Thorsby is a small, rural city in central Alabama that is proud of its Scandinavian heritage. Settled in 1865 by three Swedes, Theodore T. Thorson, John F. Peterson, John E. Hedberg, and one Norwegian, K. G. Faegre, the Town of Thorsby was declared a promised land for northerners looking to locate in a warmer climate, suitable for farming and better health. The founders formed the Concordia Land and Improvement Association and began advertising in northern newspapers about the ‘utopia’ they had discovered in the south. Many traveled by railroad to purchase a tract of land and start a better life. Thorsby became affectionately known as the little “Swede Town” by locals.
Today, the town has very few Scandinavians living among the 2,000 or so residents, but the architecture of the old homes and church are reminders of the days when all the shops and businesses were operated by Swedes, Norwegians, Finns and Danes. The home pictured was built in the late 1890’s by the main visionary for the town, Theodore T. Thorson, and has been beautifully restored. The town maintains a museum in the old Norwegian Lutheran Church named “Helen Jenkins Chapel”. A Scandinavian Cemetery is available for visits any time and a self-guided motor tour map is available from the City Hall.
A yearly heritage festival is held around the middle of October, the Thorsby Swedish Fest, that celebrates and heralds the town’s Scandinavian roots. The festival hosts a beauty pageant, car show, entertainment, arts and crafts booths, food vendors, games, and fun for the entire family in the Richard H. Wood Memorial Park. The 2008 festival saw roughly 4,000 visitors and each year continues to increase. There is a current movement among town residents to find more ways to connect with their Swedish beginnings. If you visit the town, you’re sure to enjoy finding Sweden in Alabama, USA.
Theodora (Dora) Thorson - Colorized photograph with Dora posing as the "Sweet Goddess of Liberty" at the 1902 July 4th celebration. This was taken two years prior to her passing away from typhoid fever.
Click the link above to download a seven page pdf version of a personal recounting of Thorsby history by one of the early settlers, Mrs. Pauline Poole Howard.
The 2010 addition of the book, "Thorsby - Our Roots ~ Our Fruits" is available at Thorsby Town Hall for $10.00 per copy. It is the most complete book yet of Thorsby's history beginning with the arrival of the Scandinavian culture. To purchase by mail please use the contact page.