The Little Falls Granite Works was founded in 1911, which makes 2011 its 100th anniversary. This fact, which seems like it would be hard and fast, has been debated through the years. Because a business with a similar name, the Little Falls Granite Company, was formed in 1897, some assumed that this was the beginning of the Little Falls Granite Works. Futher confusing the matter was the Little Falls Granite and Marble Works, which was in existence in 1907/08. A careful examination of the historical record and information from Harriet Karlson, daughter-in-law of founder G.W. Karlson, made the origins of the 100-year-old Little Falls Granite Works clear.
These were all separate companies, with the Little Falls Granite Company having been formed by J.F. McAulay, Joseph and Louis Robbers, and George and Charles Hall. (LFDT, May 14, 1897) This company, which was often referred to as the Little Falls Granite Works in news items, was purchased by the Davidson Granite Company in 1901. The officers of the company were A.R. Davidson, F.E. Kenaston, A.D. Davidson, and A.D. McRae. (LFDT, March 22, 1901) The Davidson Granite Company did not continue the use of the Little Falls Granite Company name.
Not much is known about the Little Falls Granite and Marble Works, other than it was in operation in 1907/08, was located on Broadway, west of the Golden Rule Store, and was owned by Russell W. Carlson. (Little Falls City Directory, 1907/08) This business is not listed in any earlier directories.
Carlson can’t have been in business long because an article in the November 3, 1909, issue of the Little Falls Daily Transcript opens with the statement, “It is far from unlikely that Little Falls will soon have granite monumental works again in operation.” The article continues with a description of a visit to Little Falls by “two practical stone men,” who were examining the granite quarries in the area and talking to Commercial Club members about the possibility of starting a granite works. Nothing seems to have come of this in light of a 1911 news article.
In March 1911, G.W. Karlson visited Little Falls from Minneapolis with the intention of opening a “monument works” in the city. His monument works was called the Little Falls Granite Works. The news item announcing Karlson’s visit says that “Little Falls has been without an industry of this nature for over a year,” which proves that this business was a separate concern from the others, regardless of the resemblance of names among them. (LFDT, March 8, 1911)
The original location of the Little Falls Granite Works was on Wood Street in a building, built by Karlson, that eventually became Trettel Produce. By 1916, the Little Falls Granite Works had moved to a building at 24 East Broadway. (Little Falls City Directory, 1916/17)
A September 22, 1924, article in the Little Falls Daily Transcript mentions that the Little Falls Granite Works had “completed the work of moving to its new home on Broadway” and that “the company, which was formerly located on Wood street southeast recently completed a new building next door to the Nelson studio on Broadway.” The address for this new location was 42 East Broadway in 1928 and was later listed as 46 East Broadway. (Little Falls City Directory, 1928, and LFDT, November 9, 1972) In 1972, the Little Falls Granite Works moved to its current location, 10802 Highway 10, Little Falls. (LFDT, December 7, 1972)
Along with experiencing several changes in location over its existence, the Little Falls Granite Works has seen a number of different owners. While G.W. Karlson formed the business in 1911, he did not remain the sole proprietor for long. A certificate dated June 27, 1914, filed with the District Court shows that Karlson was operating the business with Fred Olson. By 1919 Aaron A. Nelson had bought into the business. (LFDT, November 9, 1972)
Aaron Nelson was also representing the Little Falls Black Granite Company at the time. (Pierz Journal ad, March 18, 1920, & Letter from John Vertin to Peter Maurin, October 13, 1920) What’s odd about this is that Karlson had an open rivalry early on with the Little Falls Black Granite Company. John Sparry, owner of the company, had presumably promised Karlson he would only sell granite from his quarries on a wholesale basis, leaving retail sales to Karlson, but Karlson felt Sparry was reneging on his agreement by sending out a salesman to make retail sales. (LFDT, September 6, 1917 & LFDT, September 25, 1917)
In 1921 or 1922, Aaron Nelson took over ownership of the Little Falls Granite Works. (LFDT, November 9, 1972, & Harriet Karlson essay on front page) In March 1927, he and his son Spencer filed a Certificate of Business Name with the District Court saying that the Little Falls Granite Works was “owned and managed” by both of them. Spencer took over as sole owner on July 15, 1949. (Certificate of Business Name filed August 1, 1949, District Court, Seventh Judicial District)
Ray Calhoun, Ron Nagel and Howard Garry purchased the Little Falls Granite Works from Spencer Nelson in the 1960s. There are conflicting years on record for the purchase, with reports of it having occurred in 1961, 1963, 1965 or 1966. The original date of filing with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office shows December 6, 1963, as the official date of this transaction. Howard Garry sold out his share of the company prior to 1977. Ray Calhoun retired in 1986 and Ron Nagel became the sole owner that year. (MC Record, Ray Calhoun’s obit, May 31, 2006; MC Record, July 10, 2004; MC Shopper, April 3, 1978; LFDT, October 24, 1977)
Ron was joined by his sons Scott and Todd, and Ray Calhoun’s son Don as owners of the Little Falls Granite Works in 2005 or 2006. (MC Record, February 26, 2010)
And there you have it, 100 years of shifting locations, owners, and slippery dates of the Little Falls Granite Works.
-By Mary Warner
LFDT = Little Falls Daily Transcript
MC Record = Morrison County Record
MC Shopper = Morrison County Shopper
This article originally appeared in the Morrison County Historical Society newsletter, Volume 24, Number 2, 2011.