Newlyweds in Torah, Minnesota

According to information in an article in the St. Cloud Times in July 2015, the town of Richmond, Minnesota, was officially called Torah for nineteen years, from 1890 until 1909.  It had been called Richmond informally by locals before that, but when the town was incorporated in 1890, the name Richmond was already in use at a post office in another part of the state.  When that post office closed in 1909, the town of Torah officially changed its name to Richmond.  In the 2010 federal census, the population of the city of Richmond was 1,422.

The question is, why was the name Torah chosen?  So far I haven’t found an answer.

The wedding portrait was made by photographer Albert C. Manz.  The Minnesota Historical Society website has him in Torah from at least 1902 until at least 1906.  They also have him in New Paynesville in 1894-1895 and in Belgrade (Minnesota) in 1914.

Torah, Minnesota 3

 

I bought the cabinet card photograph from a dealer in Texas, who didn’t have any information about it.

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Torah, Minnesota 2

 

Further reading:

Laura Weber, “From Exclusion to Integration: The Story of Jews in Minnesota,” MNOPEDIA.

 

 

25 thoughts on “Newlyweds in Torah, Minnesota

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    1. I would! Where did they come from? Germany? Russia? How did they end up in rural Minnesota? Did they stay? I also find it surprising that the story of Torah hasn’t made it onto the Web. Or at least, I haven’t found it.

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  1. Maybe the founder of the city built a church or synagogue and the place was named after the Torah? Or – who knows – maybe there is a non-religious word that just sounds the same?

    Nice photo, the girl looks eastern-european.

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    1. Both of those theories are plausible, Val. I remember reading a while ago about an immigrant Jewish community in North Dakota. Eventually it disappeared, like many other small farming communities on the Plains. Minnesota is different, though, and the town itself didn’t disappear, which makes the name all the more mysterious.

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      1. I suppose the way to find out is to go there and ask in the local store… there’s bound to be one that’s been there for eons, isn’t there? 😉

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  2. Wonderful image. I love her dress (the wedding “jacket” and all its elegant work), headdress, and veil so much! And her face! And what a wonderful thread of comments. I’m so glad Dawn noticed their hands. Hers might not be so work-roughened–yet. But they do seem red.

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  3. Being a Christian who believes in following the commandments of Torah (not the Talmud), I am sad that they changed the name of the town. There was such unspoken anti-semitism prevalent that I am not surprised. On the other hand I have never heard of a town named Bible either. 😊

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    1. Hi Linda, I still have more questions than answers about Torah. I corresponded with an archivist at the Stearns History Museum in St. Cloud, who sent me a clipping stating that Torah was the “postal name” given to the town in 1856 by the Postal Service. The article continued: “Torah was the name of an Indian Chief. It was also the name of the first five books of the old testament Bible.” (Richmond Centennial, July 1990, p. 3) That explanation sounds speculative to me, rather than authoritative. I couldn’t find anything online about an Indian chief named Torah. This story isn’t over!

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  4. Linda,
    I am related to Jacob Lemm who played for the Torah Baseball Team in 1905-07. So, I contacted the Stearns History Museum and received the same article as a previous commentator. I found the part that it was possibly the name of a Indian Chief to be hilarious. I am part Chippewa and this doesn’t seem likely. Also, living in Seattle we have many cities named after chiefs and accurate in spelling. So Torah should be easily to find as a chief online? Does Minnesota honor the Native American’s the same way? I don’t believe they did given the hostilities to Native American’s there. So, processing that I also thought that it was named for the Torah! — I’m interested in any updates you find on this. Our Lemm’s in this area immigrated with the name Lamm and I think suppressed any Jewish connection in Minnesota.

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    1. Hi Rhonda, my name is Brad and I’m the author of the blog. Your comments are very interesting! Like you, I think the Indian chief theory is highly unlikely. One of the articles I read said the town was named by its first postmaster, but the article didn’t offer any theory as to why he chose the name. My belief is that the town was named for the Hebrew Torah, but why? Was there a Jewish settlement nearby? No one seems to know the answer, but I’m sure it exists somewhere, buried in an old journal or newspaper article. Maybe it will come to light someday.

      That’s so cool that your relative played for the Torah Baseball Team!

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