The goosebumps rose on my arms as the woman revealed her identity. She was Harriet Karlson. The revelation of her name doesn’t seem to be a spectacular, goosebump-raising incident unless the preceding events are exposed.
I have been researching the granite industry in Morrison County so that I can write a history of it. There was some confusion about the starting date of the current Little Falls Granite Works. It was either 1897 or 1911, but I could find no documents confirming either date as the correct one. I had just written a letter to Ron Nagel, one of the owners of the Granite Works, informing him of this, when in walked Harriet to do research. As she filled out her name on the Archival Research Form, the thought that she could be related to G. W. Karlson, who was reported to have opened the Granite Works in 1911, briefly flickered through my mind. I waved the thought off and got her a newspaper. Before she left, I asked her if she had found what she was looking for. She hadn’t, but then told me that she was looking for advertisements for the Little Falls Granite Works. She was checking to see if they were planning a centennial celebration for this year because she knew that this wouldn’t be historically accurate. Harriet, it turns out, is the daughter-in-law of G. W. Karlson, and she knew for a fact that he began the business in 1911.
When I think about the synchronicity of this event, it still makes me shiver. What great force in the universe sent Harriet to me with the answer to my question? And on the precise day that I was attempting to answer that question for someone else?!? These synchronicities occur with regularity in the research business. Within about two weeks time, I witnessed at least three of them at the museum. One of them was the Karlson incident I just related. Another one happened in conjunction with our Family Trails event.
Phyllis Fordham and Pat Vasconcellos were attending Family Trails from California. These sisters-in-law were trying to find the graves of their relatives, John and Mary Davis. They really had no idea where to look, but were sent to check out Oakland Cemetery in Little Falls. Out loud, Pat said, “John, if you are here, you have to show us where you are because we don’t know where to look.” In response to her entreaty, a squirrel promptly ran to John’s grave and sat there until they came over to it. Here come the goosebumps again! Later that day, they were able to find the grave of Mary, who died by drowning.
The third synchronicity didn’t leave me as in awe as it did two museum visitors. Marilyn and Allyn Ulseth came to check out the museum from Minneapolis, Minnesota. They wanted to see if we had any information on their family, one of whom worked for the Pine Tree Lumber Company. I casually asked for the family name and they responded with Elvig. Whoa! My husband and I own Knute Elvig’s house. When we cleaned out the dilapidated garage a year ago so that it could be torn down, we discovered a whole trunk full of musty, family papers. As a matter of course, we donated them to the museum because we had no use for them. We certainly couldn’t throw them away.
The Ulseths were simply amazed that we would think to keep these papers, and now they had access to them at the museum. They took many copies of personal letters the day they visited. Marilyn exclaimed that she couldn’t read Norwegian, but Allyn assured her that they would find someone to translate them. Marilyn’s great grandfather, Nickolai Elvig, was Knute Elvig’s brother. In a letter from the Ulseths (which synchronistically came while I was trying to remember the family details for this article), it states, “Nickolai was foreman of pilers for Pine Tree Lumber Company; he also built several houses, including, along with Knute Elvig, the house of Buelah Mueller, and a church in Little Falls. Nickolai died from pneumonia following his near-drowning in the Mississippi River.”
Buelah was Knute’s daughter and she and her husband gained possession of the house after her father owned it. We purchased the house after Buelah entered a nursing home. We could not know at the time that we would play a part in this synchronicity with the Ulseths. Donating the information we found was just a natural instinct for us, but the discovery of it for Marilyn and Allyn must have been a spine-tingling experience.
What causes these synchronicities? Are we all communicating on some sub-molecular level? We may never know. Whatever the reason for them may be, we can still enjoy the goosebumps when a synchronicity affects us.
By Mary Warner
Copyright 1998, Morrison County Historical Society