FROST, JAMES, ship’s captain, naval officer, and office holder; b. c. 1745, probably in England; m. Phoebe (Phebe) Wallen, and they had three children; d. 18 June 1803 at Quebec, Lower Canada.
James Frost’s career in Canada can be traced back only to 1775. At that time he was the owner and captain of the merchant ship Charlotte and probably lived at Quebec. Upon the American invasion of the province in 1775 [see Benedict Arnold; Richard Montgomery*], he enlisted in the British forces and turned his ship over to Governor Guy Carleton, who armed it. In return Frost was appointed a first lieutenant in the marine forces and commander of the Charlotte. When his ship was laid up in the winter, Carleton named him first lieutenant to a detachment of seamen in the garrison of Quebec and he served in that capacity during the siege. In the spring of 1776, after reinforcements had arrived, the British forces struck out, pursuing the Americans to the frontier. Frost took part in the offensive as captain of the Charlotte but lost his ship in the rapids on the Richelieu.
Immediately after this unfortunate event Carleton entrusted Frost with the post of assistant to the master attendant, the officer responsible for building and fitting out ships for the British navy, at St Johns (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu); because of its location this village would serve as port for the fleet that was to engage the American warships on Lake Champlain. In 1777 Frost was promoted master attendant and storekeeper at St Johns, thus becoming a naval staff officer.
Having discharged these duties for almost five years, Frost applied for the post of captain of the port of Quebec, which had become vacant with Peter Napier’s death but was also coveted by Lieutenant Richard Peter Tonge. On 21 Feb. 1782, because of his faithful service to the British armed forces since 1775 and the glowing recommendations of his superiors, Frost received the appointment from Governor Haldimand. Before taking office, however, he had to withdraw from all commercial affairs that might be incompatible with his new responsibilities. At that time the captain of the port of Quebec, together with the superintendent of pilots, had to enforce the regulations concerning pilotage on the St Lawrence and the laws regarding quarantine of ships calling at Quebec. In addition he was required to make and sign a collection of all the statutes and regulations concerning pilots and navigation and to have it printed and sold to every ship’s captain for a sum not to exceed five shillings. He also had sole authority to make decisions about the anchoring and mooring of ships in the port of Quebec. In 1787, at the request of Lord Dorchester [Carleton], Frost, whose competence was recognized, was consulted about the state of navigation on the St Lawrence and asked what improvements might be desirable. Frost’s successor to the office of port captain of Quebec, after his death on 18 June 1803, was François Boucher.
Since 1795 Frost had lived in a house on Rue Saint-Pierre in Quebec; this house, on a site fronting on the St Lawrence, had been purchased for £200. He left an estate of £2,050, including his residence, which was valued at £1,250.
ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 20 June 1803; CN1-16, 19 mars 1808; CN1-230, 20 oct. 1795, 9 nov. 1798; CN1-256, 20 Oct. 1786. BL, Add. mss 21803: 165–67; 21876: 126, 130. Bas-Canada, Statuts, 1795, c.5. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 86, 136. Doc. relatifs à l’hist. constitutionnelle, 1759–1791 (Shortt et Doughty; 1921), 2: 886. Qué., Conseil législatif, Ordonnances, 1788, c.5; 1790, c.1. Quebec Gazette, 23 June 1803.