Burr Frost

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Question: What occupation did Burr Frost have which proved so helpful in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: Burr Frost, son of Alphas Frost and Elizabeth Downs Frost, was born at Woolcot, New Haven, Connecticut, March 4th, 1816. He married Mary Elizabeth Potter on August 16, 1835 in Westfield, New Haven, Connecticut.

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Burr joined the church in the East and came to Utah in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company, arriving in Salt Lake City on the 22nd of July 1847, being one of the advanced scouts in that company. His name appears almost daily in the history of that great trek across the plains. He was the blacksmith for the trek and with the assistance of Thomas Tanner, another blacksmith, had charge of the repair work of the company.

When the Oregon immigrants passed his company in Wyoming, Burr Frost sat up the portable forge he always carried and used it to repair the wagons and shoe the oxen or horses. Other work was secured by him along the way, and he was paid in bacon, flour and other provisions. Very often when some of the outfits broke down, the companies would make camp, and Burr Frost would mend the wagons or whatever they needed done so that they might go on the next day.

Here is an extract taken from an article written by Andrew Jensen, “Several minor accidents happened to the wagons during the day but nothing serious except the breaking down of George A. Smith’s wagon. Some of the brethren brought in great bunches of dry willows and made a coal pit in which Burr Frost set up his blacksmith shop to repair George A. Smith’s wagon, that Brother Smith might continue his journey with the Saints the next day.”

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Burr Frost made one of the plows that broke the first ground in Utah. The shares were hammered wagon tires that were too thin for the roads. On the ground now known as Pioneer Park, stood an old fort. One third of it was built by John Steel, who used a trowel made by Burr Frost.

After Burr got to the Salt Lake Valley, he went back as far as the Platte River to meet his wife, Mary E. Potter Frost and two children. Their eldest daughter had died in 1842 at age five. Another baby girl was born in the wagon box in Echo Canyon on their way to Salt Lake City. The baby died a year later. After his arrival in the valley, Burr set up the first blacksmith shop in Salt Lake City.

At one time, Mary said she lived on roots for four months. She said the craving for bread which she developed during those months was terrible. Their home, a two-storied adobe house stood on 3rd South and 2nd East in Salt Lake City. The blacksmith shop stood west of the house for some time, then Burr moved it down on State Street and Sixth South. Burr and Mary had seven more children in Salt Lake, including twin boys Mary gave birth to at age 43. Both twins lived.

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President Young, soon after returning to Utah in 1848, emphasized the desperate need of iron to be used in the manufacture of machinery and for other purposes so vital to the development of the growing communities. Parley P. Pratt's exploring expedition of 1849–1850 had made significant discoveries of iron in Iron county. In obedience to a call from the Church authorities men were sent to Iron county where, in time, they erected a small furnace. Records show "that from this initial furnace, Burr Frost, a Parowan blacksmith, made nails enough to shoe a horse."

Burr very often earned 60 dollars a day during the gold rush, fixing the wagons and shoeing the horses of men going through to California. He continued in this trade with the exception of two years, from 1852 to 1854, when he was called on a mission to Australia. From his journal we read: “I was called at a special conference held August 28th, 1852 in Great Salt Lake City to go on a mission to South Australia in company with 9 other men...On Saturday according to previous appointment the brethren met to receive their blessings and instructions, Wilford Woodruff presiding, J. Young, J.M. Grant being present with others.”

After returning from his mission, Burr continued living in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1863, Burr married Caroline Triplett, and they had eight children, with three dying young.

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Burr’s death was very sudden, occurring March 16, 1878 in the 63rd year of his life. At that time he was one of the presidents of the 70th quorum of Seventies. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Source: Excerpts from “A Story of the life of Burr Frost,” Written by his Granddaughter, Effie Palmer Bennion, FamilySearch.org; FindAGrave.com; Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 2, p.555.