Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST – Did you know there was a Scandinavian immigration to Chilton County, Alabama? [film, photographs]

{Thorsby was founded by Swedes in the late 1800s and was established as a Scandinavian Colony in the South. This year’s celebration will feature a parade at 9 a.m., entertainment, arts, crafts and food vendors and heritage tours. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The event is held annually on the second Saturday of October.}

We normally think of Scandinavians migrating to the northwest of the United States, not south to Alabama. However, numerous droughts, grasshopper swarms, and prairie fires, plus depressed prices that hit farmers around 1890 caused them to think about moving again.

Typical Sod Home of Immigrants leaving Custer, Nebraska ca. 1900

Nebraska State Historical Society via Library of Congress

Typical home of some of the immigrants from Nebraska

Thorsby was one of three Scandinavian Colonies that was established around Alabama at the turn of the century.thorsby historical marker

“Founded in 1895, the Town of Thorsby was the first planned community in Chilton County. The original settlers were people of Scandinavian origin seeking a favorable climate to locate for farming, fruit growing and better health.thorsby sign

The original founders of Thorsby were three Swedes, Theodore T. Thorson, John F. Peterson, John E. Hedberg, and a Norwegian, K. G. Faegre.  The founders formed the Concordia Land and Improvement Association and began mapping the new community.

Home of T. T. Thorson, Thorsby, Ala., June 12th, 1900 Thorson and his family sit on the porch and balcony of the house. A young boy on the balcony is holding a baritone

Alabama State Archives

Home of T. T. Thorsby sitting on porch - Alabama archives

Advertisements were placed in northern newspapers declaring the discovery of a southern utopia, one that promised good soil, plenty of fresh water, nice warm temperatures and long growing seasons for crops. Soon excursion trains brought new residents to town, most of them Swedes, Norwegians, Finns and Danes.”1

The David Hilton family near Weissert, Custer County, Nebraska – 1887 – typical prairie farm

Nebraska State Historical Society via Library of Congress

prairie settlement Nebraska

The following article in The Banner, Clanton, Alabama, on June 20, 1895, stated the plans to relocate people from Nebraska and Kansas to Alabama:

“General News Summary: To inspect Alabama Lands”

Major Hunter, secretary of the Grand Army immigration committee, and Col. J. F. Zediker of Nebraska, will commence their investigation of Alabama lands on the 19th. Their first investigation will be along the Alabama Great Southern Railroad from the northeast to the southwest comer of the state. Col. Zediker is editor and proprietor of the Lincoln, Nebraska, “Camp Fire,” one of the leading Grand Army papers of that territory, and he represents hundreds of families in Nebraska and Kansas, who desire to come south to live. Full description of the property examined will be published in the Nebraska ‘Camp Fire’

While the settlers of Thorsby, Alabama, came mainly from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, the founder of Thorsby, T. T. Thorson, formerly lived in Nebraska. The migration to Alabama was naturally not limited to Scandinavians.

It is not sure how the name Thorsby was chosen, There is a ‘Torsby’ town in Sweden, but it may have come from founder T. T. Thorson’s name.

 Theodore Thorson Added to Find A by: Ashley McCrary

# 98118015

Theodore Thorson (1856-1931)

Parks were included in the community plan and ten-acre residential plots were sold which included a small vineyard.

The Scandinavian cemetery with many early immigrants can be found on county road 37.

Thorsby was incorporated in 1901 and was affectionately called “Swede Town” by locals. The Town of Thorsby was one of three Scandinavian Colonies that were established around Alabama at the turn of the century, the other two were SilverHill in Baldwin County, Alabama and Fruithurst in Cleburne County, Alabama.

(Clipping From Shelby Guide Feb. 22, 1870)


  1. Thorsby Historical Marker
  2. Memories Preserved,” Vol. II by Lilly Setterdahl
  3. Find A
  4. Wikipedia

1Thorsby Historical Marker

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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