Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 161 - 166)

Joshua, son of Thomas Frost, was born in Lee County, Va., December 22, 1782. His father moved to East Tennessee in 1796, and "entering" a section of land, five miles south of Clinton, built on it "the first house" that was built in Anderson County. Here young Frost was brought up to farm life, with few advantages of an education. 

He was married July 19, 1803, to Miss Annie Chiles. To this union were born six children, five sons, one daughter.

The date of his conversion and baptism was lost with the old records of the Beaver Ridge (or Ball Camp) Church, Knox County, with which he united. The record of March, 1818, places Joshua Frost at the head of a list of the "nineteen constituent members" of the Raccoon Valley Arm (now Zion Church), which the mother church agreed might be established. His church licensed him to preach September 12, 1820, and by request of the above‑mentioned Arm he was ordained, March, 1822, Thomas Hudiburg and Obed Patty constituting the pres­bytery.

The ministerial career of Brother Frost begins, therefore, with the history of the Raccoon Valley Arm, in the beginning of 1818, this new interest growing up around him. In 1819 an acre of land was given by a Brother Norman, on which to build a house of worship. In 1823 the Arm assumed the name of "Zion meeting‑house," and the year following became an independent body. The old meeting‑house, many of whose logs Brother Frost cut and hewed, is still standing (1897), and close by is the old dwelling house built by his father and inherited by the son, who lived in it till upwards of 80 years old, when he went on a visit to his children in Illinois.

Elder Frost was pastor of Zion Church about forty years. Of the old mother church Beaver Ridge, otherwise known as the "brick chapel," he was pastor for a great number of years, baptizing into the fellowship of the church, first and last, so the old brethren say, at least "200 members." He was also pastor of Salem, Clinton, Mt. Horeb, Bethel, Fairview, Union and other churches, in Roane, Anderson and Knox counties, many of which he was chiefly instrumental in founding.

"He was the prime‑factor in the organization of Mount Harmony, Zion Hill, Blowing Spring, Pine Grove, and Third Creek churches"  (Azariah Harrell.)

He did a great deal of work in out‑of‑the‑way and destitute places, and while he had the misfortune to lose his record of converts, baptisms, churches organized, etc., he was heard to say that he had organized and built up, pretty much by his own efforts and the Lord's help, "twenty‑two churches."

From 1818 to 1863. EIder Frost, almost every year, was either a delegate or a corresponding delegate to the Tennessee Association. The minutes show that he preached five introductory sermons before that body. He was for some years Moderator of the Northern Association, and from 1853 to 1864 he was Moderator of the Clinton.

Joshua Frost had an "impressive voice and manner that made him a power in the pulpit. A wave of his hand made an impression." (B. Demarcus.) His voice was not only powerful, but clear and penetrating; he could be heard distinctly a great distance. It is said that his wife at home, a full half mile from the church, could hear him read or quote his text and line out his hymns, and tell him all about his performances at church when he would get home.

As a minister and as a man he was firm, fearless and out­spoken. He never allowed an oath or sin of any kind, in his presence, to go unrebuked. There was an air of gravity and sanctity about him that caused all classes of people to reverence him. Was there a bunch of youngsters, or of older people, engaged in frivolous conversation in or about the church,  the approach of Elder Frost was a signal for silence or reverential behavior.

He is said to have had wonderful tact in introducing on all occasions the subject of religion. He lived on the public highway and kept a sort of public tavern or stopping place for stock‑drivers, lawyers, judges and other travelers, but he would rarely have a person in his home an hour, it is said, or ride a mile with a stranger on the highway, without finding out whether he was a Christian or not.

In his preaching he quoted freely from the Scriptures, proving all things by the Word of God, giving chapter and verse. He was also a good singer, and was gifted in exhortation.

He was a thorough believer in free salvation and missions, and had little sympathy with the doctrine of predestination as held by many Baptists of his day. Perhaps the greatest sermon of his life was at the Powell's Valley Association, when that body was settling down into "fixed fate" and anti­mission sentiments. The question was up as to who would preach and some of the brethren were excusing themselves as not being "prepared." Elder Frost said, "If ever I was prepared to preach it is now"; and he commenced his sermon by saying, "They have slandered my God, and I am here to vindicate him. They say he is a respecter of persons. My Bible teaches most plainly that he is a respecter of character, and willeth not the death of any."

One of the notable characteristics of Elder Frost's ministry was the conscientiousness with which he filled his preaching appointments. It is said that in a ministry of nearly fifty years he never disappointed more than one or two congregations.

He was also a great believer in prayer, and had a firm and abiding faith that if God had called him to preach his everlasting gospel he would take care of  his family while he was doing it. At one time he had an engagement to begin work in the destitute regions of Kentucky. When the time came for him to leave home to go to his appointment, his youngest child was very sick. His companion hung on his neck and wept sorely, beseeching him not to go. It was a sore trial for him to leave home under the circumstances, but, kissing the child and taking leave of his wife, he rode away with great heaviness of heart. He had gone only a little way, however, when his burden of anxiety had left him and he felt assured that his child would get well. The child was better from that same hour, and soon recovered.

With all his seriousness and prevalent sobriety of manner, Elder Frost had in him a vein of droll humor which sometimes cropped out unexpectedly. Seeing a Baptist preacher, in time of the Civil War, carrying a gun on his shoulder, he gave his preacher brother a mild and good‑natured rebuke by telling him, he "didn't like to see a minister of the gospel carrying a gun, going about to kill people."

As already mentioned, Elder Frost had gone to see his children in Illinois. He had finished his visit and had a desire to meet with the Clinton Association once more, especially since the meeting was to be with his home church, Zion. He was arranging for his return home, and it was only a week to the set time for his home‑coming, when he was stricken with paralysis, which resulted in his death, July 30, 1865. He died at the home of his youngest son, Paul C. Frost, tenderly cared for. He wanted to return to his Tennessee home, but by the Father's appointment he went to his better home on high.

Burnett, J .J.  Sketches of  Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers.  Nashville, Tenn.:  Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.


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