Lawrence, Massachusetts
1885 - 1900
 
 
Lawrence is the ancestral home of the Frost family. William Prescott Frost, Sr. was an overseer at the Pacific Mill, which made textiles in the late 19th century. His son, Will Frost, had graduated from Harvard in the top 5 of his class and was expected by his father to become a lawyer. However, Will had a rebellious streak and sought the adventure of going west. While working his way to California in 1873, he married Isabelle Moodie in Lewistown, Pa. A year later Robert Lee Frost was born, soon followed by a daughter, Jeanie. In 1885, Will Frost died of tuberculosis, leaving his widow and children almost penniless. Mrs. Frost returned to Lawrence to bury her husband and having no money to return to California, decided to stay in Lawrence. She taught school to earn a meager living. Robert was 11 years old at the time. Here he grew up, went to high school, married his high-school sweetheart and spent his early life in an area known as "North of Boston."

 The Merrimack River
 
 The Pacific Mill Warehouse
 Lawrence High School today
 The Everett Mill
 The Arlington Mills
 The Robert Frost Festival, 1999

 
Back to Places and Poetry
 
"You came companionless, but you came home."
 
The powerful Merrimack River dominates the town of Lawrence. The river supplied energy to the textile mills. Above the falls, the river is peaceful and was used for boating. Rob and Elinor often took a rowboat up river to a secret spot where they enjoyed reading poetry to one another. An early poem never collected called The Falls commemorates this spot.
"Tis a steep wood of rocks,
With the fern grown everywhere;
But with no birds - not a wing!
And the falls come down there."

.
Grandfather Frost was an overseer at the Pacific Mill. He was considered upper class society in Lawrence. He lived in a large house on Haverhill St., a fashionable street off the town green. The old Pacific Mill stretches from Lower Broadway east along the river in a solid mass of red brick industrial buildings. Now a paper mill, it still dominates the landscape and economy of the town. The strength of the river and the mills is an impressive sight.
.
.
Robert attended Lawrence High School where he excelled in the classical program. He played baseball on the town green in front of the school. He edited his school paper and graduated co-valedictorian of his class, an honor he shared with his sweetheart, Elinor White. Rob and Elinor were married in Lawrence in 1895, and their first child Elliott was born a year later. The Frosts were a family of school teachers at that time at a small private school organized by his mother, Isabelle Frost. .
.
Robert found work at the Everett Mill right after high school graduation as a clerical assistant to the gatekeeper looking for laggards who would have the gate shut and their wages cut by a half hour for tardiness. This experience later inspired his poem The Lone Striker.
" He knew a path that wanted walking;
He knew a spring that wanted drinking;
A thought that wanted further thinking;
A love that wanted re-renewing."
 
This is that same gate. The mill is located on north Broadway, the road that leads to Derry.
.
In the fall of 1892, both Rob and Elinor left for college. Rob went off to Dartmouth while Elinor went to St. Lawrence College in New York. Rob was unhappy and left before the semester was out. He came back to Lawrence and did odd jobs. He worked in the Arlington Mill changing light bulbs, finding a hiding place in a loft to read Shakespeare during idle times. Frost's grandfather despaired Robert would ever amount to anything. Meanwhile Elinor finished college in 3 years, while Robert fretted she would find someone else at school. He wanted her to come home and marry him.
.
.
In 1997, The Robert Frost Foundation was started by a group devoted to reviving the memory of Frost in his hometown. They offer an annual day-long event in October to honor the poet. The event is held at the Clubhouse in Riverfront State Park overlooking the Merrimack. The Foundation has successfully researched the Frost history in Lawrence resulting in a "Self Guided Walking Tour", which can be obtained at Town Hall on the green. They have added a great deal to the Frost legacy.