Frost, John Lighter (1862–1900)

By: Kevin Ladd

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: October 19, 2019

John Lighter Frost, lawman, son of Samuel C. and Nancy Frost, was born on January 14, 1862, in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The family moved to Denton County, Texas, when John was a young boy and moved in 1878 to Chambers County, where they settled near the site of Fort Anahuac. After the death of his father in 1879 Frost took over the operation of the family farm and supported his mother. He was elected county commissioner of Precinct 2, which included Anahuac, in 1890. He ran successfully for county surveyor in 1892, was reelected in 1894, and was elected county sheriff in 1896. He was reelected to the office in 1898 and 1900.

Frost met his death at a large hunting lodge owned by William Lewis Moody of Galveston. The lodge, located on Lake Surprise in southwestern Chambers County, became a point of dispute between Moody and several of his employees, including William Kennedy, his son Lee Kennedy, and Robert Heiman. The employees received an eviction notice after claiming to own the lodge. Political enemies of Frost began to accuse the lawman of cowardice in not moving rapidly to remove the Kennedys from the lodge. Frost, determined to answer the critics, set out for Lake Surprise alone on November 9, 1900. He made a visit to the hunting lodge that afternoon, then returned the following day. No further trace of him was ever seen. Although his body was never found, his horse was found wandering on the prairie on the afternoon of November 11, the reins having been cut and blood found on the saddle. The Conway, a boat belonging to Heiman, was seen leaving Smith Point on the same day. Lee Kennedy and Robert Heiman were arrested on board the boat at a Galveston wharf; William Kennedy was arrested in Houston, and the three were charged with murder. Heiman made a series of confessions, stating variously that the body had been buried in an old grave, sunk in the waters of East Bay, and dismembered before being cast into Galveston Bay. The trial was moved to Conroe in Montgomery County in September 1901, and Heiman repudiated all his confessions upon arriving there. With no body and no confession, the district attorney filed a motion dismissing the case on January 14, 1902.

Galveston Daily News, November 15, 17, December 21, 24, 29, 1900. Jewel Horace Harry, A History of Chambers County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940; rpt., Dallas: Taylor, 1981). Ralph Semmes Jackson, Home on the Double Bayou: Memories of an East Texas Ranch (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). Forest W. McNeir, Forest McNeir of Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Law Officers

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kevin Ladd, “Frost, John Lighter,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995
October 19, 2019