Samuel Romulus Frost
of Navarro County, Texas


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Samuel Romulus Frost
Researched by Wyvonne Putman,
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XXI 1988
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society

Samuel Romulus Frost was born in Huntsville, Montgomery County, now Walker County, Texas on March 1, 1846. He was of English and Irish lineage. His parents, William W. and Louisa Frost, came from North Carolina in the days of the Republic of Texas.

His primary education was obtained in the Common County Schools of Johnson County. He, like so many of his contemporaries, became a farmer. On March 15, 1867, a blizzard struck Johnson County; it was reported to have been the worst storm in county history. He had finished planting his corn crop and the next morning the snow lay deep on the planted crop. When the storm was over he gave his father his entire interest in the farm and began teaching in a country school for the purpose of earning money with which to complete his education and ultimately become a lawyer. He received his license to practice law in 1870.

As a lawyer, Judge Frost was studious, accurate and patient. Until this time he had never been in the presence of an organized court, and yet immediately after his admission to the Bar he took prominent rank with Colonel Roger Q. Mills, Colonel C. M. Winkler, Captain J. H. Halbert, and Colonel William F. Croft, the four great lawyers of this section of Texas and at once became their opponent in the most important litigation of this county. His practice was large and lucrative from the very beginning. His early training and educational advantages were very limited for the reason that when he was a boy, schools in Texas were few and crude.

He often spoke of his struggle to obtain his law degree. The three years he spent in Alvarado were financed from the sale of a mule he had ridden during the Civil War, and by doing chores and teaching in the college, he managed to graduate. After he was admitted to the Bar he was always a close, earnest student, and he neither played nor rested but worked all the time. It may be said "he burned the midnight oil."

He read and studied some twenty volumes of Early Texas Reports. These books contained a vast amount of information that was helpful in Judge Frost's later court cases. He briefed every contested case he had during his long practice and he was always willing to brief the cases of his brother lawyers. Briefing was the work he loved best.

He delighted in solving the most intricate and perplexing legal problems. It made no difference to him whether the solution of these problems had any bearing upon his cases or not: he wanted to gain knowledge; he wanted to know the law. He was recognized as a great and learned lawyer because he got his knowledge from the books, first-hand not hearsay. He loved to talk with scholars and learned men of all classes, and he loved also to be thrown with honorable men of little education and to discuss with them the everyday things of life.

Judge Frost and his partner, Bryant T. Barry, organized and put in operation the first water works system for Corsicana. In that enterprise he lost his savings accumulated during the best part of his life. He never recovered from this financial loss. Many citizens think that Corsicana has not given him the proper credit and recognition for this uncertain venture that proved so disastrous to him.

J. M. Blanding, prominent lawyer, said of Judge Frost: "You all know how timid he was, and how simple were his habits. There were three places he loved; first, his home, surrounded by his wife and children, by his flowers and trees. Then he loved his office, and next he loved the court room. And, brethren and friends, we always found him in one of these three places. He never spoke evil of anyone; even if he was told of a scandal, or town talk, he did not enjoy it, and it was no sweet morsel under his tongue, and he never repeated it. He never used profane or indecent language. In my close intimacy with him, for thirty-five years, I never heard him speak evil or unkindly of anyone, and I never heard him use an oath or profane word.

As a friend he was constant and kind, and especially so to young lawyers. Many a young lawyer just beginning in the practice of law has had Judge Frost to throw into his way business that brought him large fees. He was the best, the truest, the most constant friend I ever had, and I cannot tell the thousand acts of kindness he did for me.

Judge Frost was also a student of the Bible, and understood its history and its theology. He knew the history of the Christian church, and he understood the creeds and doctrines of the different denominations, and could tell you wherein they differed. I believe, also, that he fully understood the great plan of salvation as taught in the New Testament, and had faith in the Savior, that one essential truth necessary to believe. Therefore, my hope is not unfounded, and I believe that I will see him again and love him with a deeper, purer and ever-abiding love."

Judge Frost was the first County Judge under the Constitution of 1876, after serving as the County Attorney in 1871. The town of Frost in western Navarro County is named for him.

R. S. Neblett, another distinguished lawyer of Corsicana, said of Judge Frost: "The character of a man may be reflected from two standpoints. It is seen in our everyday, unconscious acts, where no guardian of selfishness directs or conduct. There truth is uppermost, and the inner man stands out in bold relief as cast in nature's mold. Viewed from this position, his friends and neighbors speak his praise. It is also seen when we meet our brother from opposite standpoints and deal with him at arm's length. Viewed from this standpoint every lawyer - even every litigant - who meet him in the conflict of court house trials, and saw him in the heat and passion of debate, found that even there he bore high the standard of honor.

He was modest and retiring in disposition, social and agreeable, interested and instructive, considerate of the rights and feelings of others, and never exacted a right which he did not willingly concede.

The spirit of patriotism was not wanting in him. The resolutions tell of his record in the Confederate Army [Company I, 19th Dresden's Texas Calvary ]. Before the close of the war he became an active participant in that great struggle. That war left no rankle of bitterness in his heart, and no cloud of prejudice in his mind. When it was over, he accepted the result and cheerfully gave support to the government of the United States.

His early life on the farm and his communion with nature, taught him that the trend of life was upward, and that by his own efforts alone was success to be obtained. His educational advantages were necessarily limited, but his energies were not handicapped b the luxuries of inherited wealth. The fortunes of war reduced the means of his parents, and conditions in Texas were not favorable to educational development. When only twenty-one years of age, he left the farm, and at Midlothian, in Ellis County, opened a school, which he continued to teach until he had in that way supplemented his scant means, which enabled him to attend school at Alvarado, in Johnson County. He completed the course there and came to Corsicana to study law. His coming was unheralded by certificate or diploma from college or university. Willing to work his way, he began the study in the office of the father of his wife, Col. C. M. Winkler, and remained there until he was admitted to the Bar upon examination.

It was not my fortune to know him until he had passed through the struggle that confronts every young lawyer, a struggle which must come into the life of everyone who aspires to rise above his present condition. So, with necessity as a step-dame and poverty as a spur to quicken the impulse of nature, he pursued the law with unremitting ardor; he wooed the goddess until, kneeling at her feet, she crowned his efforts.

When I cast my lost with the people of Navarro County, I found him on the county bench. He discharged the duties of the office well and faithfully. On retiring, he became a member of the legislature, and took rank in that body as a lawyer of ability and a leader of thought. In 1886, when the death of L. D. Bradley made vacant the district bench, he was appointed to that position with out solicitation on his part. Modestly he accepted and faithfully he discharged the trust. He administered the affairs of the office with honesty, fairness and intelligence - in such a way that he commanded the admiration of the Bar of the State and the respect and confidence of the people of the district. He was perhaps reversed by the superior courts as often as the ordinary district judge, and yet he possessed qualities which made him an ideal trial judge. The reasons for his reversals is found in the fact that the records he sent to the superior courts contained every fact which had been reflected in the trial of the case, and every exception which was noted in its progress. His fairness and love of justice inclined him to the side of the losing party.

Retiring from the district bench, he again became a member of the legislature, his nomination being unanimous. His conception of government and the duties of a legislator were reflected in his conduct when last a member of that body, for, although the session lasted for months, he introduced not a single bill. He was a firm believer in the doctrine that, 'that country is governed best which is governed least,' and his record was made in his fight to compass the defeat of every measure which struck at the rights and liberties of the individual. He believed that when man entered the social compact he surrendered not a single right; that the government gave no rights and took some from the individual; that is, simply stood as an arbitrator to determine the contests between individuals, and when the taxing power, wisely and equally distributed, had taken from the individual sufficient to maintain such a government, its function was exhausted, and all else should remain with the individual.

His worth as a lawyer is attested by the many important cases, and often complicated litigation, entrusted to his management. His briefs in the superior courts stand as monuments to his skill and ability, and the verdicts he won show his power to convince the court and jury before whom the case was tried.

As a religionist, he was deep and broad. He recognized the good in man, and was ever willing to help the weak and relieve the distressed; he cherished no animosity, cast no stone of malice, and wagged no tongue of gossip. Of the living and the dead he said nothing if not good. He did not believe that 'the finger of scorn pointed towards heaven.' He was a humanitarian, and although he knew and understood the creeds and dogmas, they had for him but little attraction. He grounded his faith in the great catholic doctrine, that he serves God best who best serves his fellow man. He found

"Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

One of his greatest virtues was his love and attachment for home and family. He liked a secluded life, and when not engaged in his office work or court house struggles, he wanted to be at home, and found his greatest pleasure and comfort with his family, among his trees and flowers, where he could 'watch the sun die out of the day.'

Although he filled well many official positions, he was not fond of public life. He ignored opportunities which would have insured his preferment, and declined appointments to official positions which would have placed him in the front rank of our superior judiciary.

During his last sickness I saw him many times, and never found him depressed; he was full of hope and ever grateful. He wanted to live, and yet he was not afraid to die; he wanted to live for the pleasure he found in life, and for the comfort and assistance he could render his family and friends, but he faced the valley of death with the same courage he climbed the hill of life. When he was told by his physician that without a surgical operation death was inevitable; that with an operation there was but a change, he said he would take that chance, and clinging to this hope, even as a drowning man clings to a straw, on the 1st day of January 1908, "he drifted out into that river which flows forever into the unknown sea." Now above his grave I plant this flower: When his history shall have been written, I know he would have it said:

"Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate Nor set downought in malice."

Judge Frost married Mary L. Winkler, daughter of Colonel C. M. Winkler, January 4, 1872. He had nine children. They were: Mrs. A. N. Justiss, Mrs. George T. Jester, Mrs. Max D. Almond, Clio Boyd and Louise Frost, and Roger, Barry, and Clinton W. Frost.

He died January 1, 1908, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana, Texas.

1875 S. R. Frost's Signature


OBITUARY

Sam R. Frost,

FUNERAL OF JUDGE FROST.
Burial Is to Occur at Corsicana Under Auspicus of the Masons.
Special to the News.
Corsicana, Tex., Jan. 2 - Judge Sam R. Frost of this city died in Fort Worth last night, where he was operated on. He was a native of Texas and had for many years been a resident of Corsicana. At the time of his death he was attorney for the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, a position he had held for a number of years. He will be buried here tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock. The Masons will attend the funeral in a body, he having been a member of the order.



 

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