cut, because construction of the rail line in the rolling terrain had required extensive cutting and grading of the hills. The residents soon changed the settlement's name to Zidonia, a name derived from the biblical city of Sidon, or Zidon.

Fruithurst's early history is unusual in Alabama because the town quickly became an agricultural experiment conducted by the Alabama Fruit Growers and Winery Association (AFG&W). Incorporated in 1894, the AFG&W wanted to create a center of grape-growing and winemaking in Cleburne County. The investment group was headed by E. B. Hammitt of Springfield, Massachusetts, and other men from Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio. They bought 20,000 acres of land in 1894 and recruited people, mainly northern Europeans—Swedes, Danes, Norwegians—to work the land and plant vineyards. By 1895, enough Scandinavians had immigrated to Fruithurst to found the Swedish Lutheran Church. Fruithurst incorporated in 1896.

Grape-Packing House The town expanded rapidly, and its citizens held a contest to rename it, choosing Fruithurst, with "hurst" meaning "grove" in German. At the end of nineteenth century, the town had numerous businesses in support of farming, including a planing mill, laundry, livery barn, telegraph office, cigar factory, and basket and crate factory, as well as many wineries. The town also had an electricity plant and a free public school with a nine-month term, both rarities in rural Alabama during the 1890s. In the mid-1890s, AFG&W invested $40,000 to construct the Fruithurst Inn, a state-of-the-art hotel with 80 rooms, a restaurant, a billiard room, and a bowling alley. Between 1894 and 1898, the AFG&W group invested more than $500,000 in the town, and the population surged to around 1,000. By 1898, more than 3,000 acres of grape vines were under cultivation, and Fruithurst was producing 23,000 gallons of various types of good-quality wine. The town also became known for the cultivation of cabbages and sweet potatoes.

The town's prosperity did not last, however. Growers found that they had no real market for the wines and thus had difficulty selling them for a profit, and wineries began to close. In 1903, the Fruithurst Inn was purchased by J. C. Bass of Carrollton, Georgia, who moved it to Borden Springs in north Cleburne County (an area known for mineral springs) with hopes of turning it into a tourist resort. It was later abandoned and then destroyed in a fire. In 1920, Prohibition became the law of the land, and the very few wineries that remained were forced to close. Many of the homes built in Fruithurst during its rapid expansion were moved to Heflin, and others, as well as some of the wineries, were lost to fire. The Fruithurst Winery is still operating in the town.

Demographics

Fruithurst's population according to 2020 Census estimates was 431. Of that number, 100.0 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, with 0.2 of those respondents indicating that they are of Hispanic or Latino heritage. The town's median household income was $46,538, and the per capita income was $16,642.

Employment

According to 2020 Census estimates, the work force in Fruithurst was divided among the following industrial categories:

  • Manufacturing (45.6 percent)
  • Construction (12.6 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (9.7 percent)
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (7.8 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (7.8 percent)
  • Retail trade (6.8 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (4.9 percent)
  • Public administration (1.9 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing and utilities (1.9 percent)
  • Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (1.0 percent)

Education

Schools in Fruithurst are part of the Cleburne County school system; the town has one K-6 elementary school.

Transportation

U.S. Highway 78/State Highway 4 runs roughly northeast-southwest through Fruithurst. County Road 33 terminates in Fruithurst from the south, and County Road 35 begins in Fruithurst, running north. The Norfolk Southern Corporation operates a rail line through the town.

Events and Places of Interest

The town lies east of the Shoal Creek Ranger District of the Talladega National Forest, which offers numerous outdoor recreational activities, including camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, and swimming.

Additional Resources

Cleburne County Heritage Committee. Heritage of Cleburne County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 1998.

Pope, Virginia Voss. Fruithurst, Alabama's Vineyard Village. Albertville, Ala.: Thompson Printing, 1971.

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