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This is the history in short of the Valon Tuote Temperance Society and of its 60 years in activity against the tremendous odds and evils of intoxicating liquor, which are destroying so many homes and the happiness of people of all races.
The first meeting was held Sunday, March 12, 1893, in the home of Conrad Mattson, on 2nd St. North in Virginia, Minnesota. Twenty members were present to organize a Temperance Society, and gave it the name "Valon Tuote (which means Producer of Light) Temperance Society". Gust Gustafson Hall was rented where the meetings were held, and the membership kept growing, so that by Spring there were forty-four members.
Then came the first set-back. On Sunday, June 18, 1893, the Hall burned with everything in it, books, papers, and the charter - the whole City of Virginia burned, only a few houses were left standing.
The first meeting after the fire was held in a camp built on the ruins of the August Standinger home. Meetings were held in different places, then some time later the Temperance Society rented Victor Pelto's Hall where meetings were held for nearly two years. In this same Hall in September 1894 was organized the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, also the choir and library.
Bazaars were held for the benefit of the Temperance Society and the Congregation. The first pastor for the Congregation was H. Sarvela. Later on the members of the Temperance Society and the Congregation decided to build their own Hall which would serve for both Temperance meetings and the church. The Society borrowed $175.00 from the congregation. and they could use the Hall rent-free until the $175.00 was paid back. Then the Temperance Society bought one lot and built the Hall, where the two story Hall stands today on 3rd St. North. Valon Tuote Temperance Society and congregation jointly worked hard to finance the building. When the building was ready they were in debt over $1,000.00.
Some time later the Temperance Society organzed a band with 36 instruments. Their first leader was John Haapasaari. That increased the membership considerably. The Temperance Society put out handwritten newspapers and organized a sewing circle and also a speaker's practice club.
The Society understood the temperance work to be social, domestic, and with religious uplifting to all mankind. These are known facts that through the Temperance Society many a helpless drinker quit the intoxicating liquors and joined the church.
Activities of the Society gradually increased. Meetings were peaceful. Finally they came to the point where the Hall was too small, so in the year of 1906 the Temperance Society decided to sell the Hall and buy another lot and to build a bigger Hall, a two-story building with brick siding. And it still stands and is occupied by the Valon Tuote Temperance Society today. The highest number of members the Society has had at any one time has been 372.
When the new building was completed a meeting was held at which the members decided to change the by-laws. The old by-laws read that 3/4 of the vote would rule. They decided to change the article 4 to read that the majority should rule. This was done.
We all remember when in 1907 or 1908 Socialist-Communistic ideas began to change the minds of some of the members of the Society. They took advantage of the changed by-laws majority rule. They organized between themselves and got many new members in order to get the majority vote and get control of the Temperance Hall, and change it to the Socialist Hall. So the fight was on. Credit is given to the Ladies of the Temperance Society for saving the Hall - the Socialist lost out. The Socialist members then built their own Hall which is now known by the name of the Co-op Center. The Temperance Hall has always been and will always be in service to people by the people. This Society's wish is to preserve everything - everything that is honorable and beautiful in its service.
People have gathered in this building in many different groups and in many different names, have helped the poverty stricken, have helped the Finnish College in Hancock, Michigan (the Suomi-Opisto).
Concerts, plays and other entertainments have been given for the benefit of the church and Temperance Society. This Society has had an athletic club, music and singing and general good times. Large and small choirs have sung there, namely: Linnut, Fenniat, Murinat, Veikot, Tilkut, Sannit, Kottaraiset and many other choirs.
In 1903, Pastor Henry Sarvela of the church suggested to the Temperance Society that they buy the bell for the church. The question was taken up at a meeting of the Society and it was decided to buy the bell and donate it to the church. The price was $280.00. The money was raised by evening entertainment, and by members of the Temperance Society donations.
Notable sums which the Society has paid to the sick members are: 1900 - $417.75, 1914 - $144.50, 1915 - $163.50, 1916 - $165.00. In these four years the Society paid the total of $890.75 for sick benefits. The Society has always taken care of the needy and the sick, but those were the years in which the Society paid out the most.
Funeral expenses paid total $900.00 for 18 members. In 1903 members of, the Temperance Society took a census of Finnish people in Virginia, Minn., at that time there were 835 men, 342 women and 528 children, totalling 1,705. There were 493 more men than women.
The Society has had a library since 1894 and is still in good condition and has close to 800 books.
The Sewing Circle is still active. They have made velvet draperies for every window of the big Hall and a curtain for the Stage. They meet every other Thursday. Valon Tuote Temperance Society holds its meetings twice a month on Thursdays. Membership is not as large as the Society would like to have.
There would be much more to write about the activities of Valon Tuote Temperance Society in these 60 years. They have had their ups and downs like everything else in human life.
-Translated from the Finnish language by Gust A. and Ida S. Gustafson
Page 14-15 in: History of the Sixty Years of Valontuote Temperance Society Virginia, Minnesota, 1893-1953. (Historia Valontuote Raittiusseuran 60 vuotisesta toiminnasta.) Virginia, Minnesota, 1893-1953. Virginia, Minnesota 1953, 52 p.
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