0

Adam Frost, Former Servant of Governor John Drayton

 
 
     The life story of Adam Frost, formerly enslaved by Governor John Drayton, continues to unfold and is a wonderful example of the genealogy research community working together to solve a research problem.
 
     We first discovered Adam Frost and his story by searching for the terms "Drayton" and "slave" in GenealogyBank's Historic Newspaper collection. Among the search results was a mortuary notice from the May 5, 1907 issue of the Charlotte, NC Observer. It carried the intriguing headline: "Dead at 127: Adam Frost, Colored, Perhaps the Oldest Man in the United States, Dies in Spartanburg County. Had Interesting History." 
 
     We then posted a query to the Spartanburg County, SC message board at Rootsweb.com to ask if anyone could identify M.B. Smith, whose farm Adam settled on after the War. A reader named Page kindly supplied us with a lead: "I have a McCagga Barnet Smith (1859-1945), son of Sanford Newton Smith (1830-1906) and Theodocia Kirby (1834-1883) [in my family tree] living at Cedar Springs in Spartanburg County. This is most likely the family you are looking for. All are buried at Cedar Springs Baptist Church Cemetery."
 
     A second reader, Ann, helped us refine the lead. She wrote: "Another spelling for this M. B. Smith is Micajah Barnett Smith. His son was called Macajer Barnett 'Mack' Smith, Jr." Ann suggested that we check with the Spartanburg County Public Library to see if they could provide more information, as they have local newspapers on microfilm among their holdings.
 
 
     Thanks to the kindness of Page and Ann, we now had some very fertile leads to follow. We consulted online Census records and found an Adam Frost and his family in the 1880 Federal Census for Pacolett Township, Spartanburg, SC [1].
 
     In 1880, this Adam Frost and his family were living next to the family of Sanford N. Smith, whom Page mentions in her message board post. This Adam's household in the 1880 Census was:
 
 
Name
Color
Gender
Age
Relationship
Occupation
Frost, Adam
B
M
60
 
Works on Farm
Frost, Hannah
B
F
60
Wife
Works on Farm
Frost, Chaney
B
F
22
Daughter
Works on Farm
Frost, Etta
B
F
3 mos.
G Daughter
 
 
     Living two doors away was another family with the surname Frost, possibly related to Adam?
 
Name
Color
Gender
Age
Relationship
Occupation
Frost, Mariah
B
F
24
 
Works on Farm
Frost, Hannah
B
F
2
 
 
 
     We took this new information to the Records of the Field Offices of the Freedmen's Bureau for South Carolina (NARA Micropub M1910) and found some detailed maps of the area where this Adam and his family were living [2]. You may click on the thumbnail images below to view larger images of the maps:
 

Map of Pacolett Township, Spartanburg County, SC, date unknown. See larger image for source citation. 

Detailed Map of Cedar Springs area of Pacolett Township, Spartanburg, SC, date unknown. See larger image for source citation. 
 

  Adam's Life Story

     Following up on Ann's suggestion, we contacted Susan Thoms at the Spartanburg County Public Library, who found two obituaries, and sent them to us. From these sources we learned that a reporter had interviewed Adam just months before his passing.
  
     Adam told the reporter that his original slaveholder was a man named Hunter. He produced a small red book signed by S. S. Hunter, which stated that Adam was born on Sullivan's Island in 1780. Adam recalled the great hurricane of 1804 and stated that by that time he was a young man. He recalled water flooding into the house where he was a servant, and recounted the story of a chimney collapsing in the storm and killing an enslaved man. The reporter later consulted historical resources and found an account of the fatal chimney collapse during the 1804 hurricane.
  
     Hunter sold Adam to Colonel John Drayton (1766-1822), who was twice governor of South Carolina. Adam was a house servant in Governor Drayton's house in Charleston, where he worked in the garden and was charged with walking Governor Drayton's son to and from school each day. Adam recalled the War of 1812, recounted details about the Demark Vesey uprising (1822) and stated that sometime after the War of 1812, Governor Drayton sold him to a man with the surname Petch.
  
     Adam's tenure with Petch was a short and unhappy one. He escaped from Petch, and worked for a time on a schooner that plied between Charleston and plantations on the Coosawhachee River in Beaufort County, SC.
 
     Adam stated that his last slaveholder was Dr. Henry Frost. During the Civil War, Dr. Frost and his family migrated to the Spartanburg area, where the family remained for the duration of the War. After the War Dr. Frost returned to Charleston, but Adam chose to remain in the Spartanburg, SC area, where he passed his final years on the farm of M. B. Smith [3].
 
Adam's Life Story: Documentary Research 
     We now had more information about Adam and his life. Could we find him among the Drayton family's Antebellum records? 
 
     We found no mention of this Adam in the Antebellum records, but in our search for him we did find something especially interesting concerning an enslaved person named Adam who was first owned by the Drayton family and sold to the Frost family.
 
     In the Will of William Drayton, son of William Drayton Sr. and grandson of Thomas Drayton and Elizabeth Bull, we found the following: "In January 1844 I received from Dr. E. R. Frost of Charleston [a bond] for the purchase of four negroes named Adam, Jerry, Adel and Winter... [4]."
 
     Was the Adam that William Drayton sold to Dr. Edward Frost the Adam we were looking for? Perhaps he was not, we will recall that in the narrative Adam gave to the reporter who visited him in Spartanburg shortly before his death in 1907, Adam stated that he had been owned by Governor John Drayton, then sold to a man with the surname Petch, and finally to Henry Frost, who took Adam to Spartanburg during the Civil War.
 
Adam, Jerry, Adel and Winter: Documentary Research 
     We searched historical records for mentions of Adam, Jerry, Adel and Winter. The minutes of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Charleston record the baptism of Jerry, an adult man aged 70, belonging to Dr. Edward Frost, on November 19, 1854. Within those same church minutes are recorded the baptisms of Caroline and George, servants of Dr. Henry Frost [5]. Adam Frost stated that a Dr. Henry Frost was his former slaveholder.
 
     The private register of the Reverend Paul Trapier of Charleston also records life events of Adam, Jerry, Adel and Winter. Jerry's baptism on November 19, 1854 was recorded by Trapier as well, with a note that his sponsors were "Stephen (Heinricks) and James (Porter)." Jerry's confirmation by Bishop Davis at Calvary Church was recorded on the same day, along with that of "Stephen, servant of Mr. Heinrick." Jerry died at the age of about 94, on June 1, 1857. He was buried the following day at the Calvary Church Burial Ground.
 
    Trapier noted that on February 23, 1853, Constant, a servant of Mr. Daniel Lesesne, married Adel, servant of Dr. Frost, at Mr. Dehon's house "before several witnesses and with consent of owners." Adel had previously been confirmed by Bishop Gadsden at Calvary Church, on August 31, 1851.
 
     The birth of Constant and Adel's son Lewis Alexander is also recorded in Trapier's register on October 28, 1852. Both Constant and Adel were listed at that time as servants of Dr. Frost. Lewis was baptised the same day. His sponsor was Polly, "servant of Mr. Mills." Lewis' life was short, however; he died May 13, 1854, aged 1 year, 6 months and 16 days. He was buried in the Field of Rest Methodist Burying Ground. Constant and Adel's son William Henry was born April 1, 1855, and baptised July 8, 1855, in Calvary Church. His sponsors were "London Theus, Stephen (Heinricks) and Maria (Eason) [6]."
 
 
     Do Adam, Jerry, Constant, Adel and Winter have ties to the Adam Frost interviewed by the Spartanburg Times in 1906? The answers await further research. If you have information and/or documents to share, please do contact us and join the research effort.
 
References Cited
 
[1] United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. Washington, D.C. National Archives and Records Administration, 1880. Roll: T9-1240.
 
[2] Records of the Field Offices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Micropublication M1910.
 
[3] "Negro, 126 Years Old, Recalls Earlier Days of Charleston." The Spartanburg Herald, Sunday Morning December 2, 1906; "Dead at 127: Adam Frost, Colored, Perhaps the Oldest Man in the United States, Dies in Spartanburg County. Had Interesting History." Charlotte Daily Observer, May 17, 1907. With kind permission of Newsbank.
 
 
[4] Will of William Drayton, Drayton Family Papers, Collection #1584, Series IV: Other Drayton Family Members, Maria H. Drayton Estate, Box 32, Folder 9, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
 
[5] Calvary Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolin. Records, 1832-1978. Baptismal Register. Microfilm available at the Charleston County Public Library.
 
[6] "The Private Register of Rev. Paul Trapier." The South Carolina Historical Magazine, LVIII, 1957, pp. 94, 163 and 246. Originally contributed by the Dalcho Historical Society.
Click to share thisClick to share this