Reverend Frost Pollitt


Robert-WUndoubtedly, we owe a great deal to Mr. Robert W. Todd for capturing the essence of the Rev. Frost Pollitt in his book, “Methodism of the Peninsula”. Here we can listen to Frost preaching and telling stories in the vernacular of the day, preserved for the ages.

Reference: Todd, Robert W., “Methodism of the Peninsula”, Methodist Episcopal Book Rooms, Philadelphia, Pa., 1886, pp. 187-193

Among the most notable of the colored Methodist Episcopal ministers of the Peninsula, was Rev. Frost Pollet. He was one of the original members of the Delaware Conference, and served a term therein as Presiding Elder. Frost was nearly six feet in height, of bony and angular build; more erect than Bishop Simpson; but, except in color, not unlike him in general form and appearance. There was an admixture of about one-eighth of white blood in his veins. This seems to have given form and expression to his features which were more Anglican than African. In him, however, the negro voice and dialect were perfectly developed. His manner was marked by great simplicity, and humility was the distinguishing feature of his Christian character. He was intensely earnest and enthusiastic in his religious experience and efforts. Whenever it was known among the white residents of Princess Anne, and other Peninsular towns where he labored, that Frost Pollet was to preach, the best and most cultured of all religious persuasions flocked to hear him; and his congregations at bush meetings were ofttimes real ovations. No pen and ink portraiture can do justice to either the man or his preaching.

It was the good fortune of Rev. T. E. Martindale to hear Frost preach, on a certain occasion, in Pocomoke City, Maryland. To him I am indebted for the data out of which, in a measure, to reconstruct that discourse, and thus preserve to the world a unique specimen of African eloquence.

The text was, “Go and shew John agin de things which ye do heah and see. De blind receive der sight, an’ de lame walk; de lipers are cleansed, an’ de deaf heah, de dead is raised up, an’ de poor has de Gospel preached to them.”

On top of Frost’s bald head was a large wen, which it was his wont frequently to rub during the delivery of his sermons—especially in the passages where he was most interested or embarrassed. On – this occasion, running his hand over his head as if in thoughtful mood, he said, ” Frens; what you’ll heah to-night, I didn’t git out’n no books; but I got it right out’n my own head.” He then, by way of introduction, proceeded to give a most accurate, particular and remarkably vivid description of the circumstances, preceding and attending the utterance of these words by the Master. When this was ended, he entered upon the discussion of the old question—whether man would have reached a greater development and blessedness, had he not fallen, than that to which he might aspire under the remedial scheme of Christ’s atonement and mediation. Scarcely had he propounded the problem, however, until he stopped short and called sharply to himself: ” Ole Frost, you’d better come back from dar. Dem’s deep waters. Don’t look out, Frost, you’ll git drownded!” And that was the last of that streak of speculative divinity.

Frost then took up, in order, the various characters mentioned in the text—the blind, the lame, etc.; and proceeded to discuss these physical conditions, and by them to illustrate the unhappy state and fearful exposure of ” de po’ sinnah.” When Frost came to the discussion of the case of ” de lipers,” he cited the case of Naaman the Syrian. He gave the history in accurate detail, and with a strange, nervous force—a magnetism of voice and manner — indescribably beautiful. Among other things, he said: ” Naaman was taken po’ly; he got wus and wus, an’ nothin’ done him no good. An’ one day his wife couldn’t help cryin’ ’bout it. An’ dar was a little slave gal ’bout de house. I specs dey stole her away an’ tuck her down dar wrongishly. She seed her missus a cryin’ an’ downhearted like; an’ sez she: Missus, dere’s a prophet down yander in Isr’el, wher I comed from, dat can pray for Mars Naaman, an’ ‘buke de ‘sease an’ kore him. An’ so his wife told Naaman, an’ Naaman told de king; an’ de king sent Naaman right off in a char’ot, wid a troop of hoss soldiers to ‘scort him down to S’maria or sommers to find de Prophet. But he made de ‘stake of goin’ to de king ob Isr’el. Jest like po’ sinners now-a-days. Dey goes eberywhere but to de right place fo’ salvation. But as luck—by dat I means Providence—would have it, po’ Naaman got to de right place at last. Sinners allers can find Jesus somehow, if dey’re in right down yearnest.”

Frost then described the interview with the Prophet, told about the prescription; and finally got Naaman down to the banks of Jordan, drawing on his vivid imagination for most of the interesting colloquy represented as having taken place between ” Gineral Naaman and his sarvant.” After getting Naaman into the water for his first bath, he represented him as saying: ” I don’t b’lieve in dis heah nonsense, an’ I’se a gwine ter come out’n dis ole ditch.” He then represented Naaman’s slave standing on the shore and saying: “Master, you knows what de Prophet said. Better stay in dar an’ gib de Lord a fair chance at you.” As Frost represented, in most dramatic language and manner, Naaman’s successive baths, the spiritual temperature in his congregation grew more and more torrid, and there were unmistakable indications of phenomenal disturbances and convulsions in that part of the religious kosmos. Then, changing his whole demeanor, and emphasizing his words with a measured and most impressive deliberation, he said: ‘ And—he—went—down—the—seventh —time!” At this juncture, clasping his hands over his head, and squatting low, as if about to spring well-nigh to the ceiling, he exclaimed: ” Mighty Lord ! Help ole Frost to preach de Gospel dis one time mo’!” After this invocation, he added, with effect that was irresistible : ” An’ he come up out’n de water, an’ his flesh was jest like a sweet, little baby’s!” This climax took the audience by storm; and such was the excitement, that it became necessary for the eloquent preacher to pause, while the more excitable elements cooled off sufficiently to allow him to proceed.

Under the head of raising the dead, the speaker cited the cases of Lazarus and the nobleman’s daughter. The picture he drew of the sweet, Christian home at Bethany and its loving and lovely occupants, and how that home was shadowed and made desolate by the death of the beloved brother, brought tears to many eyes. At the conclusion of this description, he remarked incidentally: “Now, when de blessed Jesus was a travellin’ his circuit, he used to have his puttin’ up places, jest like we preachers does. An’ he was allers glad to put up wid Mr. Lazarus an’ Miss Mary an’ Martha, ’cause dey was sich nice housekeepers, an’ speshly ’cause dey all loved each other so deahly.” Having completed a most graphic description of the resurrection of Lazarus, after a slight pause, in the most natural manner possible, looking over his shoulder as if to summon some person at a distance, but within hearing, he issued the imperative command: ” Miss Tabitha: You come in heah, now, an’ gib your testimony. We wants to know what’s your ‘spe’rence ’bout de resarection.” And by the time he had finished his colloquy with this young lady, he again had his audience stirred by a mighty whirlwind of power.

The following specimen of his eloquence is in a different vein—not so dramatic, but perhaps even more impressive. Having selected as his text, “And, without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness,” he remarked: “Bretherin’ an’ sisterin’, dis am a great ‘casion, an’ I am got a great tex’. If a po’ preachah take a little tex’ on a big ‘casion, an’ den done gone preach a po’ sermont, de sembly don’t git nothin’; but dis arternoon, yer shore o’ de tex’ anyway.

“De Possel say ‘widout contivarsy great am de myst’ry of godliness;’ an’ if ‘ligion—fo’ dat’s what he means—am a great myst’ry widout contivarsy, what a mighty big myst’ry it must be wid contivarsy. When ole Nick Demus went to de Mars to ax him ’bout de kingdom, he told him, ‘Nick, you can’t squeeze in no how widout you come like a po’ little baby—got to be born agin, Nick.’ Den Demus he say, ‘ Mars, how kin dat ar be? Dat’s a great myst’ry.’ Den Jesus he say, ‘Nick, don’t you heah dat wind? Don’t you know it’s a blowin’? Kin you ‘splain it?’ Den Nick Demus he see de pint; an’ he an’ de Mars war’ widout contivarsy,’ and godliness war a great myst’ry.

” Fren’s : I’ve hearn of some cullud pussuns round dese parts that go to rneetin’ an’ shout all ober de house; an’ den a goin’ home dat night, dey takes a hen off’n somebody’s apple-tree. Dat am a great myst’ry. But s’pose dat cullud man gits ‘ligion right eend fo’most; den he leaves all de hens,—an’ de Debil too—behind him. Dat am de great myst’ry ob godliness.

” Den dar am de myst’ry ob de Lord’s keer fo’ us. De Book say he count de hairs an’ watch de sparrers, an’ ‘tend to de little baby ravens. It say also two sparrers oney fetch a fardin in de market. (I reckon a fardin am ’bout a cent.) If dat’s so, one sparrer’s oney wo’th a half a cent. Now den ; ef de good Lord take keer ob de little sparrer what’s oney wo’th one half a cent; does you think he won’t take keer o’ you fifteen hundred dollah niggers ? No wondah de Possel say ‘ great am de myst’ry ob godliness.’ ”

The Slave code did not allow free negroes of one state to go into another. About the year 1856, Frost Pollet was so indiscreet as to cross the line and preach a sermon to the colored saints and sinners in Accomac. He was promptly arrested and thrown into prison. When the day for a hearing of the case arrived, the Court, rightly adjudging that there was no sinister purpose in his visit, released him, allowing him so many hours to leave the state of Virginia. Taking off his hat and making a polite bow, he said:

” Thank you, gentlemens; you may see frost down heah agin some time dis winter; but, shore es you’re born, you’s neber gwine to see Pollet in dese diggin’s no mo’.”

In order to travel outside of the State of Maryland before the end of Slavery, even as a Free Black Man, the law required that Frost obtain permission. One example of such a permission came in 1849 from the Somerset County Orphans Court Proceedings. This predates his being named a Deacon in 1851 so it not known whether while out of state he preached but given the other evidence, it appears that he might have done some preaching.

1849 Permit to Travel given to Frost Pollitt
Reference: Somerset County, Maryland, Orphans Court Proceedings, Book 6: 1845-1852, David V. Heise, p. 203

Tues, Apr 24, 1849 All justices present December Court

Folio 303
Permission granted, according to act of 1844, chapter 283, to Frost Pollitt, free negro, to remain out of state for more than thirty days between 1 May & 1 Nov. 1849, to visit friends & collect money due him.

It is a well-documented fact that the Rev. Frost Pollitt was arrested in Virginia, and most likely Accomac County, during his desire to spread the gospel on the Eastern Shore. One source even points the year as 1856 but this has not been confirmed in local court records.

Reference: The American Negro: His History and Literature, Schools of the Colored Population, originally published 1871 by the School District of Washington, DC, p. 291

Before the war there were two colored churches in Alexandria, the “First Baptist” and the “African Methodist Episcopal.” They did not, however, have pastors of their own color, colored preachers being allowed to officiate only in the presence of a white minister or person detailed by him for that duty, and even in those cases the colored clergyman was not permitted to enter the pulpit. Rev. Phillip Hamilton, a highly respected and well known preacher of the Methodist church, was subjected to this restraint. It was when on his way from Washington to Alexandria to preach in that church that Rev. Frost Pullett was once arrested as a free negro, the laws of Virginia forbidding a free negro or mulatto coming into the state.

Reference: Special report of the commissioner of education on the condition and improvement of public schools in the District of Columbia: submitted to the Senate June, l868, and to the House, with additions, June 13, 1870; By United States. Office of Education, Henry Barnard, William Quereau Force, Moses B. Goodwin, Adolf Douai, Paul Adolf Daniel Douai, Published by Govt. print. off., 1871; Item notes: v. 19. Original from the University of California. Digitized Aug 2, 2007. 912 pages, p. 291

Churches and Sabbath Schools

As the war advanced the contraband hamlet called “Petersburg,” and already mentioned, became populous, at one period numbering some 1,500 people, with several hundred bouses. They soon formed a Baptist church, and Rev. G. W. Parker, colored, who was teaching with Rev. C. Robinson in the ” Select Colored School,” became their pastor, and still continues with them in that relation. In due time, as the church and society increased, the necessity for better accommodations became apparent, and a Methodist white church edifice, which had been left empty by the owners, many of whom had gone into the rebellion, was purchased for the very small sum of $3,000, their pastor going north and collecting funds for this object. Up to that time the Jacob’s school-house had been used for religious meetings, as well as for school purposes. Just as they were about to move into the church building they find purchased the school-house was destroyed by a violent storm. This church, the Third Baptist, (colored,) is in a flourishing condition, and numbers GOO members. They are now preparing to enlarge the building. The Sabbath school is very large, and, tinder the cave of” some half a dozen white persons of Christian benevolence, is one of the most interesting and effective educational institutions in Alexandria. The name of the pl.ico was changed when General Grant took command of the Army from “Petersburg” to “Grantville,” in honor of that event, the contrabands alleging that as Peter Grant, the founder of their settlement, was of the same name, in making the change they would he ” killing two birds with one stone.”

Before the war there were but two colored churches in Alexandria, the “First Baptist” and the “African Methodist Episcopal.” They did not, however, have pastors of their own color, colored preachers being allowed to officiate only in the presence of a white minister or person detailed by him for that duty, and even in those cases the colored clergyman was not permitted to enter the pulpit. Rev. Philip Hamilton, a highly respected and well kuown local preacher of the Methodist church, was always subjected to this restraint. It was when on his way from Washington to Alexandria to preach in that church that Rev. Frost Pullett was once arrested аз a free negro, the laws of Virginia forbidding a free negro or mulatto coming into the State.