GIANTS OF SAN
by Buckley Jensen
Clarence Frost lived an exemplary life and suffered an untimely death when he fell off the roof of his lodge at the Blue Mountain Guest Ranch. His was a life of constant struggle. The adversity that he experienced and overcame is a testament to all of us that life is a test to see what men and women are made of. He dictated his life story just two weeks before he fell to his death. How blessed are the rest of us to be able to learn from his life’s adventure.
“I was born January 14, 1891, the fifth son of William Allan Frost and Amelia Anderson. Five of my siblings died in infancy. My brothers, Heber and Wilford and my sister Maude survived in Father’s first family. We lived in Woodruff, AZ when we were young. My Mother died shortly after the birth of baby Karl and my father was left with a young family.”
Clarence’s father was a builder. He often was away from home. One day, after his first wife’s death, William went to the woods to pray and was impressed that Sibyl Harris was to become the mother of his young family. Sibyl was the Postmistress in Shumway, AZ. She left that job when she married Clarence and went to care for his four children. The Frost children called her “Aunty” and loved her like their own mother.
In l903, the family moved to Fruitland, NM, where Father Frost made brick, was a builder and hauled freight to Durango, CO.
At the San Juan Stake Conference in Fruitland in l906, George A. Adams of Monticello told Clarence’s father that they were building a new Church in Monticello, and they needed someone to make the bricks. William Frost agreed to come to Monticello and make the bricks. The family liked the little village at the base of the Blues and they stayed. Clarence Frost lived in or near Monticello continuously for the next 59 years.
“Aunties health was not good and during the second winter in Monticello, Dad took her to the doctor in Mancos, he being the closest doctor at that time. Before they got back, two feet of snow fell and crusted over. I borrowed a team from Brother Baker and went to help them.
“It took me all day riding one horse and leading the other to go 15 miles to the Piute Springs Cabin. I slept there and met Father and Auntie 10 miles further east the next morning. We made it back to Piute Springs that night. They had three cows and some bees they had bought in Mancos. The next day we abandoned the wagon and rode the horses and drove the cows to Monticello. It took all day, as the snow was deep and crusted”.
William filed on a 320-acre homestead southwest of Monticello and Clarence and his brothers helped their father with improvements on his farm.
William and Aunty had four sons, who became Clarence’s half brothers.
“I worked the summer of 1910 for George Adams and earned enough money to go to school at Snowflake Academy in Arizona. I was 19 years old when I entered the ninth grade.
“All the other students were two to four years younger than I and I struggled to keep up with them. I lived with my oldest sister, Maude, and her husband Ralph. I had to sleep in the same bed with another boarder named Aaron Porter.
“At the first dance in Snowflake that winter, I met Seraphine Smith. I walked her home that night. We were engaged before school let out in the spring. When school was out that spring I rode my horse home to Monticello from Snowflake. The trip was 300 miles and took 10 days. Heber met me at the Piute Cabin. I was so happy to see him.” Clarence recalled years later.
“Father and Aunty mortgaged their 400 acres to the Berkley Land Bank for $2,000. They bought 10 cows from Edward Stevens. Because feed ran short that winter, most of the cows died. Things got worse and in 1922, the bank foreclosed on my parents’ farm.”
The bank told Clarence and his brothers that they could have the farm if they could pay the loan payment, but there was no way they could get the money.
Clarence and Seraphine were married on October 4, 1911. In 1912, they homesteaded on Dodge Point southeast of Monticello. They also rented the George Adams farm on Verdure Creek for six years.
They had a good wheat crop in 1919 and Clarence was called on a mission for the LDS Church. While getting his affairs in order, the house they had on Dodge burned to the ground. It also contained much of their wheat. With the loss of the wheat, Clarence’s mission money was gone.
He talked to Bishop George J. Jarvis, who said he could postpone his mission until the next year’s crop came in. Clarence and Seraphine decided not to wait until the next year. They mortgaged their 320-acre farm for $1,000. The bank charged them a $50 loan fee, and they had to pay 10 percent interest.
Nevertheless, Clarence left for Salt Lake City on January 17, 1920. He had one day of instruction and was sent to the California Mission with an Elder Jacobson. He contracted the flu shortly after he arrived and was quarantined for weeks. An Elder Inkley got the flu just as Clarence was getting over it, and so Clarence was assigned to care for Elder Inkley for several more weeks.
“Seraphine was pregnant when I left on the mission. We were living in a one-room house. Our three-room home on the ranch had burned down and she was caring for four small children. Her parents invited her to go to Hunter, UT to live with them until I returned.
“Seraphine sent me a letter saying the doctor thought she was going to have twins and would I pick names for them. I went to my closet, shut the door and in humility and faith asked the Lord what our family increase would be. I learned that it would be one child and that it would be a son. In my next letter to Seraphine, I told her to name him Melvin Jesse. Two weeks later, little Melvin was born.
Clarence came back to Monticello after serving 25 months in California. He baptized two people on his entire mission. He came home to a one-room house in town. His worldly possessions consisted of an old wagon and two cows. His other four cows had perished that winter when they ventured onto the ice of a pond, broke through and drowned. Grain prices were down and times were tough.
“Father and Aunty were again having trouble making their land payments on a second farm to the Berkley Land Bank. They told me and my brothers we could have the land if we could make the payments, but we could not, and again, Father’s land was taken by the bank.
“My son Kent and I spent the winter trapping coyotes on the reservation trying to get a little cash. We didn’t make much so we moved back to Dodge in the spring. In l924, I got a job for $50 a month working for Charlie Redd in La Sal. My wages were raised to $60 a month in the spring, and for the first time, there was something we could count on. We moved our family to La Sal.”
In 1928, the family moved back to Monticello. Clarence purchased a portable sawmill from some people who lived north of Moab. He hauled it to Monticello and set it up. He did a lot of cutting for Marie Ogden. They were building the Home of Truth religious community at that time and they purchased a large quantity of rough-lumber for their three settlements in Dry Valley. Clarence hauled or dragged trees off the mountain to his operation just west of town, where he cut them into lumber.
“One evening, one of the logs came by with a large splinter, which caught my pants. As I struggled to get the splinter out of my trousers I was knocked off balance and fell backwards. My hand hit the saw and it cut off my last three fingers. I was put in the back of a wagon and taken to town. Dr. Allen in Moab fixed me up, and I eventually learned to function with just a thumb and an index finger. I feel fortunate to have survived. Had I fallen in a slightly different arc, I could have been killed instantly.”
Clarence gave up the sawmill and became the County Assessor in l938.
Just before World War II, the economy picked up. Clarence, his sons and several relatives pooled their land and formed the C. A. Frost Company. They purchased the flourmill that had been built in Monticello years earlier. They raised wheat and then milled their wheat into flour and hauled it to the Navajo Reservation and other areas.
In August of 1946, Clarence and Seraphine, along with daughter Pearl and son-in-law John Lewis, purchased the Blue Mountain Guest Ranch for $6,000 (known locally as the dude ranch). They enjoyed the beauty of the area and had hopes of recruiting “dudes” from the East.
While they were successful with deer hunters, their hopes for an economic bonanza at the Dude Ranch never materialized. They were able to make enough to pay the taxes and the mortgage. Clarence enjoyed his time at the Dude Ranch, even though it was never very profitable.
Clarence and Seraphine completed three missions for their Church, starting in l942 in California.
In l949 they went to the Southwest Indian Mission. They served in Tuba City, and also the Shiprock and Todalena area. He was the District President for the last six months of his third mission.
In 1959, the Frosts were called to serve again in the Southwest Indian Mission. This time, Clarence Frost was the first counselor in the Mission Presidency serving under President Turley. They spent three years in that calling.
On July 23, l965, Clarence was repairing the roof of the lodge at his Blue Mountain Guest Ranch when he slipped and fell to the ground. The fall paralyzed him from the neck down. He was taken to Salt Lake City, but the best efforts of his doctors failed, and he passed away five days later.
Those who knew him best remembered him as “the kindest man on earth.” He always called his wife “Sweetheart”. He was constantly helping the widows and those in need.
It was said of him that the way he lived his life bore testimony of his Christ-like character.
His beloved Seraphine lived to the age of 92. She was a widow for 24 years before passing away in 1989. Many of Clarence and Seraphine’s descendents live in San Juan County today. Many have became prominent leaders, farmers, businessmen, and teachers. Their legacy and their example are appreciated and admired by all who knew them.