In the euphoria of this victory, the
assembled militia disbanded, and the soldiers went back to their farms.
The leaders of Texas, however, knew that Santa Anna would bring his
forces back in the spring. The provisional government of the Texans,
the Consultation, appointed Sam Houston as the Commander in Chief of
the army, and on December 12, 1835, Sam Houston issued a Proclamation
of the Army of Texas detailing the bounty payment of land for service
in the army.
The terms of enlistment were fairly attractive -- 800 acres for a two
year enlistment, 640 acres for an auxiliary volunteer for two years and
320 acres for a one year volunteer -- and the prospect of land appealed
to many men in the southern states. This offer was particularly
appealing to the Frost brothers of Tennessee. They came to Texas to
serve in the army and, subsequently, became an important part of the
history of Houston.
John M. Frost was born to Jonathan Frost and Mary Benson Frost on
January 27, 1775 in South Carolina. His father, unfortunately, served
on the Loyalist side during the American Revolution and after the war,
his property was confiscated. The loss of his property caused the
family to struggle in near poverty as John grew up. In 1802, John M.
Frost, at age 27, married Rhoda Miles in South Carolina, and then, he
moved his family to Tennessee, to an area known as Brentwood.
Brentwood, located ten miles south of Nashville, had been settled in
the late 1700's by veterans of the Revolutionary War, and Frost
established his home, known as Cottonport, on the Old Smyrna Road. The
Frost homestead became the original site of business activity in the
community, and the general store, the grist mill and the post office
were located there.
In 1812, John M. Frost served as a captain in the War of 1812 under
Andrew Jackson. Frost later served as a captain in the Tennessee
militia. The military career of their father certainly inspired the
adult Frost sons, as perhaps, did the wave of patriotism that the call
from Texas inspired in many men in Kentucky and Tennessee. The reward
of land, especially the large quantity of land offered for service in
the Texas army, clinched the deal. Three of John M. Frost's sons,
Jonathan, Samuel and James, set out for Texas.
Jonathan Benson Frost, the eldest son, left Fayette County, Tennessee
on March 22, 1836 for Texas and joined the cavalry company of Captain
James Smith, the Nacogdoches Mounted Volunteers, on April 11, 1836. The
Nacogdoches Mounted Volunteers were organized on that day and the unit
probably joined the army at the camp west of the Brazos opposite
Groce's Plantation. During the twelve day stay at this camp, the army
received reinforcements and supplies, including the famed Twin Sisters
cannon, prior a crossing the Brazos on April 13 and making the week
long march to San Jacinto and destiny.
Jonathan Frost served in the Texas army for three months until he was
given an honorable discharge on July 12, 1836. Samuel Miles Frost also
served three months in the Texas cavalry in 1836. But, it is unclear
whether James Copeland Frost served. Although no record of his service
or of a claim for a pension is available, it is believed that James C.
Frost did come with his brothers. As the youngest of the brothers,
James may have still been a minor when he came to Texas, and he may not
been permitted to enlist in the regular army. While the Frost brothers
were still in Texas, their father John M. Frost passed away on June 21,
1836 in Williamson County,
After his discharge, Jonathan Frost returned to Tennessee to bring his
family back to Texas. Samuel and James appear to have returned as well.
With the death of the family patriarch, Jonathan Frost organized the
move of his whole household and his extended family to Texas. He
brought his slaves, his household, and his blacksmithing equipment to
an area on Buffalo Bayou, about eight miles upstream of Harrisburg and
about eight hundred yards east of the junction with White Oak Bayou.
Within a couple of months, he was joined by his brothers Samuel Miles
Frost and James Copeland Frost, his mother Rhoda Miles Frost, his
and her husband, Mary Elizabeth and John B. Dunn, two minor children of
his father, Rebecca S. Frost and Eislising B. Frost, and his father's
Many of the
stories about the place where Frost chose to settle speak of a small
community that dates from the earliest days of the Austin Colony.
Attracted by Stephen F. Austin's promotions, settlers began arriving in
this area by 1822. One of the most notable of these early settlers was
Jane Mason Wilkins and her family.
Jane Wilkins, a widow, came to Texas with her daughters Jane and Mary
in July or August, 1822 with a group of thirty persons from Florence,
Alabama led by her father Robert Mason. Mason and his wife were elderly
and they died from the hardships of the journey soon after reaching
Texas. From this point, the story of Mrs. Wilkins is one of amazing
events and extraordinary courage.
After Austin's advertisements for the Texas colony in 1821, the first
Anglo-Americans began to come to Texas by boat from Louisiana. In early
1822, settlers chose home sites along the San Jacinto River estuary to
take advantage of convenient waterways that drained prairies and
forests of upper Galveston Bay. In May, 1822, a surveying party
included Henry Smith Rider and Johns Iams James entered the area west
of Galveston Bay that would become Harris County. The land was wild and
devoid of any communities. John R. Harris would not arrive until 1823,
the following year. The Mason party, traveling in a 120 foot keelboat,
anchored near what is now Vince's Bayou. With the death of their leader
and organizer, many in the group were uncertain about whether to
proceed to the colony or abandon the venture.
The dispute ended when half of the group decided to return to Alabama.
The dissident members sawed the keelboat in half and went back from
whence they came. That the group came across the Gulf in a keelboat is
remarkable. A keelboat is a river boat with a shallow draught and a
keel but no sails. It was used to carry freight and was propelled by
rowing, punting or towing. Navigation on the open Gulf must have been a
challenge. Moreover, that they cut the boat in half seems to defy
belief. However, many keelboats were designed for 'one way' use. Often,
after the cargo was delivered, the keelboat was broken up for scrap. It
is not unreasonable that the boat could be partially dismantled and
rebuilt as two boats.
Nevertheless, the prospect of the untamed wilderness lay before those
who would choose to remain. Mrs. Wilkins and her family stayed.
Fortunately, Mrs. Wilkins found that they were not alone. She and her
family eventually joined with Dr. James A. E. Phelps and others who had
come to Texas on the ship Lively. They made their way up the south side
of Buffalo Bayou to a place about ten miles upstream from the modern
Vince's Bayou where the fateful decision to remain had been made. The
prairie in the vicinity of the modern Minute Maid Park and the George
R. Brown Convention Center was settled by the Wilkins family, Dr. James
A. E. Phelps and his wife Rosetta (sometimes listed as Rosalie) Abeline
Yerby, Stephen Holston, John Austin and others as a small community
grew up around the farmstead of Jane Wilkins. Although they could not
claim legal ownership of the land, they erected tents and built cabins
to provide shelter, and they made temporary accommodations for
themselves in the new land.
The application for a grant of land in Spanish Texas was a bureaucratic
process that could take a while. These first settlers on the land south
of Buffalo Bayou did the best they could to survive until their time
came. Eventually, though, the awards were made and the settlers could
move on to their own land.
Dr. James A. E. Phelps had been recruited by Stephen F. Austin for his
colony. In 1822, Phelps cultivated a farm in partnership with Stephen
Holston until he received his grant of one sitio (4,428 acres) and two
labors (177 acres each) in the modern Brazoria County on August 16,
On July 21, 1824, John Austin received a two league (4,428 acres each)
survey on Buffalo Bayou. Austin purchased a cotton gin to be located on
Buffalo Bayou in March, 1825, but by the summer, he had entered into a
mercantile partnership with J. E. B. Austin, Stephen F. Austin's
younger brother, in Brazoria and moved there.
The 1826 census of the Austin Colony listed twenty inhabitants in the
area, including Jane Wilkins, most of whom listed their occupations as
either farmers or stock raisers. Within a short time, however, Wilkins
and her daughters had resettled in San Felipe de Austin and acquired
town lots 117 and 82, where they operated a seamstress business and, at
times, a boarding house. On May 26, 1827, Jane Wilkins, as one of
Austin's Old Three Hundred, received a league of land located in what
is now Fort Bend County, near US Highway 90A, the High Meadow and the
New Territory Austin Ridge Subdivisions.
A number of twentieth century historians have claimed, or repeated the
assertion, that in the ten years prior to the Battle of San Jacinto,
German-speaking people began to arrive in the area along Buffalo Bayou,
and the small settlement came to be called Germantown. Unfortunately,
no documents exist to support this claim. At the time of the Battle of
San Jacinto, settlers had been pouring into Texas and many of them were
scattered all over this section of the state. The population of this
little community in 1836 has been estimated as between fifty and one
hundred persons. Some of them probably were German. No contemporaneous
records of the people or the community, however, have survived to give
credence to these stories.
Stories also persist that prior to and after the battle of San Jacinto,
the Allen brothers established their headquarters in the tiny hamlet
upstream of Harrisburg. More likely, though, John K. Allen operated the
business from their home in Nacogdoches, while Augustus C. Allen
traveled to secure their business interests. In April, 1836, A. C.
Allen was in New Orleans acquiring vessels to register under the flag
of the cause of the Texian revolt. The Allens owned vessels that were
operating as privateers in the Gulf of Mexico and were providing
supplies for the Texas army. They had a warehouse on Buffalo Bayou
which they used as a staging area for materials and goods were awaiting
shipment, perhaps in partnership with William Tennant Austin, John
Austin's brother. The existence of the Allen warehouse has been
confirmed in the memoirs of George Bernard Erath. Two weeks after the
battle of San Jacinto, Erath, leading his troops through the future
location of Houston, noted "a single warehouse" near Buffalo Bayou
belonging to the Allen brothers. The location of the Allen warehouse is
generally thought to have been near the junction with White Oak Bayou,
however, there is some evidence that suggests that the location may
have been downstream, near the settlement on the bayou.
Although A. C. Allen is known to have been in Columbia and in the area
of the burned town of Harrisburg, there are no documents to indicate
that he stayed in the village along Buffalo Bayou during the
negotiations with Mrs. T. F. L. Parrott and William T. Austin in
Brazoria for the purchase of the John Austin leagues or for the
location of the site of the future town of Houston.
By the end of August, 1836, the Allen brothers had secured the purchase
of one and one half leagues of John Austin's two leagues. They lobbied
the Congress of the new Republic, and successfully established their
new town of Houston as the new capital city. Builders, politicians,
speculators and all sorts of others persons flocked to Houston to
create a town out of the wilderness. Construction began in January in
anticipation of the opening of the Congress on May 1, 1837. It was into
this environment that Jonathan Frost brought his family and settled in
the horseshoe bend of Buffalo Bayou, eight miles from Harrisburg, and
about a half mile below the proposed town site of Houston.
Jonathan Frost built his home on land adjacent to William F. Hodge,
who, like Frost, chose to establish a
homestead near the new town. Lot sales and construction operations in
the town occupied the Allen brothers in early 1837, but eventually,
they came around to the settlers like Frost and Hodge to formalize the
sale of the land on which they had constructed their homes. James S.
Holman, a partner in the Houston Town Company, surveyed a fifteen acres
tract bordering Buffalo Bayou on the north and lying adjacent to a ten
acre tract on the west belonging to William Hodge. On the same day,
April 13, 1837, in separate transactions, Augustus C. Allen and John K.
Allen completed the sale of the fifteen acre tract to Frost and the ten
acre tract to Hodge. Each tract sold for a price of $100 per acre.
Thirteen days later, in a transaction that followed a similar pattern,
the Allens sold a fifteen acre tract adjoining Frost's land on both the
south and the east to John W. Moody, the Auditor of Public Accounts for
Few, if any considerations, were given by the Allen brothers to the
civic infrastructure of their new town. Provisions for public drinking
water and general sanitation were not made to any real extent. Those
poor conditions promoted the outbreak of disease, and, in combination
with the annual threat of yellow fever, the citizens of Houston were
vulnerable to catastrophic epidemics and widespread death. Just as he
was settling in and establishing his blacksmith shop, Jonathan B. Frost
died at his home on September 16, 1837, at age 32, of cholera. Frost
was buried in the area that was later designated as the Frost Town
Samuel M. Frost was appointed the administrator of the estate of
Jonathan B. Frost on October 30, 1837 by Judge Andrew Briscoe. A
security bond of $7,000 was placed with William F. Hodge, the
neighboring farmer. There was some need to expedite the disposition of
the estate since a number of debts existed, including the note for the
purchase of the fifteen acres of land of the homestead. Samuel Frost
asked the probate court, on March 26, 1838, to permit the sale of
Jonathan Frost's land as sixteen lots of about one acre each. The plan
was "to make each lot front the bayou and a street." The probate
court ordered Samuel Frost to sell the personal property of Jonathan
Frost before the court would approve the sale of the fifteen acres.
The inventory of the estate of Jonathan B. Frost filed by Samuel Frost
in April, 1838 revealed the way the homestead was organized. Of the
fifteen acres, only two lots of approximately one acre each had
improvements. One of these lots contained a house and a blacksmith
shop. Presumably, this was the home of Jonathan Frost. A second one
acre lot also had a house which, possibly, was the residence of Samuel
Frost since the deed of the subsequent sale of the property
specifically mentioned that Samuel's residence was on the
In an attempt to reconcile the various interests of the five Frost
heirs, a complex arrangement for the sale of the property was worked
out between Samuel Frost and his brother James Frost. On April 28,
1838, Samuel M. Frost, as administrator of the estate, sold the fifteen
acre tract to James C. Frost for $2000 after the land had been
appraised by James S. Holman at $1950. Then, on the same day, James C.
Frost deeded the fifteen acres to Samuel M. Frost for $2000 to finalize
After Samuel Frost obtained title to the fifteen acre tract, his plan
for subdividing the land into lots changed. In June, 1838, Samuel M.
Frost laid out a subdivision of eight blocks, lettered blocks A through
H. The subdivision was two blocks wide and four blocks long. Each block
had twelve lots in a pattern similar to that of the town of Houston.
Each block had ten lots that were 50 feet by 100 feet in size and two
larger lots 50 feet by 125 feet. The main street of the subdivision was
Spruce Street, a thirty foot wide lane running north-south between the
two rows of blocks. The east-west cross streets were narrower than
Spruce Street. Arch Street was eighteen feet wide, Race Street was
twenty feet wide and Vine Street was eighteen feet wide. Two lots in
Block H, numbers 7 and 8, were set aside for a cemetery since it is
believed that Jonathan Frost was buried there.
On July 4, 1838, Samuel Frost sold Block A, lots 1, 2 and 4 to Henry
Trott. This first transaction initiated the sales of lots, usually for
$25 or $30 each, that would end up with sixty-six of the ninety-six
lots sold by April, 1839.
Lots 7 through 12 in Block G were not sold in this first year of sales.
That fact lends credence to historian L. W. Kemp's claim that the lots
on Race Street at Pine Street were referred to as the Frost property as
early as 1839, and it could have been the location of Jonathan Frost's
home and his blacksmith shop. The Wood map of 1869 shows those lots to
be vacant with the exception of a large house and one out building on
lots 10 and 11. By that time, the property was owned by John W.
County records indicate that the subdivision was platted as "Frost
Town" and has always been spelled as two words on all manuscript
documents. Auguste Girard, a retired Texas army officer, published a
map of Houston in January, 1839 on which he included the Frost Town
subdivision. However, he does no specifically name it. The first
written reference to Frost Town was made in the September 11, 1839
edition of the Telegraph & Texas Register when four lots in "Frost
town" were advertised for sale. The name referred specifically to the
eight blocks of Frost's subdivision, but within a decade, the name
Frost Town was associated with the neighborhood that developed around
and near the Frost blocks. O. F. Allen, nephew of the city founders,
writing in 1936, states that Frost Town referred to a large area of the
Second Ward, commencing near Jackson Street and running parallel with
Buffalo Bayou for about ten or twelve blocks along Runnels Street and
Canal Street (formerly German Avenue) to about North Delano Street.
Samuel M. Frost had received a second class headright of 640 acres on
June 6, 1838 as part of the land program in which second class
headrights of 640 acres were awarded to single men who immigrated to
Texas after the Declaration of Independence and prior to October 1,
1837. Yet, even though he had acquired the rural land, Frost was still
in Houston in 1840. According to the tax rolls, in addition to his
headright land, Frost owned other taxable property of three town lots
in Houston, thirteen slaves and one watch. However, with the estate of
his brother settled, Samuel Frost's concerns about the healthfulness of
conditions in Houston convinced him to consider moving to the
On March 2, 1843, Samuel Miles Frost married Mrs. Harriet Harbert
Hunter Head, a widow and the daughter of the pioneer settler Dr.
Johnson C. Hunter of Fort Bend County. During the same year, Frost
received a bounty land grant of 320 acres in Fort Bend County for his
service of three months in the Texas army. He established a plantation
on Oyster Creek and he expanded his operations by purchasing land up
and down the Brazos River for cotton. With cattle ranches that his wife
brought to the marriage, the Frosts became prominent landholders in the
area around Hodge's Bend. Having sold his interests in the subdivision
in Houston that bore the family name, Samuel Frost turned his attention
to Fort Bend County and concentrated his efforts on farming and
ranching along the Brazos River.
Frost Town soon became home to German and Irish immigrants, followed by
Italian immigrants, and finally Mexican immigrants. In the mid-1950's,
the neighborhood was demolished to make room for the Elysian Viaduct
which bisects the original tract. Other parts of the former subdivision
make up Harris County's James Bute Park, and the remaining land is
owned by the non-profit Art and Environmental Architecture, Inc. which
plans to establish the Frost Town Historic District on the site.