Five years in the making, Minnesota author Cynthia Frank-Stupnik’s latest book, Where Two Rivers Meet, was published and released in late December 2023. The book is the third title in her Minnesota’s Main Street Women series, all of which are based on real women from Clearwater.
Where Two Rivers Meet is a prequel to the first two books in the series, Scruples & Drams and Pins & Needles. It centers around Abigail Perkins Robinson Camp Porter, the first woman in Clearwater.
Porter’s story begins in Stowe, Vermont, where she grew up, married a man named George Camp, and had a son. A gold miner, Camp traveled to California where he passed away. Not wanting to be beholden to her family to take care of her and her son, Porter accepted an offer to come to Minnesota from her brother-in-law, Dr. Jared Wheelock, who was also from Vermont and was the first doctor in Wright Co.
Wheelock invited Porter to come to Clearwater to help set up the new log townsite hotel. In 1855 Porter traveled by herself the entire way, first to Iowa, then up the Mississippi River to Minneapolis, where she completed her journey on the Governor Ramsey steamboat, the first steamboat to travel up the Mississippi from Minneapolis.
“Legend has it that the very day she arrived in Clearwater she served a supper of fried potatoes and salt pork to the men of the camp,” said Stupnik. “A makeshift table was quickly constructed from a door that was removed from the log cabin hotel and placed on sawhorses.”
Hotel housekeeper and food server, Camp married Thomas Porter and a daughter, Maude, arrived in 1862. The second book in Stupnik’s Minnesota’s Main Street Women series, Pins & Needles, tells the story of Maude, who owned a millinery store in Clearwater in the upstairs of Boutwell’s Hardware Store.
Porter was the only woman in Clearwater for a month until her sister, Mary Robinson Wheelock, who was married to Dr. Wheelock, arrived with Porter’s son.
Stupnik originally believed she had completed her Women of Mainstreet series after the release of the second book, but she couldn’t get Abigail Porter out of her head. At the same time her previous North Star Press editor was encouraging her to keep writing.
“These women were so ahead of their time,” said Stupnik of the women featured in her series. “It was the late 19th century and they were rethinking their futures and what society expected of them.”
Although she knew she wanted to write Porter’s story, it didn’t come easy.
“I struggled with it at first because there’s so little written about her,” said Stupnik. “There was mainly the oral history I had heard growing up in Clearwater so it took time to get to know her.”
On January 14 a book launch was held for Where Two Rivers Meet at the United Methodist Church in Clearwater. Coming up Stupnik will be speaking at the Stearns Co. History Museum on February 13 and at Clearwater’s Young at Heart group later in the year.
Stupnik, who is an award-winning poet, essayist, and novelist, is hoping to write one more book in her Minnesota’s Main Street Women series, although she hasn’t decided on which historical Clearwater woman the character will be based on yet.