|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|The Hold-Off Society
A small hall opposite Immanuel Lutheran Church on elm Street may be of little interest to
many now that a fresh coat of paint obliterates the sign that identified it as the Temperance
Hall. But it is one of the oldest buildings in town and was erected by a community wide
social group that met regularly every month beginning in the early 1880’s with an avowed
purpose of “holding-off” the use of alcohol beverages.
Not that alcoholic use was wide spread here a hundred years ago. The Yankee settlers
were of New England stock and though some men may have enjoyed a nip on occassions,
they were usually abstainers. Immigrants had little money beyond necessities back in those
days and so the Norwegians favored øl instead of the fiery stuff. In any event these
Norwegians organized a temperance society in the early eighties and met regularly on the
second floor at Finstad’s hall. A pair of strict temperance men, Olson and Ager, published
the Reform, a semi-weekly, at Eau Claire and were prime instigators of this movement.
The paper was well written, had wide circulation among Norwegian readers and
publicized temperance issues prominently. Eau Claire library files reveal spring election
canvass results of all municipalities in the area regarding we-dry results.
This society was likely the first and only community-wide meeting group at that time and
may have provided an opportunity for social gathering also. Outside speakers were
frequent and it should be remembered that Strum is named for one of these men.
Temperance translated literally into Norwegian is “av-hold” or “hold-off”, so this early
group was in a sense, the hold-off society. What success or influence did they have? How
long were they active?
The hall shows up on the oldest picture of this town, snapped a short time after the
railroad came down the valley. Pioneer merchant Hans Willumson was the force behind its
erection and may have financed it substantially. It was one of the very first buildings that
went up after Strum began moving south of the river. An old story persists that Finstad
permitted dancing on his 2nd floor which ended the relationship with the hold-off society.
Willumson charged a dollar per meeting for hall rental. Beginning in 1894 it was used by
Unity township for their annual meetings for 84 years. The ladies band practiced there and
during early years a local unit of the Skandinavian Working Men’s Society used the hall
for meetings. It was used for justice court cases, a wedding or two and a meeting that
resulted in erection of the church across the street took place in that hall. The last
meetings of the temperance society were held about 1905 although no records now exist.
In spite of their activity the community became wet in time.
|Scan of Original Page & Picture