I am pleased to invite you to the launch of “Where Two Rivers Meet” on Sunday afternoon, January 14th, at 1 p.m. We will meet at the United Methodist Church in Clearwater, Minnesota. Come join us for a little music, and a little talk about Clearwater history, Minnesota Main Street Women, especially, the protagonist of the new novel, the first woman of Clearwater, Abigail Camp Porter. We will share some prizes, a chance to see all my books, and of course, an opportunity to share a piece of cake.
Friday, my sister and I made our rounds in the St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids areas to honor and remember our relatives and friends. Although I never knew the Atwoods nor Nancy Wilson Atwood Allen, they, or at least Nancy, are characters in my next novel, “Where Two Rivers Meet.” We believe Nancy needs recognition. She came to Minnesota around 1858, settling in St. Cloud, right across from the famous newspaper editor, Jane Swisshelm, her house, and the St. Cloud Visiter and St. Cloud Democrat office. They became fast friends, and Nancy’s oldest and Jane’s daughter married. Nancy was an “artistic” ambrotypist, which included taking tintypes. Her story is truly amazing, but she died young in St. Cloud and is buried in North Star. More to come when my novel is published, which will be third in the series of strong Clearwater, Minnesota, Main Street women.
Not sure I’ve told you about Grandma Ina, my mom’s mother. She was born in 1902 in Ionia, Iowa. She graduated from Nashua High School and received her state credentials to teach at country school at the same time. After a tornado took the farm in 1918, her parents moved to the St. Cloud area. She followed them. Once in St. Cloud, she attended St. Cloud Normal School to be recertified to teach, this time in Minnesota. Eventually, she met my grandfather, had seven children, and then grandchildren. From tiny on, like most grands, I loved this woman. I know she loved and enjoyed me and all her grandchildren; she had the art of making all of my cousins, and brother and sister, (18 of us) feel like we were her favorite. I sure did. As a youngster, I took for granted Grandma’s impact on my life. She and Grandpa were around a lot, coming to many church and school events and hosting many many family events. It wasn’t until I became older, I learned more about her.
I remember her sweet presence in my life and mostly out on Grandpa’s and Grandma’s farm out in Haven Township, east of St. Cloud. She and mother gathered to pick vegetables from the garden and what they could can for winter suppers. I’d wander around the back yard, being watched and warned not to go too far because she and Mother worried I’d fall into the river beyond their house. Once, for some reason, she and I were left to our own devices. I followed her to the old pumphouse, probably to gather water for her flowers. I remember stepping on a slanted board to get up to the building, and when I left ahead of her, I was stung by a hoard of bees. I felt a splash when Grandma dropped her pail and grabbed me. We both screamed and cried loudly until help came. Dad caught me up and carried me away, while Grandpa moved Grandma out of the way and with a rake and an old burlap bag moved the nest away from under the pump house ramp. Grandma ran to the house to get baking soda and Mother. Mom held me, as Grandma tended to me with dampened soda made into a paste to sooth the many stings.
Grandma Ina wasn’t a “cool” grandmother. Only when she was older and became sickly did she wear slacks. She didn’t take off to have coffee or a drink with other women friends, belong to a bowling team, or even go out dancing with Grandpa. She didn’t drive. She went everywhere Grandpa would take her on Saturday. Grandpa worked at the Great Northern Car Shops, so he left early weekday mornings and came home at supper time, which meant she stayed home all day by herself. She was definitely old school. She wore nylons and dresses almost always, and at home she wore an apron over it all. She knew how to schedule out her day. When I stayed with her, we ate, did dishes, ironed (I don’t remember washing clothes or taking them out to hang), during her late morning and early afternoon, she watched soap operas like “The Secret Storm.” Later, while I read one of the Little House books, she wrote letters or played Solitare. Before long, it was time to make supper. I set the table for Grandpa, Grandma, and myself. After doing dishes, I brushed my teeth and took up bed on the sofa to watch television with them until I fell asleep or they went to bed. Grandma made everything cozy. That is who she was.
As a self-absorbed teenager, I just assumed Grandma would be around for all my major moments, and she was. From my brother’s graduation and party after at our restaurant, she and Grandpa were there. I know she came to my confirmation in the Methodist Church of Clearwater. I am pretty sure she was in attendance at my 8th grade graduation as well, upstairs in our town’s old brown schoolhouse and told me she wept during my class’s processional to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” She came down for Mother’s Day dinner in South Minneapolis where I lived in 1970 while I worked down there. She was often at our house for Sunday lunch when I came home for the weekend. And of course, she and Grandpa were in attendance for my wedding–always there with love, hugs, and kisses.
It wasn’t until years later, I learned more, bit by bit, about Grandma and gained more esteem for her. She was, like I said, home and heart. She had strong ties to her family, whether they lived in Washington, England, Iowa, or off the coast of Japan. The door was open her friends and family. When her son, Dick, went hunting duck or pheasant, she cooked up a feast. Thinking I was eating delicious beef, I found out it was duck. The gravy and potatoes pulled the meal together. Somehow, she eased me into eating wild food without me freaking out, and I could tell stories of how obstinate I could and can be around the dining table. She created many culinary pleasures in a kitchen that came out of early 20th century The Ladies Home Journal–homemade cabinet for dishes, sink, small refrigerator, gas stove, and low enamel table, and a unlevel linoleum-covered floor for putting a meal or desserts together. HGTV home designers would shun her farmhouse. Besides the old- fashioned kitchen, her house was tiny, but sufficient for her and Grandpa. When company came, we did the best we could to gather around the table for holiday meals. Not sure she wanted more or expected more like wives in the earlier part of the century, Grandma had the art of making due. We can be sure she had plans to do something with her life early on though. She was smart and knew how to better herself so she became a teacher, not in Iowa as she planned but in and around the Stearns and Benton Counties. Later on, she inspired her grandchildren with the help she gave with algebra and grammar. She played piano and organ. In fact, not only did she play on occasion at the Haven Township church down the road, but she played for the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa, where the well-known song, “The Little Brown Church in the Vale” https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=the+little+brown+church+in+the+vale+song&&view=detail&mid=69F71C7C5C62B5C98B1F69F71C7C5C62B5C98B1F&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dthe%2520little%2520brown%2520church%2520in%2520the%2520vale%2520song%26qs%3Dn%26form%3DQBVR%26%3D%2525eManage%2520Your%2520Search%2520History%2525E%26sp%3D-1%26pq%3Dthe%2520little%2520brown%2520church%2520in%2520the%2520vale%2520song%26sc%3D5-40%26sk%3D%26cvid%3DAFE0B5DF36F54A929B68AEA063B39028 was written. She also has an a plaque is hanging on the Little Brown Church wall in honor of her as one of the organists.
So many memories…like most of you have of your grandparents, you received love and acceptance from them no matter the attention you gave to them them. My sister Becky and I wondered why we never took Grandma out shopping or out for coffee by herself. Probably because as the two retired, they became more of a pair, and we couldn’t take one without the other. As a teacher, now retired, I wish I’d asked Grandma what it was like to teach–the discipline, the subjects and how the students were prepared to learn. I remember her playing the piano and then sending it to our house for me to learn on. I never thought of asking her what it felt like to vote, for she was a woman of that time. There are so many things I’d ask her now if I had a chance, and I’ve heard that said by many of us. Although, I began to write about a strong, influential woman like those I write about in my Minnesota Main Street series during March Women’s History month, I decided to talk about another type: The mother, grandmother, wife, aunt, sister, and friend, like most of us have had in our lives, that have stayed by our sides, and left their hugs around our shoulders, their kisses on our cheeks, and their touch on our hearts and minds.
Welcome to two immediate book-selling events that are coming up:
Saturday, April 23, Spring has Sprung, Sartell Community Ctr, Sartell, MN..10-2
Saturday and Sunday, May 7-8, St Cloud River Event Center, 10-4
We had our first celebration party Saturday night. No masks, no social distancing. Lots of good b-b-q’d food–burgers, brats, ribs. Add all the other picnic food, and we stuffed ourselves. Later, our house was surrounded by individual fireworks. One time, I wondered if flames licked our roof. All turned out fine.
Yesterday, we had a later start to our 2nd celebration and had to travel for it. I started watching Yankee Doodle Dandy in the morning, and again for the nearly twentieth time wasn’t disappointed. The black and white screen didn’t disappoint either because the music and acting related brought color of its own type and emphasized family, patriotism, a united country. All of which we can be proud. Like other generations who bounced back after our county’s crises, we are bouncing back from Covid–I hope for a long time now. On our way home, the sky was lit up with all sorts of colored lights–north, east, west anyway–we saw colorful expressions of “Let freedom ring,” celebrating our county’s freedom.
It seems like most of the nation is hot and dry or enduring storms of one type or another. We have lots to be sad and worry about, lots to be thankful for–and we are free, to a certain extent, to say what we want, do what we want, and explore, which is what I’ve been doing again for my upcoming book–Where Two Rivers Meet.
It all started with the comment my sister made about giants rumored to have been found back in the 1800s. “Giants,” I asked. She plagued about my memory again because I had never heard the tales….”Out near Clearwater Lake,” she said, trying to ‘shiver me timber’ memories. So I did an Internet search. Little else is known, and not much media was given any coverage, BUT:
“In the “Pioneer Press” of June 29, 1888, is an account of the discovery, twelve miles from Clearwater, N. E. 1/4, sec. 21, T. 121-27, by Charles W. Pinkerton, of the town of Corinna, of the remains of seven persons said to have been from seven to eight feet high.” Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, History of Wright County, Minnesota, 1888.
We both started researching and took a few trips out to dig up graves where we knew they were supposed to be found–south of Clearwater. Our freedoms didn’t allow us to go on private properties. Following what we thought were the right coordinates, we drove on paved and dry roads with dust spraying the back of my SUV. Because so much has been developed, the area, Clearwater Lake, gave up no hints as to where we should look. When we got home the last time, we re-checked the coordinates and realized we were off a couple of sections.
I have to be honest, I’ve been known to travel on trails that aren’t posted private property (to my sister’s embarrassment and fear). But without a little brave/stupid hankering for answers, I would not have been able to write my first book, Steppes to Neu-Odessa, which is a biographical dictionary of Odessa Township, Yankton County, SD, and where the first German-Russians settled in the US–including mine). I don’t worry too much about not having an invitation, but I definitely won’t go where there is a warning, and I am not wanted. But if anyone gets a hankering or an invitation, let us know. We might follow along. I might also want to see the many, MANY, native mounds that surround a number of the lakes in this vicinity and the Clearwater River. Otherwise, I have the freedom to imagine what I want for the next book.
Hope you are still enjoying your Independence Day weekend on this Federal holiday. HOT! yes, but so much to do and find and explore.
ANYONE FOLLOWING ME?
On the road again,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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  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.
Unfortunately, this event has been postponed. We will be rescheduling soon.
Spring is here, unfortunately causing lots of water and damage. I sit on sandy soil so house and hubby are high and dry. Other people and places–less so. And I am taking a trip to southern Minnesota–where lots of snow and rain have made life uncomfortable for so many. Hopefully, this melt will slow down soon, floods will recede, and white, yellow, and lavender-blue wood-sorrel will sprout on the Midwest prairies.
As I said, I am heading south over the weekend of April 6-7. Many of you remember that I earned a grant from the United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Archives and History to research and write about the life of one of my minister’s, Reverend Mary MacNicholl. She served almost entirely in Minnesota from 1950-1971.
I’ve learned so much about this woman. As a child living in Merchantville, New Jersey, Mary MacNicholl felt an early call to become a minister, and told her kindergarten teacher her plans. We have no idea what her teacher might have thought or said to her; it was the early 1920’s, women just received the vote, and many became hopeful for their futures. Yet, if the woman tried to discourage her, Mary stood fast to her goals and let nothing dissuade her. Truth be told, Miss Mac seldom swerved on her path, even if she had to side-track around a few boulders to get where she needed to go.
I am bringing the story of Reverend Mary MacNicholl’s story back to one of the churches, the Wykoff United Methodist, where she first preached in Minnesota in the 1950’s and where she became the first ordained woman minister of the Methodist faith in 1958 in Minnesota The woman minister’s courage, strength, endurance, perseverance, and quality of character impressed many. Just as important, Reverend Mary MacNicholl, Miss Mac, Miss Mary, Mary Mac–paved a path for so many to follow.
If you are in the area, come and learn about this inspirational woman.
April 7 at 10 a.m.
I’ll be posting again soon. I have a big event in St. Cloud at the Convention Center the last weekend in April. More to come.