This map was drawn in 1853 by Dr. Elias Frost from his memory of Meriden as he found it when he arrived in 1808. This and other maps appear in the Chronicle of the Frost Family with Anecdotes and Notices Illustrative of Individual Characters that he wrote towards the end of his life.
Elias Frost was born in Milford, MA, on January 10, 1782, to the Reverend Amariah and Susanna Dorr Frost. His mother died before he was two years old and his father, age 72, followed when Elias was ten. He was sent to live in Uxbridge, MA, with his half-sister Olive and her husband, Dr. Samuel Willard, a well-known pioneer in the humane treatment of the mentally ill and a country doctor who spent a good deal of his time battling small pox in Uxbridge. Elias had a good and happy life in his new home where he attended the local schools and Leicester Academy. He graduated from Brown University and then spent three years as an apprentice to Dr. Willard in the “theory and practice of physic” and then worked with him for six more months.
Dr. Frost’s connection to Meriden began with his friendship with Amos Farnum who was Dr. Willard’s farm manager in Uxbridge. Farnum moved to Meriden and built a house, now just a cellar hole on the disused Farnum Road, just off Columbus Jordan Road near French’s Ledges. He encouraged the young doctor to follow him to New Hampshire and set up his medical practice in Meriden. Frost knew that life here, in what he called a “cold and mountainous country,” would not have the same amenities and social advantages that he enjoyed in Massachusetts, however, after much deliberation, he set out for Meriden and arrived here in 1808.
Being a new doctor in town, Frost felt it was necessary to prove his worth as a “physic” before the locals would accept him. His first case was for a very sick child who lived in the Messinger House [KUA’s 1813 House]. He cured him and found that each day a little more business came his way. Another case soon followed: “A kind of accident gave me much celebrity, occasioning much anxiety … and a great variety of common gossip among people in different attitudes concerning his success.” One day, as he was about to leave the Farnums, he stood chatting with the hired man, Thomas Peniman. They saw a gentleman riding towards the road to Meriden and Frost asked who he was and was told, “Dr. Parkhurst from Lebanon. He is going to see Sally Brocklebank who can’t live three days – she is just gone. Now Frost if you would go and cure up Sal Brocklebank, I swear you need do no more; you would make your fortune.” Peniman intended this as a joke as no one believed more could be done for the woman. Three or four days later, Frost was called to her bedside. “All the neighbors were called in. I went into the room and I stood aghast. The appearance was like a sheet spread over a skeleton, and she had spasms.” He was about to get on his horse when “Mrs. Kimball wife of Lieut Joseph Kimball [Daniel Kimball’s uncle] came to the door – saying – are you going – Yes, Well if you can do anything to relieve this poor girl, come in and do it – and if you cannot we do not want you here and you may go home. I took of[f] my saddle bags went in & gave her some Commanglass Balsam and the spasms left her.” The family asked him to continue treating her; he was successful and she lived another 40 years or so. After that, he wrote, his reputation was made adding that he was often successful with cases that were thought to be incurable.
Frost boarded with Daniel and Hannah Kimball for six years until a political disagreement between the two men caused him to find lodgings elsewhere. He felt that the Kimballs, Deacon Adams and the Rev. Dickerson wanted to “control my practice or render it of little value” so they encouraged Frost’s medical pupil Ezra Gustin to set up a medical practice in Meriden. “Daniel Kimball was now in earnest of forwarding his Academy – and was erecting a boarding house opposite his own on [the] South side of the Road. He was Slacking lime in the cellar and had boards there seasoning. The lime set fire to the boards & it was with great difficulty that the lime & boards could both be preserved. And he by work and the steam of the lime Inflamed the Uvula, so that he thought himself in Danger. Dickinson & Gustin was called and they thought best to remove the Uvula and actually took a pair of Scissors and attempted the removal. Fortunately the scissors were dull & it put Hon. Daniel into so much pain, that he would not allow them again to make a second attempt – & sent to Windsor for Dr. Torrey who came & said the devil was in them for if they had cut off the Uvula – he would have been a dead man & ordered a prescription that restored him in a few days to health.” Frost had the “pleasure” of telling his patients this story and that ended all opposition and hostilities towards him. “Life was of more consequence than politics.” Good relations with the Kimballs and others were restored. He was with Daniel when he died and was Hannah’s physician until her death at age 89.
Frost married Mary Kimball Roberts in 1815 and they had five children whom they raised in their farmhouse that is now owned by KUA [Frost House]. Frost, a prominent man of the town, served as selectman, representative to the New Hampshire legislature, a Justice of the Peace and was president of the Grafton County Medical Society. He tutored local students in Latin, English grammar, arithmetic and geography and trained, in later years, nine medical students. Frost was successful financially; by 1830 his taxes were the 4th highest in the Meriden School District.
By 1845 Frost’s eyesight was failing and he gave up his medical practice. He had cataracts removed in 1848 by a Dartmouth professor of surgery but found little relief. He wrote his Chronicle and drew his wonderful maps of Meriden [above], Milford and Uxbridge with failing eyesight. Frost died at age 81, when, apparently, he mistook the cellar door for the outside door and tragically fell down the stairs. He was buried in Mill Cemetery above the covered bridge in Meriden near the Kimballs and many other friends and patients.
Next time: John Chase Lord, Class of 1819