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Torma-Silvola Family papers

Identifier: IHRC2607

Scope and Contents

The Törmä-Silvola collection consists of organization and personal records that reflect the lives and activities of Fred and Hilda Törmä, their children William Törmä and Sylvia (Törmä) Silvola; Sylvia's husband, Richard Silvola; and Richard's sister, Shirley Silvola. The bulk of the material consists of minutes, newsletters, reports, personal scrapbooks, and correspondence, most of which date from the late 1930s through the late 1960s (roughly the time span over which the Northern States Women's Co-op Guilds and Clubs operated). Most of the items are in Finnish, although there is a considerable amount of English language material, especially in later years.


  • Creation: 1901-1979


Language of Materials

English and Finnish


Open for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room.


This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

For further information regarding the copyright, please contact the IHRCA.


From the 1880s to about 1900, Nashwauk, Minnesota, attracted laborers to its numerous logging camps. After the opening of the Hawkins Mine in 1902, the town became known primarily as a mining village. It soon became a center of Finnish socialist organizing and activity. A Finnish workers' society was established in 1905, a year before the founding of the national Finnish Socialist Federation (1). The Finnish Socialist chapter in Nashwauk did not take sides during factional disputes within the Party, particularly during the split between the Socialists and Industrial Unionists in 1914. Although a majority of Finnish Socialist chapters in Minnesota sided with the Industrial Workers of the World, the Nashwauk chapter remained independent. In 1931 the organization changed its name to the Workers' Educational Society; and in 1952 it disbanded, turning its assets and property over to the local Finnish cooperative, the Elanto. Established in 1908 as a men's boarding house, the Elanto Cooperative was incorporated in 1913. By 1917 it had expanded its activities to include a retail store and joined the newly founded Central Cooperative Exchange of Superior, Wisconsin, in the same year (2).

A lively organizational life developed in Nashwauk through the decades. Due to the strength of the Socialist movement in the early days, Finnish temperance activity in Nashwauk remained weak, nor did Finns organize a Lutheran church in the town. In 1908 a Finnish Methodist pastor with socialist leanings established a Finnish Methodist congregation, which in 1925 merged with a local American Methodist congregation. The Knights and Ladies of Kaleva, a benevolent lodge organization, moved from Chisholm to Nashwauk in the 1920s (the Ladies in 1924 and the Knights in 1928) and organized a variety of Finnish social and cultural activities. When World War II broke out, the Finns in Nashwauk joined a nationwide effort in Finnish American communities to send systematic relief to Finland. After the founding of the Minnesota Finnish American Historical Society (MFAHS) in 1948, the Finns of Nashwauk organized a very active chapter. At the center of much of this organizational activity were Fred and Hilda Törmä, who lived in Nashwauk for almost 60 years. Both were particularly active in various phases of the cooperative movement, the Finnish relief effort, and the MFAHS.

Fred Törmä was born in Parkano, in Turku and Pori province, Finland, in 1888. Arriving in Duluth in 1905 to work in the lumber camps near Stevenson, Minnesota, Törmä settled in Nashwauk in 1906, working in the mines for several years before becoming a carpenter--his life-long career. He played a key role in building the Nashwauk Socialist Hall in 1907, to provide a place for workers' social activities, speaking events, and debates. Törmä was blacklisted twice in 1907, first for contributing money to Työmies, a socialist newspaper, and later for strike activity. While working in the mines, he lost his job for refusing to sign a statement absolving the company of any responsibility for injuries. As a result, he helped to start a mine workers' union. In 1908, Törma also helped to organize the Elanto cooperative--the first workers' cooperative boarding house for Finnish men in Nashwauk. When Elanto began its retail store venture in 1917, Fred served as treasurer of the new board. He was later a board member of the Central Cooperative Wholesale from 1931-1933. Törmä married Hilda Lempeä in 1909, and they had two children--Sylvia (b. 1910) and William (b. 1912). Hilda participated in numerous community cultural events, particularly plays and poetry readings. She was active in numerous cooperative endeavors, especially the Women's Co-op Guilds, and served in the Red Cross. She also served for decades as a newspaper correspondent. When Winter War II broke out in 1939, the Törmäs were both involved in the Finnish relief effort. In fact, Hilda served as secretary for the Nashwauk chapter of Help Finland, Inc. When the Nashwauk chapter of the Minnesota Finnish-American Historical Society was organized in 1948, Fred served as vice-chairman under Charles Latvala (chairman), and Hilda served as membership secretary. Both of the Törmäs were active in the Nashwauk chapter for many years, and Fred served for several years on the MFAHS Board of Directors. Hilda died in 1959. In 1975, Fred moved to Florida with his daughter Sylvia and his son-in-law Richard Silvola. He died in 1979 in the Finnish-American Rest Home.

Richard H. Silvola was born in Soudan, Minnesota, June 21, 1899. He spent 10 years in the armed forces, serving in the marines in France and China. He was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for 10 years. In 1932 he married a young school teacher, Sylvia Törmä, the daughter of Fred and Hilda Törmä. After their marriage, the couple moved to Nashwauk, Minnesota, for a time. Later, they returned to Virginia, Minnesota, where they remained until they moved to Florida in 1975. Richard was active in many civic organizations and served on numerous commissions, such as the Virginia Park Commission. He belonged to the Masons, Finlandia Foundation, Suomi Seura, Minnesota Finnish-American Historical Society and numerous cooperative organizations. Richard was a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and World War I Veterans. He retired from public life in 1965.

Sylvia (Törmä) Silvola attended the public schools in Nashwauk, graduating from high school in 1928 and from St. Cloud State Teachers College in 1930. She taught school in Virginia and Alexandria, and also attended the Univeristy of Minnesota. Richard and Sylvia had two children, Shirley (b. 1933) and Richard Lee (b. 1937). She was active in the auxiliaries of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and World War I Veterans. Sylvia was also a member of the Rebecca Lodge of the Eastern Star, the St. Cloud State College Alumni Association, the International Association for Childhood Education, and the Nashwauk P.T.A. In addition to numerous other state and national civic, social and cultural organizations, she belonged to the Womens' Co-op Guild and served on the Virginia Cooperative store board of directors.


9 Linear Feet


The Torma-Silvola family papers (ca. 1901-1979) consist largely of scrap-books; photographs; and organizational materials from various Finnish American groups.


The collection is organized into the following series:

Series I: Organizational minutes, reports, correspondence, and print materials (boxes 1-9)

Series II: Personal memorabilia and photographs (boxes 9-15)

Series III: Publications (boxes 16-18)

Inventory of the Torma-Silvola Family papers.
IHRC Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding Aid in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Immigration History Research Center Archives Collecting Area