Hon. John E. Frost. Many of Kansas’ most eminent citizens have been connected at one time or another with the Santa Fe Railroad Company. It was in the service of the Sants Fe that Hon. John E. Frost came to Topeka, where for thirty years or more his name had been closely identified with the commercial and civic interests of Topeka and the entire state.
Topeka had reason to be prond of men of leadership in affairs, and among them probably none, outside of public office, had enjoyed more honors and had made his influence felt for good in more ways than John E. Frost.
It is said that “blood will tell.” No doubt many of the elements of strength in John E. Frost’s character are to be credited to his worthy ancestry. He was born at Rome, New York, April 22, 1849, a son of Thomas Gold and Elizabath Anna (Bancroft) Frost, both of whom representad colonial families that originally came from England and settled in Massachusetts. John E. Frost is one of four children, and all are still living. The maternal grandfather of Thomas G. Frost was a very prominent man in Central New York, and at one time represented his district in Congress for several terms. Thomas Gold Frost, who was born at Whitesboro, New York, May 4, 1821, was a lawyer by profession, and after practicing at Rome, New York, moved to Galesburg, Illinois, in 1857, and was in active practice there until the last ten years of his life, when he removed to Chicago and became a member of the Chicago bar. His death occurred December 22, 1880, while his widow survived him until October 18, 1905. He was long recognized as one of the foremost lawyers of Illinois, and his intimate knowledge of the law and his skill in practice brought him a large elientele. It is interesting to recall the fact that during the Lincoln-Douglas debate, which was conducted in a number of cities in Illinois, including Galesburg, Mr. Frost delivered the welcoming. address to Mr. Lincoln on his arrival in Galesburg.
Eight years of age when his parents removed to Galesburg, John E. Frost grew up in that city, attended private schools and later was a student in Knox College. After honorable dismissal from. Knox at the completion of his sophomore year, he entered as a junior and finished his college course in Hamilton College at Clinton, New York, where he was graduated in 1871,. With this old and promincnt institution of higher learning his family have some interesting associations. His father graduated from Hamilton College in 1843 as salutatorian of his class. Mr. Frost’s great-grandfather, Hon. Thomas R. Gold, was one of the charter board of Hamilton College and later served it as a trustee until his death. Rev. John Frost, his grandfather, for whom John E. Frost was named, was then elected and served as a trustee of Hamilton until his death. John E. Frost himself was a member of the board of trustees of the college for seven years, resigning that position in 1915.
During his last year in Hamilton College Mr. Frost did some work preliminary to the practice of law, and he continued reading law at Galesburg, but had never practiced the profession. For a start in business life he was in the insurance businees at Galesburg until 1876. In 1872 he first became connected with the land department of the Santa Fe Railway Company, and helped to direct immigration to Kansas. While still working for the road in that capacity he moved to Topeka and had made it his permanent home since 1883. Mr. Frost was connected with the Santa Fe Railway Company from 1872 to October 1, 1898. While at Galesburg he was at first district agant, later traveling agent and then general agent, and on moving to Topeka became chief clerk of the land department. In 1890 he succeeded Col. A. S. Johnson as land commissioner, an office he held until October 1, 1898. Since that time he had given his attention to his own practical affairs.
Mr. Frost is a member of the Chi Pai College Fraternity. In 1901 to 1903 inclusive he was president of the Topeka Commercial Club, and in 1903 was chairman of the general relief committee appointed by that club to serve the sufferers from the floods of that year. He is a life member and a director of the Kansas State Historical Society and as a member of the Topeka Country Club spends many of his recreation hours in golfing. He is a member of the First Presbyterian Church and in 1908 was elected president of the brotherhood of that church. Politically he is a republican.
On October 10, 1871, Mr. Frost married Miss Margaret E. Kitchell, daughter of Hon. Alfred Kitchell of Galesburg, Illinois. Mr. and Mrs. Frost have had six children: Mary E., Alfred Gold, Jean Kitchell, Thomas Bancroft, Grace Harriet, and Russell Edward Frost. The oldest child, Mary, died in 1906 at the age of thirty-four. The oldest son, Alfred G., was formerly a resident of Mexico, where among other occupations he was cashier of the Mexico City Banking Company, but is now land examiner for the Commerce Trust Company of Kansas City. Jean K, is the wife of Prof. Charles Sumner Stewart, who is connected with the public schools of Chicago and lives at Desplaines, Illinois. Thomas Bancroft is treasurer of the Davis Welcome Mortgage Company of Topeka. Russell E. is secretary of the Farm Mortgage Company of Topeka.
During his residence at Topeka Mr. Frost had accumnlated many financial and business interests. He was president of the Exhibitors’ Association at the International Cotton Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1881. Only a few of the numerous honors that have been bestowed upon him can be mentioned. In 1894 he was president of the Hamilton College Mid-Continental Alumni Association and in the same year was elected vice president of the National Irrigation Congress at Denver. In the following year he served as president of that association at Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1898 Mr. Frost was vice president and treasurer of the Kansas commission to the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition at Omaha. An interesting event in which he bore a prominent part was in January, 1903, when, in the City Auditorium at Topeka, he presided at the inauguration of the governor and other state officers of Kansas. In the spring of 1903 he was chairman of the executive committee of the International Conference of the Y. M. C. A. held at Topeka, and during this conference Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstons of the Railroad Y. M. C. A. Building at Topeka, and Mr. Frost was chairman of the reception committee to President Roosevelt. In August, 1905, Governor Hoch appointed him a delegate to the sixteenth session of the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress at Portland, Oregon, and in December of the same year, also by appointment from Governor Hoch, he was a delegate to the National Irnmigration Congress at New York City, serving on the committee on resolutions. In 1906 he was a delegate to the seventeenth annual session of the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress at Kansas City. In 1908 he was invited and attended, from the 12th to the 14th of May, the conference called by President Roosevelt at the White House of governors and other eminent men, this being known as the Conservation Congress. Mr. Frost had always been interested in the Y. M. C. A. work and was for several years a member of the Y. M. C. A. state committee. In 1908 he was president of the twenty-sixth annual convention of the Kansas State Y. M. C. A. organizations at Wichita. He is also an original founder and member of the National Historical Society of New York.