Richard and Thomas Frothingham Jrís Years in Ellsworth County, Kansas, 1886-1888







Meaning of the Frothingham Name
Biography of Jacob F Spalding
Thomas Frothingham Letter
Richard and Thomas Frothingham Jrís Years in Ellsworth County, Kansas, 1886-1888
First Presbyterian Church, Galesville, Wisconsin










Richard Frothingham V is both a retired Presbyterian minister and a retired professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He submitted this family story as part of the history of his line of the Frothingham Family. It was originally drawn up during 2004-2006, for the Archives of the Ellsworth County Historical Society, Ellsworth, Kansas.

Editor's note: With Richard's permission, I have made a few changes for clarity. (For example: I deleted a few references he made to other parts of the history and included his biographical notes for his father, Richard Frothingham, MD and his uncle, Thomas Goddard Frothingham Jr.) The picture of the ranch house was taken about 1925 and comes from an old newspaper article.

Biographical Notes:

Richard (Dick) Frothingham, M. D., born at Charlestown, Mass., on September 30, 1866. He lived on a cattle ranch near Ellsworth, Kansas, 1886-1888. He received his M. D. degree from the Harvard Medical School in 1892; after an internship at Boston City Hospital, 1892-1893, he moved to New York City. According to one account, he wanted to get postgraduate medical training in Vienna and was planning to sail to Europe from New York; but news reports of a cholera epidemic in Vienna caused him to change his plans. Remaining in New York, he established an ear, nose, and throat practice in Manhattan, and served part-time as a clinical professor of otorhinolaryngology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, from 1896 until 1931. A skilled surgeon, he could tie two surgical knots simultaneously, one with each hand. He developed a surgical technique for tonsillectomies that was safe to use with bleeders (hemophiliacs), because it involved tying knots around blood vessels, keeping blood from entering the tonsils. Publications: "The Importance of an Understanding of Middle-Ear Disease by All Practitioners, with a Report of Some Cases in Which Inexcusable Errors Have Been Made," Medical Record: A Weekly Journal of Medicine and Surgery, August 8, 1896, pp. 187-191; "Four Interesting Cases of Functional Aphonia," Transactions of the American Laryngological Association, 1911, pp. 162-170. He was married three times. He died at Malba, Borough of Queens, New York City, December 5, 1933. See The New York Times, December 6, 1933, for his obituary.

Thomas (Tom) Goddard Frothingham, Jr., was born in Charlestown, Mass., July 9, 1865. Fond of horses all during his life, he drew pictures of race horses in the margins of a copy of Shakespeareís Julius Caesar that was one of his textbooks at the Boston Latin School, from which he graduated in 1883. He attended Tufts College (now Tufts University). From 1886 to 1888, he lived with his brother Richard on a ranch near Ellsworth, Kansas, where he raised race horses, had a race track built near their house, and entered a bay mare named "Surprise" in several horse races, August-October 1887. On May 1, 1888, he signed a page in an autograph book belonging to Eleanor (Nell) Felton Whiting, filling up the opposite page with pencil drawings of horses; on December 30, 1903, he married her. Why they waited so long to get married is a mystery. They had one child, Eleanor Frothingham (1907-1983), who married Austin Smith in the early 1930s. Eleanor and Austin had no children. In later life, painting in oils was one of Thomasís hobbies. He especially liked to paint horses; and I own one of his horse paintings. Because of his expert knowledge of horses, he was commissioned as a captain in the Army during World War I, serving at Camp Pike (now called Camp Robinson), Arkansas, in the Armyís Remount Service (purchasing horses and mules for Army use). Thomas had a lifelong interest in the Army and Navy: in Charlestown, he grew up in sight of the Bunker Hill battlefield; and the Charlestown Navy Yard, later called the Boston Naval Shipyard, was located nearby. After World War I, he became a military and naval historian. He wrote five volumes on the military and naval history of World War I that were published in the 1920s; in 1930, his biography of George Washington as a military leader, Washington: Commander in Chief, was published. There are entries on Thomas in Who's Who in America, 1930s and early 1940s volumes. He died in Boston, March 17, 1945.


Richard and Thomas Frothingham Jrís Years in Ellsworth County, Kansas, 1886-1888.

By Richard Frothingham V

The following account was drawn up in the course of correspondence with the Ellsworth County Historical Society, Ellsworth, Kansas.  The director of that society had located me through an internet search for persons bearing my father's name.

In my early childhood, I heard occasional references to the years that my father as a young man had lived on a sheep ranch near Ellsworth, Kansas, for the sake of his health. In the fall of 1938, when I was thirteen, I came across a letter that one of the editors of a newspaper in Ellsworth, Kansas, had addressed to my father, not knowing that he had died. The editor stated that persons in that area, including Will Gregory, still remembered the young Easterner, now a doctor, who had sown his wild oats in Ellsworth; and she requested my father to write up his reminiscences of Ellsworth for publication in the newspaper. Not understanding the phrase "sowing wild oats," I asked my English teacher what it meant; and her response was not of much help.

Over the next few years, I did a lot of daydreaming about running away from home, and Ellsworth was often on my mind. I wished I could meet some of the persons there who had known my father in his youth. I was curious about how they remembered him. Would someone offer me a chance to live on a ranch and go to school in Ellsworth, working at the ranch before and after school? I knew that I would have gratefully accepted. If I ran away from home, how would I get to Ellsworth? Could I hop a freight train? That seemed chancy, considering all the directions in which railroad lines ran: even if I hopped on a freight train headed west, it might well pass far to the north or south of Ellsworth, instead of going straight through that town. Although I often fantasized about Ellsworth, I had no realistic hope of going there as a child.

As an adult, my awareness that my father once lived in Ellsworth has caused me to take a special interest in persons from Kansas whom I have met and in references to that state that I have run across. When I spent 1960-1962 in Crete, Nebraska, teaching at Doane College--named after Thomas Doane, of Charlestown, Massachusetts, my father's birthplace!--I found it meaningful to be living in a state bordering on Kansas, with numerous students from Kansas in my classes. Although Arkansas, where I have been living since 1962, does not border on Kansas, it does comes close: the northwest corner of Arkansas is not far from the southeast corner of Kansas.

On May 27, 2004, I received an e-mail from Ms. Georgia Smith, the director of the Ellsworth County Historical Society, in Ellsworth, Kansas. She wrote: "This morning I had a gentleman come in who was hoping to find out the history of an antique rifle he has acquired. The name on the rifle was Richard Frothingham [of Ellsworth, Kansas]. Richardís father was Thomas Frothingham of Boston Mass. Thomas sent his two sons to Kansas to run a sheep farm in hopes of keeping them out of trouble but his plan backfired and he ended up taking them back to Boston." Ms. Smith, who had located me through an Internet web site, invited me to correspond with her if I were related to the Boston Frothinghams. I replied that one of Thomasís sons was my father and the other was my uncle. Over the next few months, Ms. Smith and I exchanged information and pictures.

Two items in Ms. Smithís initial e-mail puzzled me. First, there was her statement that my grandfather had sent his two sons to Kansas to keep them out of trouble: I had been under the impression that my father had gone there for his health and that Tom, his older brother, had gone along to keep him company. Right away, I telephoned my brother Harry, who told me that he also had gotten the impression that our father had gone west for his health. Had our father, later in life, suppressed the real reason for his going to Kansas? A second puzzling point was Ms. Smithís reference to my father and my Uncle Tom as running the sheep farm; I had known about their living on a sheep ranch, but I had not realized that they had been running it. In response to questions from me, Ms. Smith sent me a photocopy of a newspaper feature, by Linda Mowery-Denning, about a large ranch located near Carneiro, a few miles east of Ellsworth. For her feature, Ms. Mowery-Denning drew heavily on an interview with Ben Scharplaz, a former cowboy, who worked at that ranch from 1930 until 1941. Here are some excerpts from that feature, which the Salina Journal (at Salina, Kansas, east of Ellsworth County) published on March 26, 1989:

The history of the Gregory-Forkner Ranch dates back more than a century. It was originally part of the Freeman Ranch, which was one of the stateís first larger ranches. Ralph Freeman and his family came west from Sandy Hook, New York [actually New Jersey]. Unlike many wealthy Easterners, Freeman lived here.

A stone foundation can still be found on the ranch from the razor strop factory Freeman started. He employed 15 girls and traveled through several states to sell his strops. He also had a dairy herd.

The next owner was a Boston banker [actually a merchant] named Frothingham. He built a 16-room native stone house for his two sons.

"It was costing too much to keep them in Boston. He thought this would be cheaper, but it wasnít," Scharplaz said. The Frothinghams raised sheep and race horses. The sons used to sit on the veranda of their grand prairie home and watch the activity of the race track not far from the house. There was also a gambling room on the third floor of the house. It was turned into a sewing room by a later owner.

The older Frothingham took his sons back to Boston after he saw dead sheep on the hill back of the house. He leased the ranch to a hired man, Will Gregory, who came to America in 1882 from Yorkshire, England. Frothingham was so disgusted with the behavior of his sons that he walked away from the ranch and never looked back.

When Gregory moved into the stone house, the furnishings, right down to the English dishes on the table, were still in place. "Gregory said that the last he saw of the Frothingham boys, one of them was lighting a cigar with a $5 bill," said Scharplaz, who worked for the Englishman. At first Gregory leased the ranch from Frothingham, but he eventually purchased it in about 1910. It was added to the adjoining land he had bought in the meantime. He was responsible for filling the pastures with the cattle imported from Texas. The ranch has 4,965 acres of pastureland and 795 acres of cropland.

 Later in her feature story, Linda Mowery-Denning writes that, when the woodwork inside the Frothingham house was salvaged, a dated inscription from one of the carpenters who built the house was discovered, showing that it was under construction on November 9, 1886. She also writes that the house originally "included a kitchen and quarters for servants on the first floor, living quarters on the second floor, and bedrooms on the third floor."

Comments on specific points in the feature story:

Identifications. The two young men were my uncle, Thomas (Tom) Goddard Frothingham, Jr. (1865-1945) and my father, Richard (Dick) Frothingham (1866-1933). Their father was Thomas Goddard Frothingham, Sr. (1840-1903); and their mother was Frances (Fanny) Adeline Cook Frothingham (1837-1922).

Race horses and race track. Those were probably the specific concerns of my Uncle Tom, who had a lifelong love of horses, especially race horses.

Gambling room. Eleanor, my Uncle Tomís daughter, told me that her father learned poker in Kansas from a man who had been a Mississippi riverboat gambler. My father also played cards; in his later years, his card game was bridge.

Purchase of the ranch by Will Gregory around 1910. Since my grandfather died in 1903, Gregory must have purchased it from someone else in his family, perhaps from his widow, Frances (1837-1922).

My father may have moved to Kansas as early as the spring of 1886; but he was certainly there by that summer. Ms. Georgia Smith sent me a copy of a real estate transfer notice, from the Ellsworth Democrat, showing that, around April 1886, my grandmother, Mrs. Frances Adeline Cook Frothingham, purchased a tract of land in Ellsworth County for $1,506.70. Ms. Smith also sent me copies of news items, dated September 2 and November 4, 1886, indicating that the Frothingham ranch house was under construction on those dates. In the September 2, 1886, issue of the Ellsworth Democrat, the editors wrote: "Saturday last we accepted an invitation and . . . visited Mr. Dick Frothinghamís ranche about twenty miles northeast of Ellsworth. Dick has a fine place, well adapted to stockraising. He has at present about five hundred head of choice cattle, quite a number of horses and hogs. Lately he disposed of all his sheep, and thinks he will not bother with any more. The ranche, consisting of about 2,500 acres, is well watered, considerable portion under fence, and all of it good grazing ground. He has about completed the erection of a $10,000 residence. It is beautifully situated on an eminence overlooking a large portion of the ranche. Near at hand is a never-failing spring, which supplies water for the house and the two large stables for stock. Dick is a capital entertainer and made our visit a very pleasant one." In the November 4, 1886, issue, they wrote: "Dick Frothingham spent Tuesday in Ellsworth. Dick says when he gets his new house completed he intends to celebrate the occasion with a dance. Hurry up, Dick."

In 1989, a hundred and three years after my grandfather sent his sons to Kansas, Ben Scharplaz claimed that he did so because he thought it would be cheaper to keep them there than in Boston, where they were costing him too much money. But the simple facts demonstrate that Scharplaz was mistaken. The size of the Frothingham ranch, around 2,500 acres (almost four square miles), and the expense of building its sixteen room stone ranch house, $10,000--a lot of money back then--suggest that my grandfather must have had some other reason for sending his sons to Kansas.

What was his reason? As a young man Thomas Goddard Frothingham, Sr. spent several years, in the early 1860s, in Smyrna, Turkey; he worked there in an overseas branch of the import/export business of his uncle, Thomas A. Goddard, after whom he had been named. I think Thomas Goddard Frothingham Sr. had found it so beneficial to live on his own, far from home, that he wanted his oldest sons to have a similar experience. Tom and Dick, with their younger brother Harry, had made at least one trip to Europe. A studio photographer in Shepherdís Bush, a neighborhood in Londonís Hammersmith district, photographed each of them. (I am grateful to Ms. Georgia Smith, of the Ellsworth County Historical Society, for sending copies of those photographs to me.) But he wanted his oldest sons to have a more lengthy experience of living at a distance from home. Why Kansas, instead of Smyrna, where my grandfather himself had gone in his youth? For one thing, his uncle, Thomas A. Goddard, of the import/export firm, was no longer alive: he had died in 1868. There was also the instability in the Ottoman Turkish Empire following the Turkish defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78; some called Turkey "the sick man of Europe." Still another factor around 1886 was widespread East Coast interest in the settlement of Kansas, near the Western frontier.

One day in 1936 or 1937, when I was eleven or twelve, my father's widow was in a sentimental mood, and she handed me a copy of a small book. "I want you to read this," she said. "Itís about the ranch in Kansas, where your father lived. One of the men in the book is based on him." That book was The Story of a Ranch, by Alice Wellington Rollins, was published in 1885. Although I found it boring, boring, boring, I dutifully read it from cover to cover. I seem to remember that it contained anecdotes about "dudes" from Boston staying near Ellsworth, Kansas, on a sheep ranch named Carneiro (a name derived from a Spanish word for sheep). On a map of Kansas in an encyclopedia, I located a small town named Carneiro, east of Ellsworth. My father did not match up with any of the men in the book: all of them seemed older than he would have been when the book was written. So I concluded that none of them was my father. Now, of course, I know that my father did not live in Kansas until 1886-1888, which was after Rollinsís book was published. Why was The Story of a Ranch so important to my father that he apparently held on to his copy of it for the rest of his long life? My grandfather, after deciding to send his sons out West for several years, had to select a specific Western destination for them. Perhaps my grandfatherís reading of Rollinsís book had something to do with his choice of Ellsworth County, Kansas.

In her feature story, Linda Mowery-Denning reveals that my grandfather purchased a ranch, located near Carneiro, in Ellsworth County, from a wealthy Easterner named Ralph Freeman. To me it now seems likely that Carneiro, the ranch in Ms. Rollinsís book, is a thinly disguised counterpart to the Freeman ranch. That suggests to me that reading the book inspired my grandfather not just to send his sons to Kansas but also to buy the Freeman ranch for them. In support of that supposition is my clear recollection that I was told that my father had lived on the ranch described in the book (but, of course, the timing means that he must have lived there after the book was written, not before).

In the news items that I have cited from the Ellsworth Democrat, September 2 and November 4, 1886, there are references to "Mr. Dick Frothinghamís ranche," the stock he was raising, and the new house he was building; but there is no mention of his brother Tom. On January 13, 1887, there was a report in that paper about "damages" (compensation) that the Board of County Commissioners allowed for a road someone proposed to build across the Frothingham ranch, with $50 payable to R. Frothingham. Although Tom was the older brother, there is no news report of Tomís taking on any responsibilities at the ranch during the summer and fall of 1886. Was Tom even there at that time? Or had Tom, balking at his fatherís plan to send him to Kansas, stayed behind in Boston long after Dick had gone to Ellsworth County? Maybe Tomís father eventually had to bribe him to go to Kansas by giving him permission to build a race course at the ranch and train race horses there. The notice in the Ellsworth Democrat, on November 11, 1886, that "Mr. T. Frothingham was in the city the latter part of last week," may stem from Tomís first arrival in Ellsworth, on a train from the East. In later issues of the newspaper, August-October 1887, we read about horse races in which Tom entered his bay mare named Surprise. There were news reports that Surprise was evenly matched with a horse named Beecher; but Tomís mare apparently won just one of several match races with the other horse. I wonder whether Beecher was named after the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), the Congregational minister who in his time was one of the most prominent clergymen in the United States. I seem to recall hearing somewhere that during the turbulent 1850s Beecher raised money for "Bibles" to be sent to "bleeding Kansas"; and "Beecherís Bibles" turned out to be rifles.

A notice that "Tom Frothingham and his aunt, Miss Morse, left for Boston Wednesday," appeared in the Ellsworth Democrat for July 7, 1887. Miss Morse was actually Tomís maternal great-aunt (his maternal grandmotherís sister and his motherís maternal aunt). (Tomís maternal grandparents were Isaac and Elizabeth Morse Cook; they were married in Boston in 1836 and gave birth to Frances A. Cook, later Frothingham, in Charlestown, Mass., in 1837.) One wonders whether Miss Morse went to Kansas to see for herself the lovely countryside about which she had read in The Story of a Ranch or to keep an eye on the Frothingham boys for their parents. She was probably of an advanced age; perhaps a health problem required Tom to accompany her on the train back to Boston.

On July 21, 1887, there was a notice in the Ellsworth Democrat that "Dick Frothingham, Bayard Burse, and Joe Inman are attending the fair at Larned this week." Larned, in Pawnee County, is around 62 miles southwest of Ellsworth. On July 28, the paper carried a report that "The Ellsworth boys have all returned from the Larned fair, wiser but none the richer." On October 20, there was a notice that "Dick Frothingham started on a visit to his parents in Massachusetts the first of the week." On December 22, there was a report that "R. Frothingham and his brother, Thomas, arrived from Boston Saturday morning [December 17, 1887]. They will remain at their ranch during the winter. They have some fine blooded cattle on their place and better accommodations than on most of the ranches in Kansas, both for themselves and cattle." There we finally run across a reference to the ranch as "their place," not just Richardís; but the reporter mentions Richard, the younger brother, first.

Ms. Georgia Smith, of the Ellsworth County Historical Society, put me in touch with Ray House, the present owner of the antique rifle that once belonged to my father. He informed me by e-mail that it is a Model 1873 Winchester rifle. "On the left side plate there is a factory inscription ĎRichard Frothingham, Ellsworth, Kansas.í The gun is pictured in a book by Jim [James D.] Gordon entitled Winchester's New Model of 1873. [2 volumes. Grant, CO: privately printed, 1997.] Mr. Gordon purchased the gun from a dealer nearly 10 years ago. The dealer said he found the gun hanging in a pawn shop in Guthrie, Oklahoma, and the owner had little more information other than it had hung there for many years. In the book, Mr. Gordon stated that the county records stated that he [Richard] sold out in 1888, and listed a long list of personal property. The gun is quite well used, having little original finish. It is a 32 caliber which was not very powerful and would have been mainly used on small game." That communication is evidence that my father left Kansas in 1888. I am confident that I could establish that date more exactly if I had access to Mr. Gordonís book or to the county records that Mr. Gordon cites.

On May 1, 1888, Tom Frothingham signed a page in an autograph book belonging to Eleanor (Nell) Felton Whiting, of Boston, his future wife. That suggests that he was back in Boston by that date. To me, there is no mystery why Richard left Kansas in 1888: my father probably did so because he had decided to become a physician. After returning to Boston, he applied himself toward that goal; and in 1892, the Harvard Medical School awarded him the M. D. degree. (I have not yet found out whether it took three years or four to get a medical degree from Harvard at that time. If it took three years, that might mean that my father spent 1888-89 in premedical study.)

 I am uncertain about why Thomas, my Uncle Tom, left Kansas. From the newspaper accounts, he comes across as perhaps more interested in training race horses and racing them than in managing a stock ranch. Perhaps Thomasís father made him leave Kansas when his brother did, because he was not confident that Tom could operate the ranch properly at that stage in his life.

According to Ben Scharplaz, my grandfather became disgusted at the behavior of his sons and took them back to Boston "after he saw dead sheep on the hill back of the house." As an anecdote gets passed along by word of mouth over many decades, it often becomes exaggerated: "he was the sort of person who would do such and such" may be transformed to "he actually did such and such." There is also the decay of memory: because human memories are imperfect, an anecdote originally told about one person may eventually become attached to the name of someone else. I would find the story of the dead sheep more credible if an eyewitness had written it down in 1888 than I do when I find it at second or third hand in an account written down in 1989. Mention of the dead sheep reminds me of an experience that my wife Mary and I had in the early 1950s, when I was a rural pastor in Ohio. Driving on a certain country road several times each week, we would go past a farm field in which a dead sheep remained on the ground for a long time. But exactly how long? Was it for weeks, for months, or for the whole winter? The honest truth is that I no longer remember. My wife Mary, after proofreading what I have been writing, has just informed me that she specifically remembers various stages of the dead sheepís disintegration that I had forgotten: over several months, it went from an intact carcass to white bones and patches of white wool scattered on the ground. While she remembers more of the details than I do, neither of us now remembers as much about that dead sheep as we did fifty years ago. Some of my reflections on the dead sheep apply also to Ben Scharplazís report that Will Gregory said that the last he saw of the Frothingham boys was the sight of "one of them . . . lighting a cigar with a $5 bill." That anecdote would be more convincing if Mr. Scharplaz had identified the boy by his first name, instead of referring to him vaguely as "one of them." The anecdote reflects a standard stereotype about the decadent behavior of the idle rich; it sounds like the sort of anecdote that may well have circulated about others before being attached to the Frothingham boys. It also occurs to me that, when yarns are passed along by word of mouth, exaggeration often sets in; and what starts out as a dollar bill may in the retelling become a two-dollar bill (two-dollar bills did once exist) and eventually a "fiver."

On the other hand, perhaps I should mention that I well recall an evening in the 1970s when one of my sons, a rebellious adolescent, dramatized his disdain for materialistic values by throwing a handful of coins out of a moving automobile onto a dark street: if getting me upset was one of his intentions back then, he certainly succeeded in doing that. So I have to grant that, if my Uncle Tom got deeply distressed at being forced to leave the ranch unwillingly, he may well have demonstrated his opposition to his fatherís mercantile values by dramatically lighting a cigar with a dollar bill or even a five-dollar bill; but I doubt whether he or his brother did things like that on a daily basis all during their time in Kansas.


The author of an entry about Alice Wellington Rollinsís The Story of a Ranch, in an on-line Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest, writes: "The Story of a Ranch is listed here to illustrate how titles often have nothing to do with subject. It is without either story or ranch; it is about some dilettantish people who go out to a Kansas sheep farm, talk Chopin, and wash their fingers in finger bowls."

Alice Wellington Rollins was born in Boston, Mass., in 1847; after teaching in Boston for several years, she married Daniel M. Rollins, of New York, in 1876. (My source of information: the on-line edition of Appletonís Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1887-1889.) My paternal grandparents may well have had some contacts with Rollins, in the Boston area, and learned from her that the ranch in her book was based on the Freeman ranch in Ellsworth County, Kansas. Sandy Hook, from which Robert Freeman apparently came, is a resort area along "the Jersey shore" (the Atlantic Oceanís New Jersey coast); perhaps Rollins visited the Freemans and learned about their ranch during a summer trip to Sandy Hook.


On November 30, 2004, Ms. Georgia Smith sent me an e-mail with a quotation from the Ellsworth Democrat, January 5, 1888:

"Tom and Dick Frothingham started for their old home in Boston last Wednesday [January 4]." In view of how arduous it was in the 1880s to travel by train half way across the continent, it is puzzling that they went back to Boston on January 4, 1888, so soon (not quite three weeks) after returning, on December 17, 1887, from an earlier trip to Boston. And one wonders why they did not arrange their trips so as to spend Christmas Day and New Yearís Day with their family in Boston, instead of making trips to Boston before and after the most festive days of the holiday season.

Ms. Smith wrote "departure?" on her e-mailís subject line. The reference, in the newspaper report of January 4, to "their old home," not just their parentsí home, does suggest that the young men may well have been making a permanent departure from Kansas. If so, that would have been a change from their previous announcement that they would be spending the winter at their ranch. Why would they have done so? I find myself wondering about the purpose of still another trip, the one that Dick made to Boston in October 1887. Perhaps Dick made that trip to talk with his father about wanting to go to medical school.

Something else to consider is Ben Scharplazís report, based on conversations with Will Gregory, that the Frothingham boysí father took them back to Boston. With Dick intent on medical school, his father would have had to decide what to do about Tom and the ranch. When the two young men visited Boston in December 1887, Tom may have asked his father to let him operate the ranch by himself. Then his father, after letting him do so for a few days on a trial basis, may have gone to Kansas, for a period of time that included Christmas Day and New Yearís Day, in order to evaluate how Tom was working out. Was he dissatisfied with Tomís performance? If so, perhaps that was what made him decide to lease the ranch to Will Gregory, bringing both of his sons back to Boston with him. Of course, what I have just written, above, is speculative and will be subject to revision if relevant new facts come to light.

Afterthoughts on Addendum II:

It continues to puzzle me that the Frothingham boys were with their parents in Boston shortly before and shortly after the holiday season of 1887-88, but did not remain in Boston for Christmas Day and New Yearís Day. I have suggested, above, that perhaps their father spent those holidays with them in Kansas. But what about their mother and their two younger brothers, Harry and Joe? Perhaps their father, their mother, and their two younger brothers, Harry and Joe, all made a trip to Kansas around the third week of December 1887. In other words, perhaps the whole family spent the holidays together after all, but did so at the ranch in Kansas instead of in Boston. What about the news report that as of December 17 the two oldest Frothingham boys were planning to spend the winter at the ranch? That may have been chiefly Tomís plan; and Dick, with his mind set on medical school, may have had other ideas. And their father, after looking over the situation at the ranch and perhaps evaluating Tomís aptitude for running it, may have had other ideas as well.


My father and over half of his 92 classmates in the class of 1892 at the Harvard Medical School did not possess a bachelorís degree, which was not required for admission to medical school at that time. Of those who did possess bachelorís degrees, 26 earned them in 1888 and only 3 earned them in 1889. I take that to mean that the curriculum at the Harvard Medical School called for four years of studies and that my fatherís class, the class of 1892, began its studies in the fall of 1888. (Perhaps the three who earned bachelorís degrees in 1889 completed their undergraduate studies simultaneously with their first year of medical school.)


My Aunt Nellís autograph book:

From an inscription at the front, we know that Eleanor (Nell or Nelly) Felton Whiting, who married my Uncle Tom in 1903, received her autograph album on Dec. 25, 1880, and that it was a Christmas gift from Edward Barker. Since Nellís motherís maiden name was Barker, Edward Barker was probably a grandfather, an uncle, or a cousin. My Aunt Nell did not make much use of her autograph album: it contains only eleven entries, including one signature that she pasted in after clipping it from a letter. Two entries, including drawings, are from Conway Felton, who was probably a cousin (Nellís middle name was Felton). A resident of Charlestown, MA, Nell seems to have used the autograph album chiefly on visits that she made to other places: four entries were made in Philadelphia, PA, and two in Kingston, MA, all in 1881 or 1882. After 1882, the only dated entry is one that my Uncle Tom made, with drawings of horses, on May 1, 1888. On that day, maybe my Uncle Tom ran across Nell at a May Day celebration and afterwards escorted her back to her home; then, knowing what Tom like to draw, perhaps she got out her long-neglected autograph album for Tom to sign and, on an opposite page, draw some horses. Tom married her fifteen and a half years later, on December 30, 1903.


Responses to Ms Georgia Smith 2004 Article:

A short article by Ms. Georgia Smith appeared in Sharing History, the newsletter of the Ellsworth County [Kansas] Historical Society (Volume 11, Issue 4, December 2004, pp. 1-2), under the title. "Who was Richard Frothingham?" I have a few comments to make in response to that article.

Ms. Smith and I disagree about the date when the young men perhaps left Ellsworth for the last time, as reported in the Ellsworth Democrat on Thursday, January 5, 1888. In the newspaper, that date appears simply as "last Wednesday." In my account, above, I have interpreted the words "last Wednesday" to mean January 4, 1888, the day before that issue of the newspaper was published. Ms. Smith, on the other hand, apparently interprets that phrase to mean December 28 [1887], the Wednesday of the previous week. One factor favoring the date I have suggested is that it is in harmony with Jim Gordonís report that county records indicate that my father sold out in 1888.

Aside from the exact date when the young men departed from Kansas, whether it was December 28 or January 5, it is puzzling that they departed at all, so soon after their announcement, following their return on December 17, that they were going to spend the winter at their ranch. What made them so quickly change that plan? Ms. Smith does not attempt to solve that puzzle; she just lets the puzzle stand. But I have attempted a solution, above. Included in my solution is my highly speculative suggestion that the young menís father-Ėand possibly the whole familyĖ-may have come out to the ranch in Kansas during the holidays to look things over. While there is no documentary evidence for such a visit, it does strike me as a possible scenario that would explain why the young men changed their mind and did not spend the winter in Kansas, as they had previously said they would be doing.

Ms. Smith, in e-mail correspondence, has stated that she does not think my grandfather came to the ranch at that time. Since he was of high social standing, the town newspaper would have mentioned any visit from him; the absence of any such mention of him in the paper suggests to Ms. Smith that there was in fact no such visit.

I am not so sure about that: it comes across to me, from various newspaper clippings that Ms. Smith has mailed to me, that the newspaper did sometimes miss things. For example, the newspaper listed the return of the young menís grandaunt, Miss Morse, to the east, but not her arrival in Kansas; the newspaper mentioned Dick's going to Boston in October 1887 but not his return from that city after that trip. So perhaps the paper could have overlooked a visit of my grandfather to the ranch, especially if the family wanted it kept confidential. In any event, I cannot imagine that my grandfather would lease the ranch to Mr. Gregory without looking over the ranch and Mr. Gregory in person.

Ms. Smith and I agree in rejecting outright the theory that my grandfather sent his sons out west because they were costing him too much money back home in Boston. Miss Smith apparently accepts the family story that I heard in my childhood, to the effect my grandfather sent my father west for his health; she points out that that was frequently done in those days. I prefer my own theory, which I have outlined above, that my grandfather may have wanted his sons to be on their own for a while, away from home, as he had been in Smyrna when he had been their age. But neither theory rules out the other theory: my grandfather may well have sent his sons to Kansas for both reasons.

Quoting the newspaper account about my fatherís disposing of all of his sheep and thinking that he will not bother with any more, Ms. Smith rejects the dead sheep anecdote outright: if there were no sheep at all at the ranch, obviously there would not have been any sheep to die. But could my father have changed his mind and purchased more sheep at a later date after all? It occurs to me that, even when a story is discredited, there may be something factual serving as a starting point from which the fanciful stuff has been elaborated. In this case, I think that there may well have been a visit of my grandfather to the ranch at the time when the boys were leaving, even though there may not have been a dead sheep--or if there was a dead sheep, it may not have really bothered my grandfather.

Perhaps the episode about lighting a cigar with a five-dollar bill never happened. But if it did happen, I think it may have been my Uncle Tom rather than Dick, my father, who made that gesture, because Tom was more at a loose end at that time. Dick went from Kansas to medical school and a medical career. Tom by contrast was a late bloomer: he did not get married (to a woman with whom he may have kept company for 15 years) until he was 38 years old, and he did not come into his own as a writer of books on history until the 1920s, when he was in his 50s and 60s.


In the summer of 2005, I sent a draft of the present document to Albert M. Handy, Jr., who is my nephew, the son of my half sister Gwendolyn. On August 31, 2005, Albert sent me a letter with "a few memories about Dick, your father, related to me by my mother [Gwendolyn]":  "Dick was diagnosed with TB and that was possibly the reason he had to go to the ranch for his health. Interesting that his daughter, my mother, also had TB as a child; but it wasnít diagnosed. At that time she went to live at the Woodstock Inn with her mother, which doubtless helped cure her. Decades after that, she had a chest X-ray for the first time. The scar showed up."

What Gwendolyn told her son Albert not only confirms the family tradition that my father went to the ranch in Kansas for his health; it also identifies his health problem as TB. It also suggests a possible reason for the suddenness of my father's departure from Ellsworth: perhaps his physicians had informed him that he had been cured of TB. I wonder, of course, whether Gwendolyn caught TB from our father. (There is no mention of a health problem in connection with my fatherís brother Tom, who may have gone to the ranch chiefly to keep my father company.) In the era before antibiotic drugs, breathing fresh air, in place of the polluted air of the big cities, was the recommended treatment for TB; and both the ranch in Kansas and the Woodstock Inn (at Woodstock, Vermont) filled that bill well.

My nephew Albert has informed me, over the phone, that Gwendolynís mother took her to Woodstock simply as a town she was trying out, as a place to live at, after her separation from Gwendolynís father; and it was a happy side benefit that Vermontís fresh air apparently cured Gwendolynís TB. My maternal grandmother and my great-aunt Arnie lived at the Woodstock Inn in their old age; and my grandmother died there in 1922. When I reminded my nephew Albert of that, he told me that members of our family found living expenses at Woodstock lower than in Boston or New York City.

When my nephew informed me about my fatherís TB, I thought he had definitively settled the question of why my father went to the ranch in Kansas. Then, for a short while, I considered another possibility. According to family records, my fatherís first marriage (to Gwendolyn Davison) took place on September 22, 1892, when he was just eight days short of turning 26. But when I consulted the 1930 Census record for my fatherís household, I noticed that the form contained places for listing "Age at first marriage"; and for my father, that age was listed as 20. That discrepancy may well have stemmed from a census-takerís error: perhaps my father said 25, and the census-taker wrote it down as 20. I have come across similar errors on numerous other old census records. On the other hand, my father moved to the ranch near Ellsworth shortly before he turned 20. I found myself wondering whether part of the motivation of my fatherís parents, in sending him off to Kansas, may have been to cool him down from a romantic entanglement. If so, did my father manage to get married at that young age anyway, perhaps marrying in haste and then quickly getting an annulment or a divorce? All kinds of intriguing possibilities came to mind. But Ms. Georgia Smith has kindly looked through the Ellsworth County marriage records for the period of my father's residence there, without finding any record of his getting married there. On balance, perhaps it is most prudent to write off the entry on the Census form as probably a census-takerís clerical error.

In his letter of August 31, 2005, my nephew Albert passed on to me some additional things that my half sister Gwendolyn had told him about our father: "Dick took a young boy for a horseback ride on his horse (possibly Joseph? possibly [at] the ranch?). The horse reared up, throwing them off. Forsaking his own safety, Dick held the boy on top of himself to prevent him from being injured. Dick landed hard on the ground, on the back of his shoulder, resulting in a great deal of pain, but no apparent break. However, as time went by, the back of the shoulder developed a lump, doubtless due to his injury. It turned out to be a tumor that was surgically removed. It was found to be the size of a grapefruit but happily non-malignant. Dick was in a lot of pain both before and after the operation, but was then in a position to prescribe potent drugs for himself. When he realized he had become addicted, with great willpower he went cold turkey to break free. He continued with alcohol, however, for both physical and emotional pain."

Dickís youngest brother, Joseph, who was born early in 1880, never lived at the ranch in Kansas; but someone may well have taken him there on a visit in 1886 or 1887. It was after my father graduated from the Harvard Medical School, in 1892, that he had easy access to powerful prescription drugs.

I have written, above, that my father, after his 1892-1893 internship at Boston City Hospital, went to New York City, planning to sail to Europe for postgraduate medical training in Vienna; but newspaper reports of a cholera epidemic in that city caused him to change his plans, and he went into practice in Manhattan instead. In response to my account of that, my nephew Albert wrote to me:

"With regard to his staying in New York after med school, my mother said that an aging ear, nose, and throat specialist he met at a party was impressed with him and offered to take him into his practice. The offer was too good to turn down, so Dick abandoned his plan to go abroad." On the other hand, I have verified that the cholera epidemic, which is central in the account I had heard, really did take place. During 1892-1895, there were numerous widespread epidemics of virulent cholera in Asia and Europe, with hundreds of thousands of deaths; and in Austria-Hungary, the mortality rate was 57.5% of cases. (See "Cholera," in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, 1910-1911, Vol. VI, pp. 265-266.) So I think it is highly probable that my father, in reaction to the news about cholera in Vienna, may have already been changing his mind about going there, even before he attended the party that my sister Gwendolyn mentioned. But my father had to find something else to do; and so the opportunity to join a medical practice in Manhattan was attractive. To sum up, I think reports about the cholera epidemic in Vienna probably influenced my father not to travel to that city; and the offer he received at the party probably made him decide to practice medicine in Manhattan, instead of in Boston where his family lived.



What I learned about the size of the Frothingham ranch in Kansas (2,500 acres, almost four square miles) and the expense of the three-story stone house built for my father (at a cost of $10,000, in 1886 dollars) surprised me. I had no idea that there was all that wealth in my grandfatherís family in the 1880s.

My Cousin Eleanor (my Uncle Tomís daughter) once told me that the Frothingham men were strongly interested in civic life and in history, but that they were not much good at making money. She informed me that what money there was in the family came chiefly from the women whom the Frothingham men married. She was thinking specifically of her father (TGF Jr., my Uncle Tom) and our Frothingham grandfather (TGF Sr.). In that connection, it may be significant that the only Frothingham real estate purchase that Ms. Smith found listed in the legal columns of the Ellsworth Democrat for 1886 was about a purchase of land, in April, by my grandmother, not my grandfather, for $1,506.70. That seems to me to bear out Cousin Eleanorís point about the women in the family being the ones with the money. Incidentally, my grandfatherís wealthiest relative was T. G. Frothingham, Sr.ís aunt, Mrs. Mary Frothingham Goddard; she was my great-grandfatherís sister and the widow of the Thomas Goddard after whom my grandfather was named. Childless, she left very little money to her Frothingham relatives; instead, she left the bulk of her estate to Universalist benevolent causes, including the construction of the Goddard Chapel on the campus of Tufts College (now called Tufts University).

In any case, my father, who died when I was eight, did not have an abundance of money at the time when I was a child. Here is my list of possible reasons why that was so:

(1) My father tended to spend what money he had, and often to spend it extravagantly, instead of saving his money. (I, by contrast, tend to be a saver rather than a spender.)

(2) For many years, my father was responsible for the expenses of two households, which of course caused a huge drain on his financial resources. Separated from his first wife soon after the birth of their daughter Gwendolyn, he supported them financially for around two and a half decades, while living away from them in an apartment of his own. I am inclined to believe that my father was generous rather than stingy in his support of them. His support of a second household continued until (A) his daughter grew up and got married, and, soon after that, (B) his first wife divorced him in order to marry someone else.

(3) For 36 years, my father took time out from his private medical practice to serve as a part-time clinical professor of otorhinolaryngology at Columbia Universityís medical school. Although that academic appointment was prestigious, it did not pay as well as his private practice did.

(4) My father often waived his fees for patients who could not afford to pay for medical treatment; and many persons were out of work during the last years of his life, 1929-1933, the years when the Great Depression began.

(5) My father was not hard-nosed about hounding patients who failed to pay their bills; and the number of patients who fell into that category increased during the Depression. (People had to pay the rent or else face eviction, and they had to buy food or go hungry; so they gave higher priority to food and rent than to doctorsí bills.) My father was in medical practice before the era of Medicaid, Medicare, pre-paid health plans, and employer-sponsored medical benefits.

(6) At times in his life, my father had problems with alcohol. Conceivably that may have had an impact on his practice, both in terms of days lost from work and in terms of receiving fewer referrals from other physicians.

(7) In the last years of his life, illness reduced the number of days when my father could work.

When my father died (in 1933, at the height of the Great Depression), he was practically broke. My Uncle Tom, my father's brother, was called upon to take care of the expenses of my fatherís funeral and burial. (He was buried in the Goddard-Frothingham family plot in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA, without a tombstone.)



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Meaning of the Frothingham Name | Biography of Jacob F Spalding | Thomas Frothingham Letter | Richard and Thomas Frothingham Jrís Years in Ellsworth County, Kansas, 1886-1888 | First Presbyterian Church, Galesville, Wisconsin

This site was last updated 01/15/12