Henry Carlson immigrated to the U.S. and South Dakota as a young man. He first worked as a pan greaser at the Manchester Biscuit Co. and then as a laborer in a stone quarry located on South Cliff Avenue in Sioux Falls where he learned to work Sioux Falls granite. He then began building stone foundations until 1905 when he set out with two friends to stake a claim in Jackson County, a few miles south of Cottonwood, SD. To supplement Carlson's income he freighted with team and wagon from Oacoma to Scenic, SD where he kept the trading post supplies.
After proving his claim Carlson returned to Sioux Falls where he built stone foundations and constructed homes.In about 1915, Carlson joined W.H. Snitkey in the general construction business. On July 22, 1918 they signed a contract for $107,195 to build McKennan Hospital. They incorporated the company on March 19, 1919. In 1924, Henry Carlson bought out Mr. Snitkey and renamed the company the Henry Carlson Co.
During the 1920's and 1930's, the Henry Carlson Co. built buildings throughout South Dakota, bringing together skilled workers from throughout the area and teaching hundreds of young men various construction trades.Though lacking in formal education, Carlson had the ability to judge people and organize them to work as a team to build quality buildings.
In addition to the construction business, Carlson acquired the Scotty Phillips Buffalo Ranch in 1933 and operated it as a cow/calf ranch until 1946. To complement the ranch, a feeding operation was built one mile east of Hartford where 600 head of cattle were finished each year. When it was built in 1937 it was among the most automated feed lots in the area.
In about 1917, the Carlson-Snitkey Construction Co. became a member of the Associated Contractors of South Dakota which was organized in 1916. Mr. Snitkey became its 3rd President in 1919. Mr. Carlson became its 8th President in 1928. Henry was also active in the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, serving as its President in 1938. Other organizations in which Henry was a member of include the Unity Lodge 130 AF & AM, York Rite, Scottish Rite and El Riad Shrine.
In the mid 1930's, Henry was responsible for the temporary building at the National Cornhusking Contest held north of Dell Rapids.
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