Monday, February 9, 2015

"Brothers Frost and Linzey have baptized 22 in Knox county."

Samuel Buchanan Frost  was an early ante bellum LDS missionary to Tennessee and the earliest to the Knoxville area. We know, however, almost nothing about his service, and came close to knowing nothing at all. On 18 May 1842[1] Elder J. D. Lee wrote a letter describing a difficulty he and his mission companions were having with an apostate group in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee (that is a subject for another post, another day). At the end of the letter is this almost throw away comment.

Brothers Frost and Linzey have baptized 22 in Knox[2] county.[3]

And then nothing else. If it weren't for the fact that the letter was signed by John D. Lee, A. Young, & Samuel B Frost, I would be having a great deal of trouble figuring out who Brother Frost was. As it is I still have not identified Brother Linzey, though I have some ideas.[4] I really wanted to identify who the 22 people were that they baptized. Operating on the theory that the early missionaries went to places where they had family, I decided to learn more about Samuel Frost and his family, hoping to get a clue about the converts. There are several short biographies written about Samuel. Not all of them agree with each other.  I have tried to sort through the disagreements, picking the elements for which there is proper documentation.

Samuel Frost was born on 2 January 1810 in Wake county, North Carolina to McCaslin Frost and Peninnah Smith. When he was six the Frost family moved to Knox county, Tennessee, where they built what one biographer called a “plantation.” It it is likely they owned a great deal of land which they probably farmed. But they stayed there less than 20 years.

It is pretty clear that in 1834 Samuel was in Hancock county, Illinois, where he married Rebecca Foreman. There was a significant age difference between the two. Samuel was twenty four and Rebecca was only fourteen. According to family lore Rebecca and her mother had left Rebecca’s abusive father. Custody rights at the time favored the husband so Rebecca married Samuel  to avoid being sent back to live with her father.

While living in Illinois, Samuel met Mormon missionaries and was baptized. The exact date is lost, but it was at least as early as 1840[5], though there is reasonable evidence for 1838.
It didn't take long before Samuel felt the desire to share his new found faith with his family. As with much of poorly documented history, the sequence of events is a little fuzzy. I will quote a sample of two versions of the same story so you can see the similar elements in each and how they were interpreted in widely different ways. According to one biographer,

He immediately went back to his old home in Tennessee to visit his family and to tell them of the Gospel of Christ.  He converted his people and a number of the neighbors.  As a result, quite a community of people moved in a body to Illinois to be with the Saints.  Early in the spring of 1841, Samuel went from Bear Creek, Illinois to visit family, cut a hole in the ice and baptized his parents and some of the rest of the family.

Another biographer wrote about Samuel’s parents McCaslin and Pennina…

While in Jefferson County, Iowa, McCaslin and his wife Pennina joined L.D.S. Church and were baptized by their son Samuel, in the winter of 1840-41. They had waited to join the Church until he could perform the baptism. He also baptized other members of his family. He went to Bear Creek Branch, Illinois, during the winter and baptized his sister Martha and several others in February 1841. The stream was frozen over and they had to cut a hole in the ice before the baptism could be performed.

It is pretty clear the first biographer believed Samuel returned to Tennessee to baptize his family. And we know Samuel was in Tennessee in 1842 (misreported as 1841 in one record; see note 1 below).  I can almost see the thought process of someone pulling some records together and coming up with that story. There are, however, too many problems with this version, which I’ll discuss in a minute. The second excerpt might seem better, but it too was based on a misunderstanding of the evidence. Martha’s baptism date in Feb 1841 is in Family search, but it was likely a re-baptism. The Frost family had been members for a couple years by then, although the dates have been lost.

In an obituary for Archibald Kerr,[6]  Samuel’s brother-in-law, is a more reliable description of the family travels. Archibald married Nancy Frost on 23 May 1834 in Tennessee. In October 1834, the family moved from Tennessee to Morgan county, Illinois, where they lived for three years.[7] Samuel’s brother James William Frost died in Illinois in October 1834, telling me that the family probably moved as a group. It must have been a difficult time for the family, arriving in a new home, and losing a 14 year old child. In 1837, they moved to Jefferson county, Iowa. One of Samuel’s sisters had married her husband in Iowa in 1837.[8] Based on Archibald’s obituary they joined the Church once they were in Iowa.[9] Were Nancy & Archibald the first in the family to do so, or was it Samuel? We may never know.

But we do know that Samuel served a mission in Tennessee & Iowa[10] in 1842, and that he spent part of that time in Knox county where he and his companion baptized 22 people. It does not appear that any of them were members of his family. So if the 1842 converts were not his own family, who were they?

Two of them were John and Susan Bright. [11] Former neighbors of the Frost family, John and his wife probably joined the church together in March 1842. Both of their baptism dates in Church records are obviously proxy ordinances, being after their death. Susan’s confirmation date, however, is recorded as March 1842. Plus, Bright family records contain an ordination certificate showing that he had been ordained Priest on “April 4, 1842 under the hands of Samuel B. Trost.”[12]

As for Elder Frost’s companion, Elder Linzey,[13] no apparent connect to Tennessee has been found. Mostly cause I don’t really have clear identification of who he was. Anyone have any suggestions?

Samuel Frost served two missions;  Iowa (1842),with a detour to Tennessee(1842), and Kentucky (1844). He lived in Illinois and Iowa, stopping in western Iowa as the saints went on to Utah. Rebecca died in Iowa in 1857. When the Civil War started, Samuel left his home in Iowa and went to San Pete county, Utah. In the last years of his life he tried to settle a new home in Piute county. He died in 27 Jun 1888 at Coyote, Piute, Utah Territory.

[1] The Southern States Mission Manuscript (SSMM) places this in 1841 instead of 1842. In his History of the Southern States Mission, LeMar C. Berrett also uses the 1841 date, but that may only be due to his use of the SSMM as his primary source. Times and Seasons has the earliest known version of this letter. It shows a date of 18 May 1842, and printed the letter in its June 15th, 1842 issue.
[2] Knox County is about a hundred miles east of Putnam county where Elder Lee wrote his letter. Up until that point there had been no LDS preaching in Tennessee east of Overton county. It would be the 1870’s until the next missionaries went to Knox county, so this is really early. 
[3] Times and Seasons vol 3, pg 820-822
[4] In his History of the Southern States Mission, Berrett changed “Linzey” to “Alonzo”, perhaps believing that the person intended was Elder Alonzo Young and that his name was simply mis-transcribed from the original letter. Although there was an Elder Alonzo Young who served in Tennessee in 1844, Elder Lee’s companion at the time of this letter was Dr. Alfonzo Young. Lee referred to him by his full name or by his title “Dr. Young.” He also used Full names or last names for all the people in the letter. It would not have been his style to just use a given name only.
[5] Family Search shows two different January 1840 dates, but these are like rebaptisms.
[6] Ogden Standard Examiner 1891-09-01 Obituary. Accessed 3 Feb 2015.
[7] While I understand the limitations of an obituary, I am generally more willing to accept this obituary because Archibald was survived by his wife, Nancy Frost, who likely provided the details. Although it is a late recollection, it is first hand. Other biographers were grandchildren and great grandchildren, second or third hand sources and were even later recollections.
[8] Fereba Smith Frost (1818-1900) married William Harrison Barger (1812-1858) in Fairfield, Iowa in about 1837.
[9] Family search has three children born to Archibald & Nancy in Nauvoo: Josephus (1836), Penena (1838) and Jemima (1840). The first two are obviously anachronistic since Nauvoo didn’t exist yet, casting doubt on the third one too. I’m more inclined to believe the obituary than Family search since no sources were included on the names.
[10] Samuel wrote letter to his wife and daughters from Iowa in October 1842 where he was continuing his mission.
[11] John Bright Jr. (1808-1852) & Susan Pugh Bright (1810-1874)
[12] Trost is an understandable typo for Frost. John Wesley Bright, “History of the Brights” as cited by Dale Bright Miles, The Brights of Cache Valley Utah, p. 130-131.
[13] I found no one with this spelling in church records. Using “Lindsay” I find one possibility: William Buckminster Lindsay Sr. (1797-1873). An unverified biography states that he settled in Wisconsin in 1839. He was baptized Mormon on 1 July 1841. His wife and two of his sons were baptized the following year. accessed 27 January 2015. His biography does not mention a mission to Tennessee. By a coincidence, Fereba Frost Barger’s first child was born in Wisconsin in 1838.

1 comment:

gscoulson said...

Thanks for the research and story. I'm a descendant of the Bright family mentioned here. I knew that line was from TN when I joined this blog but never thought I'd see you post specifically about my ancestors. Your efforts help me understand my roots more. Thank you.