Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Mysterious Deaths of Uncles Garfield and Isaac Frogge

Frogge Mountain

  My grandmothers name was Ella Belle Frogge Brown. The Frogge family can be traced back to Scotland and the Wallace clan of the famous William Wallace portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie "Braveheart". Her father John Clayton Breckenridge Frogge was from Fentress County Tn., near Jamestown, and his father James Mckinley Frogge was also from Fentress County and had thirteen children by one woman and two by a second wife. His brother Tom was very fertile and had sixteen children all by the same woman. The Frogge's owned the area which is today Dale Hollow Lake. They even had a mountain named after them in the valley where Alvin C. York was born and raised. A few years ago I read a biography of York and found out that he had long time friends that were Frogge's. A Frogge picked him up from the train station in Crossville when he returned as a war hero. He also had enemies among the Frogge's. One was a man named O.O.Frogge. Many Frogge's are buried in the same graveyard that Alvin York is buried in near his home. At some point James McKinley Frogge moved his family to Metcalfe County Kentucky near Paducah which was where my grandmother was born in 1894. About 1908 her father John Clayton Breckenridge Frogge moved to Nashville where he eventually became foreman of the Tennessee Central Railroad blacksmith shop. 

  Recently while working my mall security job I let a worker for Frogge HVAC company upon the mall roof. When the worker came into our office I noticed by his name tag that he was a Frogge. I told him that we may be related because my grandmother was a Frogge. He wasn't very talkative and seemed not to be interested. About thirty minutes later I received a call on our security from the man that I had talked to. He said that his eighty-one year old father James, the owner of the company, wanted to talk to me. James told me that he knew my grandmother Belle. That is the name that she went by. I have talked to him twice and learned things that I didn't know. My grandmothers older brother James Arthur Garfield Frogge, or Garfield, as he was called, was James great grandfather. His father was James Arthur Warrick Frogge. He told me that the reason my great grandfather John, or "Cap" as he called him, moved the family to Nashville from Kentucky was that John killed several men who were trying to take over a saloon that he owned in Paducah. The exact number that he supposedly killed is debatable. The first time I talked to James it was three men and the second time it was six. To this date I have not been able to confirm this story. However there may be some truth to it. This might explain why he uprooted his family and moved to Nashville. 

  My grandmother told me many stories about our family but the two that were the most intriguing were about the mysterious deaths of Garfield and another brother named Isaac "Ike" Bradford Frogge. Garfield had a drinking problem and was found dead on the the bank of the Cumberland River. He was lying face down with his hat placed neatly on his back. Garfield supposedly drowned but it was not known how he his body ended up on the riverbank. James said that he had a drinking problem but had been a preacher and was known to deliver a heck of a sermon. Her other brother Isaac was a member of Company D 27th Tennessee Calvary. She said that he was riding on a troop train and another soldier was cleaning his rifle when it accidentally discharged striking Isaac in the back severing his spine. This was in the latter part of December 1916 and he lingered for eight days before dying in early January 1917. She told me that she nursed him until he died. Sometime after my grandmother died in 1964 I was talking to my grandfather about Isaac and he said that he wasn't shot by accident. Isaac was trying to desert from the train and was shot. I didn't realize it at the time but in later years when I thought about what he said it didn't make sense. America didn't enter World War I until April 1917. He was also part of a National Guard Unit. A few years ago I saw his death certificate which muddled the story even further. It said the cause of death was homicide. That makes more sense to me than anything but I have not been able to learn the the true circumstances of his death. Since learning that John might have killed several men it makes me wonder if the deaths of Garfield and Isaac are not connected.
James Garfield Frogge

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