Gideon Frost

Basic facts

  • Born in 1798. Died in 1880.
  • Married to Mary Willets on April 24, 1823. She died in 1847.
  • Their son, Leonard, was born in 1824 and died around 1870. He had moved to California with the wave of Westward Expansion.
  • Gideon Frost’s predecessors were some of the earliest English settlers on Long Island. William Frost was the first Frost to arrive on Long Island, settling in Setauket in 1667 and Matinecock in 1669. William had originally emigrated to Boston in 1655.

Friends Academy

Gideon Frost had the following to say about the founding of Friends Academy:

In regard to the purposes contemplated in the establishment of the Institution I may state that during many years I had a desire to establish a seminary of learning in which the children of Friends, and others similarly sentimented, could receive literary and scientific instruction upon principles in accordance with the teachings of the scriptures of the New Testament, upon which teachings, so far as outward authority is concerned, the principles of our religious society are primarily based and sustained. Entertaining this view, I had during many years contemplated entrusting the performance of this intention to executors or trustees; but the time arrived when I was impressed with the belief that it would be preferable for me to accomplish this intention myself rather than commit it to others who might come after me.

Gideon Frost personally supervised the construction of the original Friends College building, which began construction in 1875. The school changed its name to Friends Academy in 1886. The following passage appears in the senior project of a 1956 graduate, Peter L. Van Santvoord’s The History of Friends Academy.

Mr. Frost decided to build the school on Duck Pond Road, opposite the Meeting House. He purchased six acres from William T. Cock, and work on the property began in August, 1875. An elderly resident of Glen Cove recalls that “Uncle Gideon”, as he was called, stood watching the work with a shawl wrapped around his shoulders and supervised the construction. Mr. Frost demonstrated that lime for the plaster, while slaking, would generate enough heat to cook an egg.

Gideon Frost’s interest in science and conviction in the power of scientific inquiry led him to publish a book in 1869 entitled A New Exposition of the Leading Facts of Geology: Including a Disquisition upon the Origin and Formation of Petroleum and Coal. Within this text, he criticized religious objections relating to discoveries surrounding the proposed age of the earth on the grounds that much of Scripture should be taken allegorically. This text was used by Friends Academy students during the early years of the school. As a further example of Frost’s commitment to science, he helped the school acquire a telescope in 1878 to encourage the study of astronomy.

Frost’s strong belief in pacifism led him to write the following in regards to his desire for instruction at Friends Academy. His pacifism was not contained to a rejection of war but also included an opposition to the death penalty. He believed that “international arbitration” was the cure for global conflict.

One of the great principles which I desire to imbue the minds of children is that of the inviolability of human life, so far as human agency is concerned; — that no man has a right to take the life of his fellow man upon the battle field, nor upon the scaffold, in as much as through mistaken evidence, or corrupted testimony, or other erroneous procedures many innocent persons have been subjected to an ignominious death.
Let international arbitration be substituted for the arbitrament of the sword, and lifelong or protracted imprisonment be substituted for death by gallows.

Matinecock Meeting

Gideon Frost was a lifelong member of Matinecock Meeting and sat along the facing bench. He wore a black alpaca suit and beaver top hat, which we still have today. Gideon Frost would keep his hat on during Meeting except for when he had an announcement to make. Differing from practices of their day, this practice relates to a Quaker custom to keep hats on except when one is before God.

Later in life, Frost would contribute ten percent of the Meeting’s operating costs and supported a restoration project in 1870. He also funded the work of local historian Henry Onderdonk, Jr. who wrote a manuscript entitled “Friends on Long Island and New York.” Sometimes, Frost’s beliefs put him at odds with even his fellow Quakers. He was an ardent pacifist and objected to the Civil War on the grounds that war is against Quaker principles. Instead, he advocated pursuing the peaceful abolition of slavery by other means.

Business Engagements

Gideon Frost was a successful businessman. By 1827, his success in real estate investments was substantial. He also ran a grocery store in Brooklyn and had business interests in other states such as Indiana, Wisconsin, and Alabama. He had a farm in Glen Head, which he moved to sometime between 1841 and 1845.

Frost is importantly connected to the development of this region. In 1862, a year after the Civil War began, Frost allowed the Long Island R. R. Company to lease land, which is where the Glen Head Station is located today. This infrastructure development and Gideon Frost’s insistence that the branch be extended to Glen Cove aided the economic development of this region.

However, this arrangement led to several disputes as railroad employees had a habit of trespassing upon his property and stealing from his farm. The following letter was written to Oliver Charlick, who headed the Long Island R. R. Company at the time:

It would now appear to be thy intention not only to place a family in the passenger house, but also to accommodate some half a dozen hands, more or less on the premises, within a few minutes walk of my apple, peach, and pear orchards and poultry houses and where they can move about at their leisure on the first day of the week when I am absent most of the day.

Additionally, a fire in 1863 erupted at the station, nearly reaching Gideon Frost’s farm. Despite these challenges, Gideon Frost allowed the company to retain its lease while strongly urging the completed construction of the Glen Cove line. This construction was completed in 1867.