Moonshiners of Thorsby Alabama, 1907
Thorsby, Alabama was founded in 1895 by several Scandinavian immigrants, that allegedly came down from Minnesota and Iowa. Notably among them Theodore T. Thorson – for whom the town was eventually named, John F. Peterson, Jno. E. Hedberg and K. G. Faegre(and?) – Norwegian.
The town grew quickly, with two hotels, a sawmill and lumber company, and two wineries being built within the first couple of years. The town of Thorsby was declared a promised land for northerners looking to relocate to a warmer climate, suitable for farming and better health. The fertile soil of the South produced grapes in large numbers, along with other fruits such as strawberries, and the peaches for which Chilton County is famous. The founders formed the Concordia Land and Improvement Association and began advertising in New England newspapers about the “utopia” they had discovered in the Southeastern United States. 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.
Some of the families that moved there started a peach orchard that failed due to some kind of blight. Their original intent was to also make wine commercially but apparently that never worked out. The entire orchard was burned to prevent the spreading of whatever the trees were afflicted with. After this failure and several other setbacks, many of the original founders of Thorsby permanently returned north many to Minnesota.
Today, many of the descendants of those original Scandinavian settlers still call Thorsby home. 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. A yearly heritage festival is held around the middle of October, the Thorsby Swedish Fest, that celebrates and heralds the town’s Scandinavian roots.