You’re invited... Toimi School Centennial Celebration
By: From Robert Kari, Lake County News Chronicle
The public is invited to the 100 year celebration of the Toimi School on June 22. Toimi School is located in the community of Toimi approximately midway between Silver Bay and Aurora on Forest Highway 11, six miles west of the County Highway 2 and Forest Highway 11 intersection.
The Finns who settled the Toimi area during the early 1900s took two distinctly different routes to get there. Many immigrated to Hibbing, worked in the iron ore mines, started families and bought homes. The working conditions in the mines were extremely tough and safety standards were lacking. The Finns went on strike and were fired. With no jobs, they decided to take advantage of the Homestead Act and settle on 160 acres of land. Others immigrated directly to the Toimi area. In either case, people were attracted to Toimi by friends who had settled there before them. There were no roads; it was essentially wilderness. People had to walk the ten miles from the nearest railroad depot at Fairbanks to find a plot of land to clear. Neighbors and friends pitched in to build the log homes and barns.
Beginning in 1909, children in the Toimi area were educated in the homes of local residents. With a large increase in the number of school age children, the parents soon decided that a school was needed. In 1913 construction of the one room Toimi School was started. The first classes were held in 1914. Another classroom and a teacher’s apartment, or teacherage, was added circa 1920. Peak enrollment was about 100 students. The school closed in 1942 due to declining enrollment and remained vacant until the Lake County Highway Department converted the building into a garage. The classroom floors were removed and an overhead door was installed. Although the building had been modified, it was kept in a structurally sound condition. By the 80’s the county no longer needed the building and decided to sell it.
In 1991, at the request of school alumni, the Lake County Board of Commissioners transferred ownership of the school to the Toimi School Community Center Committee, which later became a nonprofit corporation. Restoration was started in 1992. The TSCC continues to work toward restoring the Toimi School, while using it as a resource for the local community and as a cultural, historic and interpretive center.
At its peak, the population of Toimi was nearly 300. Eventually roads were constructed, the school, meeting hall and Coop store (in that order) were built and electrical and telephone service was added, but Toimi always remained a rural Finnish farming community.
Much has changed. All of the immigrants have died. Only 11 school alumni are alive and all are in their late 80s or 90s. The Coop store, the meeting hall and many of the homestead buildings are gone. The forest has reclaimed most of the clearings.
The Toimi School is a remaining symbol of the tenacity of the early immigrants and that special time in the history of the Toimi area. This celebration is both a bridge to the past and a showcase of the facility and its future potential. The TSCC invites you to celebrate with us. The theme is Arts and Education. The agenda follows:
10:00 Welcome by Adrian Ranta, president, Toimi School Community Center
10:15 Toimi School alumni
10:30 Teaching in a one room schoolhouse – Jack Curphy
10:50 Pioneer hardships – Alice Murphy
Lunch: 11:30 – 1:30 by the Brimson Area Volunteer Fire Department
Music: Old Timers Band
Artists: Bonnie De Frasne of Makinen and Arlee Wilks of Two Harbors
A flea market and vendors will be available for your enjoyment!