Fruitland is an unincorporated community in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri located approximately 5 miles north of Jackson, Missouri. It sits just northeast of the intersection of U.S. Route 61 and Interstate 55.
Although historians disagree, Fruitland was likely founded as Pleasant Hill in the 1810s by John Oliver, Jr., who settled with his family on Indian Creek on an estate he named Pleasant Gardens. "Pleasant" was carried over to Pleasant Hill Academy, one of the first schools of higher learning in the area founded by Oliver. "Hill" was a natural choice; the area occupied high ground near major creeks in all directions: Indian Creek to the east, Hubble Creek to the south, Byrd Creek to the west, and Apple Creek to the north. Until the late 1860s, most maps showed Pleasant Hill as the village on the road between Jackson and Perryville.
In 1869, Professor James Hutchinson Kerr, a Pennsylvania native and Yale graduate, moved to Cape Girardeau County and founded a school called the Fruitland Normal Institute. Public schools in the area needed teachers and the region needed a school to train the teachers. He had hoped his school would become a regional university; however, in 1873, that distinction went to the city of Cape Girardeau as the newly selected home for the Third District Normal School, now known as Southeast Missouri State University.
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