In Memoriam

When we were working, my husband and I took yearly summer vacations.  It turned out to be a sort of spur-of-decision where we’d head but often took off east. From Maine to the Keys, we traveled, stopping to see historic sites and breathe in the ocean air.  Anything history from Acadia National Park to Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park we explored inland and outlands, hardly a spot we did not explore up and down the coast.  Our favorites, though, are Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts, where the Salem Witch Trials took place and affected many of my own ancestors’ lives.  We have taken in many, if not most, of the Civil War historic sites and battlefields such as Gettysburg, Arlington National, Vicksburg, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Antietam, the list goes on. We drove right into Andersonville, at the end of the day but were ushered out after a short drive, yet not before we saw Minnesota’s memorial to our men.

Many of the Around Clearwater men as well as my ancestors enlisted, fought hard, suffered, and even died for our country. 

One man I have been researching is Ellet Parcher Perkins.  In the next of my Minnesota Main Street Women series, Ellet, a cousin of hers,  accompanies my protagonist from Vermont to Minnesota when her brother-in-law writes her to come work as a hotel housekeeper in the early days of Clearwater. While this information may or not be fiction, the following isn’t.  After enlistment, he rises from corporal to captain with great honors but suffers from his wounds the rest of his life.  So many of these men fought while their wives and families took over the work at home.  The same can be said for the other wars that followed.  So much sacrifice on the battlefields and home front for our country.

This year Memorial Day, we will honor all who have suffered so much in war, (how Memorial Day was founded ) and now we include our thoughts and memories of those who fought Covid here at home.  Those who fought to keep us healthy and those who died without their loved ones surrounding them with love.

It’s been a hard year, undoubtedly, but now as we head out to celebrate Memorial Day, let’s not forget all those who have fought for us and those who have sacrificed their lives.

Have a great weekend.


Mother’s Day observation over history and now

Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, believed the country had a duty to all national mothers to celebrate them for their oftentimes sacrificial support for their love and care.  The first known Sunday, a day of rest for God and mothers, began May 10, 1908.  Parade’s online site has an article, “What is the history of Mother’s Day”?   In 1914, Woodrow Wilson agreed with her and others and passed the bill for “Mother,” to be honored on the 2nd Sunday in May.

How did we celebrate Mother’s Day up to the time I became a mother?  When we could, we gathered at my mom’s or aunt’s table, had a picnic sometimes, but we always focused on being together and eating.  We gave Grandma, the one who started all this family for my generation, flowers for her rock garden. Her daughters help plant her favorites. The celebration was nothing super fancy, often, potluck, but laughter and happiness accompanied aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, mothers and fathers, and of course, Grandpa with Grandma, around the table.

Whether we were at the old homestead or the kid’s homes, we came together to celebrate these women’s charitable contributions to their families.  Time was set for this day, that special Sunday, and usually right after we attended church we’d either drive for another “over the river and through the woods” event or race home and get the table set for a houseful of company.

My grandmother–Ina Johnson


Winnie, my mother

The honoring of mothers was not given a special day or set up as a holiday by the government during my novels’ timeframes.  Maude’s and Jennie’s mothers in my Minnesota Main Street Women’s series were already dead by the time the days of focused respect came about. So many of my extended family members are out of the area. Getting together with cousins and their children won’t take place since we don’t have our mothers telling us what to do or insisting on TRADITION. I guess that is why we gather at weddings and funerals if we can to celebrate our familiness.

It is now the next generation’s turn, not mine anymore.  Lives have become so busy, it is hard to get together period.  And last year? Last year was the year of Zoom, phone calls, and lovely cards.  We cannot fix that.  Yet, our longing to be together was with us for the remaining 364  days.  Let’s try to make up for lost time, remember mothers, grandmothers, aunts–all the women in your lives–by giving them a special moment carved out of busy, busy lives.  We women have a lot of loving to do yet.

Aches and Pains

Recently, I have been hit with a new ache.  I have had back and neck issues since I was sixteen when I herniated a disc in my neck during phy ed class.  After a few bad falls and some rear-end accidents, my spine has taken a nosedive in strength and an uphill climb in pain.  I now have a new diagnosis,  occipital neuralgia, which has me on a new medication  Unfortunately, it is taking its sweet time to work.  So I have been searching the Internet for natural pain relievers.  We have so much to choose from now, capsules, tablets, rub-ons. I find it hard to know what to buy.  Every day, we hear new ones advertised on television with all their benefits and scary warnings.  Yet, my next protagonist, Abigail, in book 3 of Minnesota Main Street Women, who was born in 1818 and mother to another of my protagonists, has few options that aren’t dangerous to take and do not cause serious side effects or even death when she falls and has a painful concussion.

Families often compiled books of homemade recipes for commonly treated health concerns. From bee stings to dog bites, they could concoct various compounds they had on hand to take the ouch out of the patient’s pain.  Sometimes they knew how to use various herbs and roots to apply or seep in tea for relief.  Often, they used patent medicines like they could purchase from a snake oil salesman, either which was full of alcohol or morphine, cocaine, or laudanum, or they were of no use at all. Rarely, for many reasons, did they even contact a doctor because of fear or lack of money so nature took its course.

Abigail knows a thing or two about medicines. She is the daughter of a doctor who learned his trade in the early 1800s.  He learned by reading many textbooks and studying with other doctors while they all served in the War of 1812.  Afterward. he took care of his patients in and around Stowe, Vermont, whether it was helping bring babies into the world, setting broken limbs, prescribing salves, ointments, sore throat medicines, he was a practitioner who practiced caution first.  Early in her youth, she follows him to help and learn.  She also develops a following of women who want her as their midwife.  Once she arrives in Clearwater, Minnesota, to become a housekeeper for the new town situated between two rivers, she helps her brother-in-law in his medical practice as well. She helps him clean wounds, wrap sprained and broken limbs. and prescribes willow bark tea for most pain relief.  At times, though, her brother-in-law has to take over and medicate with stronger doses such as alcohol–like whiskey or brandy, laudanum, and for even worst cases, opium.

When her fall causes her to lose conscientiousness, Abigail is an unwilling recipient of laudanum when all other safety measures have been followed and …….. (more to come.)

While we all have had a headache now and again, I am thankful for medical science that can handle headaches, relieve pain and sicknesses from Cancer, and even come up with antibodies to treat Covid.

***NEWS: This Wednesday, April 28 around 10:40, I will be interviewed by Kelly Cordes on “It Matters With Kelly Cordes.” The site is Kelly Cordes – AM 1240 WJON.

***This next weekend, May 1-2, Saturday, and Sunday, I will be selling my books at the  Midwest Handmade event in the St. Cloud Event Center from 10-4 each day.  Come out and see me, buy a book or two, and enjoy being in public. You’ll need to check out the rules on the site:  (3) Midwest Handmade’s MN Artisan Fair 2021 | Facebook.


Happy Spring

Image borrowed from

so many Reasons for the Season

Sign by Becky Frank


A few of my followers grew up in my home village, Clearwater, Minnesota.  You knew where the Kniss’s Grocery  sat–on Main Street, downtown Clearwater. Ellis Kniss carried everything that any grocer carried in the larger towns. While it didn’t sell clothes that I can remember, the window shelves carried candy jars galore.  From lemon drops to root beer barrels, a kid could satisfy that sweet tooth for a penny.  Its main source of income was the sale of all sorts of meats, shelves of Fairway canned vegetables and fruits, juices, frozen goods, lots of fresh produce, and plenty of ice cream novelties–sherbet push-ups, Eskimo bars,  Cheerios, fudge cycles, ice cream bars and so much more for a dime or less.  But a few weeks before Christmas, Ellis also stocked evergreens for the holidays.  


The Foundlings

My father’s search to find our tree

would often take him out to see

if he could find at Kniss’s Store

a Christmas tree like years before.


Up against the mart’s north wall

stood evergreens so lush and tall.

But on the ground, my dad detected

a scrub-discarded and neglected.


A tree to touch his tender heart—

for orphaned man, his counterpart.

He dragged it home where we awaited

a tree to love—when decorated.


As it stood in stand, we realized

the tree was less than he’d surmised.

The bells and balls, a garland rope

just didn’t help. We gave up hope.


Out of ornaments, so what to do?

We finally admitted we were through.

Tinseled and lit, a star on top

that dried up tree was still a flop.


           Now years later . . . in memory,

   I think that I shall never see

  a poem as ugly as that tree—

         or one that means so much to me.

Christmas is magical.  Even during Covid-19 times, we have renewed hope in dire circumstances. We love the lights and the sparkle in little children’s eyes as they wait for Santa.  I remember well my inkling that he might not be real., but I didn’t want to ruin it for my little sister. The setting again is at the Abeln farm on Warner Lake, Lynden Township, Stearns County, Minnesota–just a few miles from Clearwater.


Yes, Virginia

Navy-blue, crystally winter’s night.

Glittering sifted snow, icing topped lake,

evergreens muffed in white.  I plodded

as Becky pulled me down the glossy road.

A bundle of blue, she sometimes followed,

sometimes led, sometimes jumped over my feet

as she chattered about baby dolls, Santa’s snack—

star-shaped cookies, his tummy and our chimney.

Late autumn’s whispered secret unmasked the man.

a grown up woman of ten, I played my part

for my younger sister that Christmas Eve,

although I no longer believed.

Carolers sang, “. . .won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

I grumbled, “It’s time to go home.”

As I turned, my eye caught a wink of light

dashing across the blue-black sky.

Becky and I tumbled through pockets of snow.

The yard glowed—lit house and trees.

I blinked.

Who’s that hunching in the shadows?

Mom, traditionally dressed in pink flannel gown,

pulled off our coats and pushed us into the living room.

Becky ran to a diapered doll and teddy bear.

I gazed at a white-veiled Barbie,

Betty Crocker Bake set, white fur-topped boots.

On the floor lay the empty green 7UP bottle

and a plate of cookie crumbs.

I ran to the window.  Cupped my hands around my eyes.

No reindeer, no sleigh.

But on that navy-blue, crystally winter’s night,

I decided to believe another year.


   @ Cynthia Frank-Stupnik

My prayers, like all of yours, are for better and healthier year to come, for more sunlight than darkness, for more blessings than pain.  

Merry Christmas and HOPES for a Happy New Year.




The Magic Bag

Today, December 6, is St Nicholas Day.  You can click on the link for historical facts about the man, but my German community celebrated him in its own way.  I wrote and published the story in Postcards from the Old Man in 2004, but lately I have been reminiscing lots of home and family.


   In an insane attempt to get some Christmas shopping done early, I took off to the shopping mall the day after Thanksgiving.  Wandering shoppers, full of yuletide spirit, bumped into each other, smiled politely, and said, “Excuse me.”  Smiling clerks cheerfully reminded their customers to “make sure you keep your receipt if you want to return this.” 

   I knew that later in the season when shoppers rushed to finish their buying and clerks grew weary with the crazy hours and demands, the merry mood in the mall would change.   As I was pushed from one end of the mall to the other, I saw grown-ups and children standing in a long line. Once up close, I watched a young child, a curly brown-haired girl–maybe three or four years old, crawl onto Santa’s lap. I observed this nouveau man in his too-red suit and flat belly that made him look like he was just taking time out from his racquet ball game at the local YMCA. I remembered how I first met the man my small, German community called St. Nick.


It was a typical night in our pre-women’s lib household.  My ten-year-old brother Donnie stretched out on the floor to watch “Howdy Doody.”  Dad, sitting in the big rocking chair with his right leg hanging over the arm, read the evening newspaper. Mother washed the dishes and dipped them in clean water to rinse as I stood on a chair and wiped them dry with a white kitchen towel.  This night, though, I didn’t dilly-dally because I knew that company was arriving soon.

After I hung up the towel to dry, I ran to the living room window and peered out just in time to see two headlights beam into the driveway.  No Dasher, no Dancer, no Prancer, no Vixen, just a ’57 Studebaker station wagon screeching to a stop.

“They’re here,” I shouted.

“Big hairy deal,” Donnie mumbled and stared at the TV with his chin cupped in his hands.

How could he just lie there?  Didn’t he remember what happened last year?

I rehearsed softly, “I want a Tiny Tears and a Betty Crocker Bake Set.  I want a Tiny Tears and a Betty Crocker Bake Set. ”

Soon I heard the screech of porch screen door followed by a loud pounding on the door. Dad laughed but hid behind the newspaper.  Mom wiped out the dishpan.  Apparently, they weren’t going to make a move to let in the visitors.   Without being invited, a red-suited man with a pointed red hat, red blobs on his cheeks and a short, white beard opened the door and walked in. Behind him, brandishing a snake-like whip walked a big man whose name was lost on me.  Black soot covered the man’s face and his baggy, brown suit. V-shaped eyebrows rimmed his dark, beady eyes.

The man in red, St. Nick, looked in my direction and roared, “Have you been a good little girl?”

I walked over and stood beside Mother. I wanted desperately to hide my face in hers apron just so I couldn’t see their faces staring down at me, but I knew I was too old for that.  Mother smoothed my dark brown curls, nodded, and smiled reassuringly at me.

I looked up as the old red man boomed, “Then what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?”

I swallowed hard and babbled, “Atinytearsandabettycrockerbakeset,” in one long breath.

“Well! Help your mother; obey your father; don’t pout; don’t cry.  Then St. Nick will see what he can do.  Remember, I’ll be keeping an eye on you.”

Out of a big brown sack, that magic bag, the scary man with the black soot on his face pulled a small, paper bag bunched in the middle.  He handed it to me.  Quickly, I reached out and snatched it from the black, gloved hand before it could grab me. After I said, “Thank you,” I peeked into the bag, smelling peanuts and spicy candy ribbons.  I saw a couple of chocolate drops on the top.

Not Christmas, but about the right year.

“Donald!” bellowed St. Nick.  “Stand up here!”

I half hid behind my mother as I peeked at my brother.

“Ah, I don’t believe in you anymore.  You’re a fake,” Donald muttered.

Oh no, I thought, here we go again.

The man in brown growled and snapped his whip.  Grabbing my brother by his back-belt loop, he shoved him in the big brown sack.

I knew that sack had magic powers.  It held everything–candy for good children, charcoal for bad.  I knew that my brother was in that bag smothered in charcoal, yet Dad just sat in his chair.  I heard him laughing as he kept reading the paper.  Mom stood there with her hand covering her mouth.  Neither made a move to help my brother.

“Let me out of here.  You’re stupid!”

The devilish man untwisted the sack, snapped his long, shiny, black whip and growled as Donnie jumped out.  I looked at my brother, except for a very red face and sweat on his forehead, he looked all right–no soot!  He didn’t run to Dad or Mom; he just stood there looking at the floor.

“I thought you had learned last year, young man.  This is a warning.  You’d better watch yourself or there will be nothing under the tree for you this year.”

With another snap of the whip, the sooty man thrust another candy-filled bag at Donnie. Then growling and snapping, the two visitors stomped out the door, hollering, “Ho, Ho, Ho!”



I still remember the too-sweet taste of the chocolate drops I ate after our visitors left.  Although I do remember receiving the Betty Crocker Bake Set that year, I can’t remember if I received the Tiny Tears or if Donnie was “good.”

   Mostly, I remember the dual nature of the holidays–the joyous expectation mixed with dread.  Those same dualities have remained.  Every Christmas I look forward to buying one new tree ornament, drinking hot apple cider, and singing old carols with my friends and family.  But I dread the crowded stores, the hard gift decisions, and baking and frosting cookies.  For me, Christmas will always be a magic bag–full of good and bad.  Each year I hope for its wonderful gifts–while its demons lurk, waiting.


Warner Lake, my “Walden,” and my walking stick

Walden Pond or Warner Lake. Which is which? 



Warner Lake, November, 2020.

My sister usually knows when I am dry and need to revamp and refuel so I can write.  So one warm, Fall day, she and I hiked a bit around our lake. This is home.  We lived here for over five years when we were young. I have composed poems, essays, and even books about this area. It is honored to be called one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Even though it is about half the size of  another watering hole I am inspired by, Walden’s Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, its size has never minimalized its occupation as a lake.  It is here at my inland sea, I seek my refuge, my muse, my soul’s nourishment, so to speak, when I wander around Warner Lake.

Often, after school starts in September, the paths and dock are nearly empty, but today we had quiet company.  Becky and I thought we had a clue to what was being gently pulled from a car when we parked  for our walk.  As we got out, grabbed our jackets, I grabbed my deerhead walking stick, and I locked up, we saw a ball of white fluff at the end of a leash.  I wondered: Maltese? White Terrier? Chihuahua? Ah, a Shih Tzu!  Nope, on all types. Instead, we would be followed by a white Persian, pulling its owner toward the lake while her boyfriend hauled the fishing gear.  What?  A cat heading for a lake?  Sure enough, the kitty laid on the blanket, but turned its head and body  away from the water.  While the couple started to fish for crappies and sunfish, they told us that they go everywhere with him, and he especially loves it here at Warner Lake.  We then settled down in quiet contemplation, me for a literary nibble, they for a chance to grill later in the day, and my sister for a photo op.

A couple years ago on a trip to Snake River Fur Post, I made an impromptu purchase that has serviced me quite well.  Until I had knee replacement last year, I hobbled around too vain to use a cane.  So there in the Fur Trading post, in the gift shop, I found wonderful walking sticks for sale.  I could have picked from bear, moose, wolf, or deer.  I chose Rudy who has guided me on my path since.  This day, he led me to where I could sit and stare at the familiar vegetation that has changed little since I was a child.  I think of our summers wher the fish jumped nearly into our boat, where I wandered down to the bridge crossing Plum Creek that flows in and out of the lake on its way to the Mississippi, and to winter where he led Santa’s sleigh across the black, starry sky for my little sister nearly sixty years ago. As I hang on to Rudy now, I do so for balance as while the knee is 100%, the back is suffering from years of injuries.

While kitty naps far away from me, (everyone knows I do not like cats) and sister takes her always surprising pictures, I feel refreshed and refocused.  It is the air, the swishing and lapping of the blue-green water, and the joy it gave my family, Camp Suima’s campfire girls, and George Warner, its namesake for the farmer who settled here in the 1860’s, and the Chippewa, Sioux, Ojibway that came long before us.  For me, this small lake creates stories and lessons my old friend Henry David Thoreau could appreciate if he were still at Walden.  I now have my next chapter.


P. S.  Pict on the left Walden Pond, Pict on right Warner Lake, me below at Warner with Rudy leading me on.


He was not a strong female character that I write about fin my Minnesota Main Street Women series  from Clearwater, Minnesota, but he held a few positions like in the village like mayor, church councilman, volunteer fireman, and good, steady father. Harold Frank would be 108 today. One hundred years ago, Feb. 20, 1920, he also became an orphan, along with his 2 sisters. Despite his loss, he was a quiet but strong role model for me and my two siblings. He also provided me with plenty of story and poetry material.  His strength and fortitude gave his two daughters and son quite a path to follow.



In hot pursuit

1 if by land, 2 if by sea…. Cindy Stupnik
is @ it again. Looking for clues on Lake Minnetonka…
Is she trying to find the footsteps of Simon Stevens,
founder of Clearwater and also the first white man
to lay eyes on Lake Minnetonka?
Is she looking for his mill site on Gray’s Bay
@ the headwaters of Minnehaha Creek?
Or more likely has she spotted the alcoholic beverages @ the bar…?
More adventures in the making.

Becky Frank


This huge body of water, circling the shores of many lovely towns like Excelsior, Deephaven, Wayzata, and Shorewood has intrigued me ever since I learned about Simon Stevens, Clearwater founder and brother John Harrington Stevens, Minneapolis founder.  Both men were born and raised in Brompton Falls, Quebec, Canada.  John Harrington, the older of the two, became colonel in the U.S. Army after fighting in the Mexican-American War. Simon followed his brother once he settled in Minnesota and helped build his house, the first house on the west side of the Mississippi across from St. Anthony.

Simon Stevens made his own history. Well-known around Minnesota during his life span, he and a group of fortune-seeking explorers paddled westward from the Mississippi River on the Minnehaha Creek approximately twenty-two miles.  The group portaged around a huge falls, but once they got to the headwaters of the creek, they viewed a huge body of water that would become known as Lake Minnetonka one day. At what would be called Gray’s Bay, they built a sawmill.  Simon did not stay around long but sold his rights to search for his own land to call home.  This would become Clearwater, at the mouth of the Clearwater River that flows into the Mississippi, and the setting for many and most of my works.

A couple of years ago, for a birthday trip, I asked my husband to take me to Lake Minnetonka to find the area where Simon Stevens and others built the mill.   This site has a wonderful hiking path, small dam, and offers lots of historic information, evening mentioning Simon Stevens.

So as I work on my next book and wanting to see if we could find any type of imprint of Simon’s, my sister Becky and I signed up for a cruise on Lake Minnetonka. We had beautiful weather, albeit a bit cool,  and viewed many luxurious homes, boats and their houses. We heard about some of the lake’s history, especially the Big Island where amusement called out to adventure seekers during the early 1900’s from nearly all over the world. Jennie Phillips, protagonist in Scruples & Drams visits relatives and friends in Excelsior, and even Jennie Phillips’s sister Ruthie’s autobiography refers to the the ride around Lake Minnetonka and Big Island Amusement Park:

The summer after my father passed away [1904] Pat [Ruthie’s older sister Harriet] and I were invited to go to mother’s sister [Harriet Ada Crossman] and family who lived at that time in Excelsior on Lake Minnetonka.   We had never been to a large city before so we were quite excited as we had to go to Minneapolis and then change trains to go out to Excelsior. . . I loved the trip over and we stood at the rail of the boat and watched the rainbow in the drops of water as they flew off the paddles of the large water wheel at the side . . .  So many beautiful homes and some places just woods.

We knew already that the park was no longer in existence. Yet, when the captain of our Lady of the Lake cruise ship drew close to the shore of Big Island and mentioned it was now a nature park, I was dismayed; I so wanted to see something of the past.

In past research for Pins & Needles, I learned protagonist Maude Porter’s aunt, uncle, and cousins settled near the lake in Excelsior as well.  Annette Robinson married Mark L. Knowlton.  Knowlton was the Clear Lake, MN, postmaster at the time.  The family eventually moved to Minneapolis and finally to Excelsior where he worked for the Pillsbury Company:

In the early 1900’s, [the Mark Knowlton] family was living in Edgewood at Lake Minnetonka and he would ride his motorbike from the Lake into Excelsior.  (Anyone owning a motorized vehicle in those days was noticed) where he’d park during the day, and catch the train or streetcar into Minneapolis.  The process was reversed in the evening.  In later years the family remembered the good bread that “Grandpa” brought home from the testing kitchens at Pillsbury.

On another trip a couple years ago, my sister and I toured more of Excelsior, trying to find where the Knowltons once lived. We found one house.  At one point in 1921, Mark Knowlton and his son purchased the James H. Clark’s home that was built to become a boarding house [and now is a bed and breakfast–the Bird House Inn] from the children of Clark and his wife. After Mark died, his son “J. E. “Jack” Knowlton who ran a horse and wagon delivery service around the lake via launch,  and was also the proprietor of Knowlton’s Cabin Camp adjacent to the south, at 411 Water Street, from 1932-1948 [took it over.]  His wife, Mrs. J. E. Knowlton,  always had roomers in the big house.  She was born Alice Howard, granddaughter of homesteader Silas Howard, for which Howard’s Point on Lake Minnetonka is named.”

Unfortunately, we saw nothing like horse and wagon, an old-fashioned motor bike, or even a mirage of a saw mill.  Our cruise did not even take us to Gray’s Bay because to get there from where we boarded in Excelsior would take a five – six hour cruise.  Since there is little to no public history tour of the lake, we had to admit that we had researched the people and had seen many  of the sites that were to be used in my next book.  (Please, if you know something we don’t know, let me know

Yes, I am  in a “hot pursuit” of characters, plots, and history again to bring alive another Minnesota Main Street woman for my next novel.  But I already have the makings of a couple HOT romances, some wiley twists and turns, a few not so nice individuals–with a juicy murder or two–and lots of historic tension.




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Destination: Pig’s Eye

My sister Becky took this picture of me along with other pictures and posted it and the following on Facebook after our trip on the Mississippi area of St. Paul.

Now where the heck is Cindy Stupnik looking for plots? She is smack dab in front of Pike Island and can’t decide if she should go to her right and visit St. Anthony Falls or head left to Fort Snelling. There are people to discover at both places. People that will settle the western frontier as well as Clearwater, Minnesota, “Hub of the Universe”! Tales to be found and tales to be told….. and some are true. Adventure awaits….”

Early in the week, my sister Becky and I took a trip up and down the Mississippi River by St. Paul, MN.  This has been on my bucket list for quite awhile. We had a grand, albeit slow, journey suitable for history buffs.  Mondays are $10 so it is a reasonably cheap ride. On top of that, when do we ever get such beautiful weather in June–mid 70’s?  The sun refused to shine, but we were comfortable and happy to see some of the original and oldest parts of  St. Paul.

I mistakenly thought we would also be heading further south to Ft. Snelling and the Sibley House on the Minnesota River.  Despite this, we learned so much. I’ve read Maud Hart Lovelace’s Early Candlelight ‘s novel a number of times, and she describes the area so well.  Like DeeDee, the protagonist, I wanted to also look up the bluffs on the Minnesota to where  Ft. Snelling stands.  Another famous spot, down and across the river, is the Henry Sibling House and the Fairbault House, to name just two, which are some of  the oldest structures in Minnesota.  I have visited both Fort Snelling and the Sibley Historic Site, but I wanted to see  it all from below on the river.

Padelford Riverboats

Unfortunately, our cruise’s itinerary did not include these sites so I have to rely on my memory. Goodreads says:  “This historical novel set at Old Fort Snelling in the 1830s is a rich and romantic re-creation of the early settlement period in Minnesota’s history.”  This is a work of fiction.

Last week, I read a non-fiction, autobiorgraphic work,  Early Days at Red RIver Settlement and Fort Snelling by Barbara Ann Shadecker Adams.  She, too, writes about this early day before Minnesota became a state in 1859. Her perspective is from her own experience set in the same time about 1830’s but from her own memory.   She, too, talks about the people and places that give life to this early time in Minnesota.

So, I’ve mentioned places like Fort Snelling,  the Sibley and Fairbault houses, the Red River Settlement, and the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers. Now let me mention another person–Pig’s Eye. Both books talk about him.  Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant was a retired fur trader who took up settlement on the banks of the Mississippi where St. Paul begins.  Neither author show him much respect, to say the least.  He supplied booze to anyonewho had money to buy.  The site Minnesota Fun Facts reads, “’Pig’s Eye’ snuck over territory lines and found this rather convenient spot from which he could sell bootleg whisky to soldiers and Indians without ‘the pale of law.’ In 1838, Parrant erected a cabin at the mouth of the cave [on the Mississippi River] to sell liquor from.” Locals called the area “Pig’s Eye Landing” based on Parrant’s popular tavern.   Despite his lack of character development,I had fun seeing this area, the future St. Paul,  on our cruise.

Pig’s Eye cave 

So why all this interest in this part of the state and these white settlers who came to the newly opened area west of the the great river first?   It was a drop off point. From St. Louis north, the Mississippi River carried many  pioneers on its back to step off on its shores. Others from points east also rode the steamboats north and south to find  new homes.

Here travelled my characters into the area for my next novel, a prequel to the other two that are part of the Minnesota Main Street Women’s series.  I decided to write a prequel because Clearwater and Minnesota had a few first women settlers, one is my protagonist is.  I hate to leave you hanging for another year before you know she is. First, I wrote about Jennie Phillips, the woman druggist in Clearwater.  Her story takes place in 1895, and you can read for yourself the story line on my site.  The sequel was about Maude Porter, one of the first girls born in the village who stayed put–never married and never moved out except for when at the age of 102-3 she went into a nursing home.  Her storyline is set in 1909-10.  Now, DRUM ROLL, I am writing about Maude’s mother, Abigail Perkins Camp Porter.

This first woman in Clearwater, came in 1855 to become the housekeeper for the townsite hotel owners, one of which was Simon Stevens, a founder of the village and brother to the father of Minneapolis, John Harrington Stevens.  This book is still in progress–and I continue to research as I write.  Abigail’s story needs to be told as well as I can because as I dig, I find her remarkable because of the the strength, courage, and momentum she had to come nearly half way across the country to start all over again as a recent widow.  I can’t give away too much, but I promise I will stay true to her as another strong female protagonist.

I love what Ruth Benedict the anthropologist/scientist once said, “I long to speak out the intense inspiration that comes to me from the lives of strong women.”

This, too, is my desire, my direction, and my ultimate destination.