By Cecelia McKeig
In the summer of 1900, three men came up to the Carmel area looking for homesteads, Olaf Hawkins, John Waade and John Torjusson. They put up claim shacks in neighboring homesteads, and in the fall Olaf Hawkins moved his family to his claim. He came from the town of Karmel near Princeton. In 1901, he put up a little store in his 14’ x 18’ log house and was appointed postmaster. He suggested the same post office name, only changing the “K” top a “C”. Torval Julius Lillevold purchased the John Waade farm in 1902.
Olaf and his wife Sophie and their five children, Levi, Phillip, Harry, Ruth, and Alice, soon found the house was too small to house and the family and his store so he built an addition on the building. A year later more settlers moved into Lee township and he put on another addition to the building. It was difficult to have a store so far from the supply chain. In the summer, the roads were impassable part of the time, so he had to stock up with merchandise to last most of the year except for trips that he made by boat from Grygla to Thief River Falls. Settlers in the area realized early on that they were a great distance from Thief River Falls, and that they desperately needed a railroad connection. Everything was more expensive because of the distance.
Mr. Hawkins eventually built a larger store that was 20’x50’, and this was jammed with merchandise. He also built the first barn in the community from home sawn lumber, planed by hand, with shingles split and shaved by hand. By 1908, the township included Ole Arneson, Peter Blegen, Ole Sletten, Iver Olstad, Peder Olson, Peter Evensvold, Ole Hanson, Amund Hanson, and T. J. Lillevold.
Just when things were looking good, Mr. Hawkins learned that he had terminal cancer. After his death in 1909, the family tried to keep the store going, but they found it was too much for them, so they sold the stock to the newly organized Grygla Cooperative Company in the fall of 1910.
In 1915, the Bemidji Pioneer noted “And They Have a Band. Carmel citizens have been instilled with a spirit of enterprise seldom witnessed in any farming community and as an illustration we point to the fifteen-piece band, orchestra and quartette. Music was provided by all three of these organizations at the meeting, and it was good.”
Mr. Hawkins was postmaster at Carmel. The post office was discontinued in 1917, and the store building was then sold to Gilbert Benson. He moved the building about three miles east of Old Carmel.