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Descendants of early Thorsby settlers return for dedication

By Scott Mims

Nearly 20 people were in attendance Saturday for the dedication of Thorsby’s Scandinavian Cemetery and the unveiling of a historical marker at the site, located on County Road 37.

Among those present were descendants, members of the Thorsby Historical Preservation Committee, other citizens, and representatives of the Alabama Historical Commission and the Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance.

“Someone is to be congratulated. The cemetery is beautiful,” said Tom Wingfield, who made the trip from Atlanta with his wife, Carolyn.

Wingfield has several family members buried in the cemetery, including both sets of great grandparents. His great aunt was the organist in the Concordia Lutheran Church, the church that once owned the cemetery.

Wingfield said the last time he visited the site was in 2003, and his recollection was of an old, grown-up cemetery. But Saturday, he said, was a different story.

“It’s gorgeous now,” he said.

Ralph Mason, whose grandparents, Rueben and Charlotte Foss, are buried there, was grateful to the town of Thorsby and the organizations and volunteers that helped turn the site into something to be proud of again.

“It’s a great heritage, and I can’t commend them enough for taking care of this cemetery and promoting the Swedish history of Thorsby,” he said. “It just makes you feel really good.”

Lee Anne Wofford of the state Historical Commission was accompanied by Phyllis Armstrong of the state Cemetery Preservation Alliance.

“Not everybody gets one of these,” Wofford said of the marker, which is given only to sites listed on the state historic register.

Tracia Bussey of the town’s preservation committee recognized the Chilton Cemetery Association for being proactive in getting the site listed. She also thanked town leaders and others who assisted.

“It’s a tranquil place to come out and just spend a little time,” Bussey said.

The following is the text as it appears on the historic marker:

“In 1896, Swedish settlers organized the Concordia Lutheran Church and acquired this land for the Concordia Cemetery, later known as the Lutheran Cemetery. This is the former site of Stassburg School. In the 1980s it became known as the Scandinavian Cemetery since most of those laid to rest here were Lutherans, not only of Swedish descent, but also of Norwegian, Danish and Finnish. They were primarily from the upper mid-western United States and desired a better climate and living conditions to work in and raise their families. They cleared the land, built homes, planted orchards and vineyards, established businesses, schools and churches. They developed a thriving town where they enjoyed social gatherings, band concerts, festive celebrations, and built lifelong friendships. This marker was placed here in 2010 by descendants of the Scandinavians laid to rest here and by the Thorsby Historical Preservation Committee to remember these people who founded the town of Thorsby.”