In a few days, I’ll be visiting Lake Mills, Wisconsin, and giving a talk about Aunt Addie. To learn more about Aunt Addie, click here.
Here’s the super short version: On June 19, 1901 Addie Hoyt Fargo – a 29-year-old socialite in the prime of her life – died very suddenly and unexpectedly from diphtheria. Married to one of Lake Mills’ wealthiest men, Addie lived with Enoch and his two daughters in one of Lake Mills‘ most grandiose homes, The Fargo Mansion.
According to local lore and two published reports, Addie Hoyt Fargo didn’t really die of diphtheria. That was a contrived story created to cover up the truth: Addie died from a gunshot wound to the head, delivered by her ever-loving husband, Enoch Fargo.
The 51-year-old Enoch Fargo was in love with Maddie Hoyt (no relation to Addie) and wanted Addie out of the way so he could marry Maddie. The same sources claim that Dr. William H. Oatway openly stated years later, “No one was fooled” by Oatway’s alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death), and that folks knew Enoch had killed his young wife as she lay sleeping in her bed.
To read the rest of the story, click here.
My involvement in this began on June 13, 2011 when I was cleaning out my late father’s apartment and found a couple old photo albums amongst his possession. Inside the old albums were pictures of people I knew nothing about, and a couple photos were dated 1896. I would later learn that these were photos of my great Aunt Addie, born in 1872, married in 1896, and dead – at the age of 29 – in 1901.
This is the 9th blog I’ve written about Addie’s death and I’ve posted dozens of pictures but of all the pictures I’ve posted, there are four photos that I find especially haunting. I’ve included them below.
This is a photo of Addie's home in Lake Mills, known as The Fargo Mansion. The handwriting on this photo is distinctively different from the handwriting on the other photos and the other photos' captions are written underneath the photo (on the album page) probably in Addie's own hand. This is a guess, but I'd bet money this caption was written by Addie's sister, Anna Hoyt Whitmore. This photo album was a gift from Anna to the Whitmores (Anna and Wilbur).
So what makes this so haunting? Addie died in 1901. When did her family find out she was dead? Apparently, not immediately.
My father's twin brother - Ed Fuller - is still alive and well and living on the West Coast. For a man of 92, he still possesses an impressive degree of mental acuity. Despite some rigorous questioning, the fact is he knew nothing of Addie Hoyt Fargo. What makes this even more incredible is that Addie's sister - Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Ed's grandmother) - lived with Ed for a time. Anna Hoyt lived to be 99 years old, and was sharp as a tack right to the end of her life. This story of Addie Hoyt Fargo was apparently one family secret that was never discussed. Which brings me back to the original question: When did the family - then living in Denver - first learn that Addie Hoyt Fargo was dead? Because judging by this photo, it appears that she was assumed alive as late as 1904.
Another haunting photo, this shows Addie sitting in her bedroom. Sadly, this is the very room where she was supposedly shot in her sleep.
There's a sweetness and naivete on this young woman's face that is wholly compelling. She was just a girl - 24 years old - and full of hope and dreams and ideas. Perhaps she'd planned on having a whole passel of children or maybe she was looking forward to being a socialite, carrying the torch for whatever causes that filled her heart with passion. She's so young and sincere-looking in this photo. So untarnished by the world. And five years later, she'd be dead, murdered (allegedly) by the man that had promised to love her for the rest of his life.
The most haunting photo of them all, is this one. It's a comparison of Addie's wedding photo with the last known photo taken sometime in late 1900. This photo presents an argument that Addie was sickly at the end of her life. Given the jagged and receding hairline (on the right), one could make a case that she was suffering from arsenic poisoning. There's also a swollen lip and other distortions around her nose. Perhaps she fell down a flight of stairs and landed on her face. I understand that Victorian-era women were very prone to such accidents. It's my theory that this photo - sent to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore - was a plea to save her from this hellish marriage - before it was too late. Her message was not received in time.
This shows the remarkable difference in the hairline.
Comparison of Addie's lips, showing the swelling and misalignment (on the latter photo on right).
To read part VIII, click here.
To read Part VII, click here.
To read Part VI, click here.
To read Part V, click here.
To read Part IV, click here.
To read Part III, click here.
To read Part II, click here.