Fugitive Slaves On Flat Street

James Frost Mansion, Frost Meadows, Shoemaker Shop, Flat Street.jpg

Charles C. Frost's Residence, Boot, And Shoemaker's Shop

Only Documented Underground Railroad Station In Brattleboro

. . . But even of greater importance than the work that was done through the west part of the State was that of the "underground railway" that ran up the Connecticut Valley with regular stations at Hartford, Northampton, Greenfield, Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Windsor and so on to Canada.

The Brattleboro station was the home of the late Chas C Frost "the learned shoemaker" on Flat street, just opposite where the Carpenter Organ factory now is. Mr Frost with the earnest inflexible character that marked him through life, was an uncompromising abolitionist, and believed, without shadow of doubt, that he was doing God's work in helping runaway slaves to their freedom.

Charles C. Frost, Shoemaker Shop, Fugitive Slave Safe House, Flat Street.jpg

His son, Merchant Wells S Frost, says that in four or five years of this work not less than 40 or 50 negroes stopped at his father's house, and there was a room up stairs with bed and everything else necessary, constantly kept for them.

They always traveled in the night time, would reach this house early in the morning with a letter from the man of the station at Greenfield and keeping in hiding in the room through the day time would start after dark for Bellows Falls with a sufficient supply of food and money and a letter to the man who had the station there.

Wells Frost as a lad used to take their meals to them in the chamber and tells of one night finding the bed, chairs and everything else piled against the door. They were almost always in a state of utter fright expecting pursuers and recapture.

Mr Frost now has in his store a slave driver's whip which one of them brought away from the plantation and presented to him. But never was one of them caught here and indeed very few people in town had any suspicion of the work the "learned shoemaker" was carrying on.

Brattleboro Reformer, April 18, 1899.

There is shown in Frost & Proctor's window an interesting relic of the days, some 35 years ago, when Brattleboro was a station on the Underground Railroad, and there was a room in the Frost house on Flat Street where Mr. Frost's father, the late Charles C. Frost, used to hide runaways from slave land during the day, feed them, and at night send them along to Bellows Falls, the next stage on the long and dangerous journey to Canada. The relic is a slave-driver's whip which a Georgia negro stole from his overseer and brought as far as Brattleboro, where he gave it to Mr. Frost.

Vermont Phoenix, May 22, 1891.


Charles Christopher Frost

Charles C. Frost, his son Wells S. Frost, and his brother Willard Frost, and all members of their families extended their hospitality to the arriving escaped slaves, providing for the weariness, hunger, fear and, no doubt, their worn out shoes and boots. The Flat Street neighborhood contained livery stables and factories, and Negro stable hands were a common sight there.

The abolitionist Samuel B. Wells wrote a letter dated January 1, 1889 which described Charles C. Frost---

"The humble, unostentatious shoemaker of Brattleboro, C. C. Frost, who had no equal in Windham county if in the state, in scientific attainments, especially as a mineralogist and botanist, was a master workman in the temple of liberty. In 1845, at an anti-slavery meeting in Athens, Mr. Frost took an active part. But very few in Windham county knew the bed-rock ability of Charles C. Frost. Like a Burritt at his anvil, with a book at hand, so was Mr. Frost at his work. . .

[Elihu Burritt of New Britain, Connecticut, called "the Learned Blacksmith", was strong in the anti-slavery and peace, and may have inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's village blacksmith.]


Whetstone Brook In Winter


Whetstone Brook In Summer


Joseph Steen, Esq. Recalls Slave Captured In Brattleboro

Joseph Steen, Fugitive Slave, Vermont Record And Farmer, September 18, 1879.jpg

Vermont Record and Farmer, September 18, 1879

Joseph Steen, Esq. was born in Brattleboro on March 2, 1797. His memory of the fugitive slave may have been roughly from so early as 1803, when the newspaper advertisements were filled with reward advertisements for runaway slaves and servants.


Flat Street.jpg

Willard Frost

Willard Frost was the brother of Charles C. Frost. He is named as an Underground Railroad operator in Windham County in the book by Wilbur Henry Siebert, "The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom: A Comprehensive History; With an Introduction by Albert Bushnell Hart", (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1898).

According to Siebert, with "the aid of friends at Brattleboro", fugitive slaves made their way northward to shelter in the antislavery editorial office of the Hon. Joseph Poland in Montpelier, Vermont.

Willard Frost, along with Wells S. Frost and his wife, lived in the one story house on the lower side of Flat Street before 1869. There was also a barn and woodshed at that time. The death of Willard Frost on August 12, 1879 may have prompted the reminiscences concerning slavery by Joseph Steen, Esq. for the Vermont Record and Farmer newspaper shortly thereafter.



Charles F. Thompson

Charles C. Frost was so discreet that his fellow Main Street merchant Charles F. Thompson was completely unaware---

Charles Thompson found himself in a predicament one afternoon while tending his shop at the corner of Walnut and Main. A runaway slave, hoping to reach Canada safely, entered the shop asking for help. Thompson was a bit taken aback, for he had never met a runaway slave before and was not aware that the Underground Railroad passed through Brattleboro. He guided the fugitive to the train station and gave him money to pay his fare farther north.

Wilbur H. Siebert, "Vermont's Anti-Slavery and Underground Railroad Record", (Columbus, Ohio: Spahr and Glenn, 1937).


The Old Shoe Shop

The Vermont Phoenix for December 28, 1900 reported that "The old Frost house on Flat Street has been made into a grocery store by J. E. Bushnell." The nineteen-year-old Jason Bushnell is standing at center, with his arms crossed---

Jason Bushnell Grocery, Former Charles C. Frost Shop.jpg


Letter And Coins Had Lain For Years.

Found on Beam in Shed

Used Many Years Ago as Shoe Shop by

Charles C. Frost on Flat Street.

While workmen were tearing down an old shed east of the Wilson blacksmith shop on Flat street a few days ago for F. A. Larraw, the owner, they found on one of the beams a letter addressed to Charles C. Frost, who many years ago kept a shoe shop there and was one of the well-known citizens of the town.

The letter was written by Asher Peabody of Monson, Mass., and was dated July, 1859. It was in regard to a case of Calcutta boots which were sent to Mr. Frost. Enclosed in the envelope were two 10-cent pieces, each dated 1827. The design of 10-cent pieces in those days was much different from that of today. It is presumed that the letter and coins were laid on the beam not long after the letter was received and that it had lain undisturbed all the years since.

Brattleboro Reformer, April 2, 1915.

Fire Company, Frost Meadows, Frost Mansion.jpg

Frost Mansion, Frost Meadows, Fire Company

Charles C. Frost, Botanist.jpg

Charles Christopher Frost

November 11, 1805 - March 16, 1880

Charles Frost "the learned shoemaker", was well-known for his botanizing explorations, discoveries, and expeditions, who guided Henry David Thoreau through this region during September 1856. His personal collection, the Frost Herbarium, was donated to the University of Vermont in 1902. Runaway slaves doubtless marvelled at this picturesque collection while passing through. It would be entirely in keeping with Frost's inquisitive nature, for him to question the fugitives concerning the vegetable productions at Southron climes.









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