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my mystery of Lily Frost...

I don't know when she was born, or where. I don't know where she went to school, if she did at all. Her details come all from her husband and from the eleven children they had together. But she fascinates me.

Her name was Elizabeth Smith Graham Frost, known to her friends as Lily. Her story for me begins in 1851 when she married Daniel Marsh Frost, a New Yorker with states' rights leanings, in or around Jefferson Barracks. They had their first child that year, and his various jobs took him to Europe, Texas, Kansas and Jefferson City over the next few years. If she went with, or if she stayed home in Hazelwood, I can't discern. But by 1861, they had six children and he was firmly entrenched in the Confederate army. He was embroiled in a plot to take over the U.S. Arsenal in St. Louis (the Camp Jackson affair) in May 1861 and eventually surrendered, was traded in a prisoner exchange and was allowed to go home, presumably to Lily and their children.

In 1862, he was sent off with the Confederate Army and she stayed in St. Louis with the children. Eventually, the pressure of being the wife of a Confederate general in a city that was under Union Army control became too much. She took the children and fled to Canada. When Daniel found out she'd left the country, he deserted from the Confederacy and went to Canada to join them. After the war, they felt it was safe enough to return to Hazelwood and farmed.

I don't know when she died. Her last child, Thomas, was born in 1872 and he died that same year. Daniel had a baby with his third wife in 1875. So sometime in between Thomas being born and Daniel remarrying between 1874 and 1875, Lily died.

I've been researching General Frost for work, and although he was fairly important in St. Louis Civil War history, it's her story, not his, that seems more interesting to me. I want to fill in the blanks I can never know about her. I want to understand her and be her friend, help her pack for Canada and write her letters once she gets settled.

I can't tell you what intrigues me so much about Lily Frost. Is it my vast respect for a woman who had eleven children over the course of 21 years, and raised nine? Is it my awe in the strength and determination of a woman who would pick up and move with six children to a different country by herself in a time when she would be packing in trunks and traveling in wagons? Is it the untold details of this woman that haunt me? I'll never know if she was a brunette or a redhead, a listener or a talker, a girly-girl or a tomboy. I'll never know how she felt about the war or secession or slavery; I'll never know if she wanted a big family or if all those children were a duty to her. Was she a reader? A letter-writer? Did she dance or play an instrument? Were her eyes poor like mine? Did she love Daniel or was their marriage a convenience to a man who had already lost one wife? I will never know. I don't know anything real about her. I can't even visit her grave. She died over a hundred years before I was born, and I mourn.

The one consolation of not knowing anything about her is that I can imagine anything I want about her, and as far as I know, I'm right. She can be whoever I want her to be. But I mourn anyway, for this woman who was very likely beloved of her husband and children and friends and family but is completely unknown today. She was the center of someone's world enough that he would give up everything -- his job, his beliefs, his honor -- and move to a different country to be with her, and I can't even find when and where she was born.

I'm not done with Lily Frost. There has to be something more to find about her. And her story, or lack thereof, makes me want to leave a record of myself somewhere, somehow, so someday I'm not just someone's footnote in someone else's genealogy.

Comments

( 2 in harmony — strike a chord )
adrias3642
Dec. 10th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
Looking For Lily Too
I have been on the search for Eliza "Lily" Frost (maiden name: Elizabeth Brown “Lily” Graham), wife of General Daniel M. Frost, as well. My main goal is to get more information about her Civil War time and I'd love a picture of her. I'm working at a museum and we want to tell her story.

I do not know if you are still searching, but maybe I can give you what little I have found out that is different from what you have found and share with you my frustration with the rest.

Lily was the daughter of a prominent family in St. Louis. Her parents were Catherine Cecelia Mullanphy and Major Richard Graham. John Mullanphy, her grandfather on her mother's side, played a role in establishing St. Louis, Missouri. Her birth date or exact place I have failed to locate.

An interesting bit of history that you seem to be missing is Lily's involvement in a mail smuggling ring in St. Louis during the Civil War. She, and a number of other wives of Confederate officers, were smuggling letters to their husbands and southern families. A few of these letters were confiscated of a river boat on the Mississippi River. Because writing letters to the South was considered a crime during the war, Missouri was under military rule, she and the other women were arrested. They spent time in Chesnut St. Prison, which was originally the home of Margaret McLure, before being transported to the Gratiot Street Prison, originally a medical school. Both prisons had originally been owned by Confederate Sympathizers and confiscated. She was forcibly exiled from St. Louis in May 1863 and that is why she went to Canada. Some records I've read report that she was pregnant during her imprisonment.

Another note, because of her exile, Lily would have lost everything but a trunk of clothing for her and her children. The home, furniture, money, etc would all have been taken.

Apparently, when her husband found out about her arrest he was outraged. He left the Confederate Army, without leave, and returned to St. Louis. There, to free her and reunite her with their children (they had been separated), he took a loyalty oath and they all traveled to Canada together.

Other than that, I sadly have have little else to tell you currently other than in my research I have gained a great deal of respect for this strong woman.

I am happy that I can give you a grave to visit.

Grave: She is buried in Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum, Saint Louis, St. Louis City Missouri, USA.
Link: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Frost&GSfn=Elizabeth&GSbyrel=in&GSdy=1872&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=12723287&df=all&


If you are still interested, I'll happily give you my sources and I'd appreciated any help you could give me.
adrias3642
Dec. 10th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Looking For Lily Too
I forgot to add, your right, she had 11 children and all but 2 survived to adulthood. the two that died, died shortly after birth. I believe she might have died with the birth of the last child (it died shortly after being born).
( 2 in harmony — strike a chord )

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