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The Four Most Haunting Photos of Addie

October 30th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

My involvement in Addie’s story 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.

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.

To learn more about Addie’s story, click here.

Addie

This is a photo of Addie's home in Lake Mills, known as The Fargo Mansion. The handwriting on this photo is now confirmed to be that of Anna Hoyt Whitmore, Addie's sister.

S

So what makes this so haunting? Addie died in 1901. When did her family find out she was dead? Apparently, not until 1904.

My fathers twin brother - Ed Fuller - is still alive and well and possesses an impressive degree of mental accuity.

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.

Addie

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.

Addie

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. There's also a swollen lip and other distortions around her nose. I can't help but wonder if this photo - sent to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore - was a plea to save her what might have been a hellish marriage - before it was too late.

Contrast

This shows the remarkable difference in the hairline.

Comp

Comparison of Addie's lips, showing the swelling and misalignment (on the latter photo on right).

To read Part VI, click here.

To read the latest, click here.

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Addie: Someone’s Beloved Little Girl

October 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Often people ask me why I care about pursuing this old Addie story. After all, she’s been dead 110 years, and everyone who knew her is dead. What’s the point?

My oft-repeated response is this: “Addie was someone’s beloved little girl.

Recently, I found new photos of Addie, and these are photos of her childhood. They touched my heart, and I hope they’ll touch yours.

In June 2010, my father moved from his 2,000-square foot home to a 400-square foot assisted living facility. During that move, we found an old photo album with a red velveteen cover. I glanced through the pages, but I had no idea who these people were, and the photos dated back to the mid and late 1800s. There was no information on the pictures, so there were no clues.

I didn’t know what to do with the old album, so I put it into the growing pile of “things to save and store somewhere.”

After my father was moved into his new apartment at the facility, my brother Tom asked that I ship a few items out to him, because he has a really big basement at his home in Illinois. I was delighted to have a place to send all this “old family stuff that probably should not be thrown out.” The red velveteen photo album was shipped to my brother, Tom.

In October, I visited Tom and his wife, and I asked to see that red photo album. I was hoping against hope that maybe there were more pictures of Addie and her family in this old photo album. After all, I’d had no idea that there was an Addie Hoyt Fargo until after my father died (June 10, 2011), and I discovered two photo albums devoted to Addie and her life in Lake Mills. Learn more about that discovery here.

He found the photo album on a Saturday night and by Sunday morning (about 5:00 am), I was laying on the floor of their spare bedroom, studying the photos. There were several photos of Addie - I thought - but the photos lacked any written clues. Using a sharp knife, I removed these photos from their sleeves, and their on the backs of each photo, I found incredibly detailed descriptions of the people and their relationship to Anna Hoyt Whitmore (who wrote the descriptions). Finding absolute evidence of  her handwriting was also important. Read why it matters here.

And it was also interesting to discover that Addie was apparently from a very wealthy family. The clothes and professional photography make that very clear!

Below are those photos.

the

Early Sunday morning, I took a sharp knife and performed a "photo-ectomy" on the old photo album that we'd found at my father's house in 2010. It had been shipped to my brother's house in Illinois. Slicing and dicing that old album was a good decision, as there was much information contained on the back of these photos, written in my great-grandmother's hand. Finding absolute evidence of her handwriting was also a good discovery.

A

Often, people ask me why I care about pursuing this old story of an alleged murder. I often tell them the same thing: Addie was someone's beloved little girl. Here is photographic proof of my oft-repeated sentiment. She was someone's precious, and much beloved child. Does time lessen the importance of righting a wrong? I don't think it does.

A

Note the incredible clothing. Addie was a snazzy dresser by the age of two!

Addie

Addie. No age is given, but I'd guestimate that she's about 9 or 10 in this photo.

Addie was born in 1872, so this photo was about 1882.

Addie was born in 1872, so this photo was about 1882.

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Addie about 10 years old. Professional photograph taken in Lake Mills.

Addi

Addie at about 14. This photograph was done by "E. M. Ray" in Lake Mills.

Addie

Close-up of Addie about 1886.

Addie

My favorite photo: Addie and Anna, dated 1887. Addie would have been 15 years old here. Anna would have been 21 years old. Addie looks so petite.

Close-up of the two sisters.

Close-up of the two sisters.

Addie as a debutante?

Addie as a debutante?

Addie

Look at the star on her forehead. Also notice the detail on the outfit.

Was Addie from an extremely wealthy family? Id say YES.

Was Addie from an *extremely* wealthy family? I'd say YES. Remember, this was in the 1880s.

A

Close-up of Addie, dressed in some pretty fine clothes.

Of all the photos, this was one that tugged at my heart-strings the most. It shows that it was taken in Lake Mills, which is curious, because Anna (mother of the boy shown here), was living in Denver at the time. Apparently, they went back east for a visit to Lake Mills, and had this photo done. This was Ernie Eugene Whitmore, and he would have been Addies nephew. He died in 1894, the same year that Addies father died.

Of all the photos, this was one that tugged at my heart-strings the most. It shows that it was taken in Lake Mills, which is curious, because Anna (mother of the boy shown here), was living in Denver at the time. Apparently, they went back east for a visit to Lake Mills, and had this photo done. This was Ernie Eugene Whitmore, and he would have been Addie's nephew. He died in 1894, the same year that Addie's father died.

This inscription on the back - written in Addies hand - was what brought a tear to my eye.

This inscription on the back - written in Addie's hand - was what brought a tear to my eye. It says, "Auntie's Sweetheart. June 6, 1893, Lake Mills, Wis."

There are many more photos, but I do not have time to post them now.

Check back later for more.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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When an Old Person Dies…

October 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

There’s a saying that when an old person dies, it’s like a library burning down. In other words, it’s a significant loss of historical information and stories and records and experiences that can never be restored.

I’d have to say there’s one exception to that rule: When that “old person” has taken the time to write a book, and record and preserve all the historical information and stories and records and experiences.

These days, I get asked a lot of questions about Addie Hoyt Fargo, my great Aunt. And often, I preface my response with, “I’m so grateful to Mary Wilson, who took the time to write a book about Lake Mills, and share what she knew about Addie’s death.”

As a fellow author and historian, I really am grateful that Mary Wilson left us a 700-page book detailing so many elements of Lake Mill’s history,  because it preserved a written record of Addie’s death that would have otherwise been lost to the ages. It was because of Mrs. Wilson’s book that I started digging into this story. Reading her book cover to cover is akin to sitting down and hearing the stories of someone who was born and raised in Lake Mills, and spent nine decades here, because - that’s just what Mary did.

It is a book full of gems.

So what does Mary tell us about Addie? Simply, that Addie was shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

In The History of Lake Mills (published in 1983), Mary Wilson writes, “A number of persons who knew [Enoch Fargo] will tell the same story - he shot Addie.”

Enoch had three daughters by his first wife, Mary Rutherford Fargo. The eldest daughter was named Elsie Fargo (McCammon). Elsie McCammon’s daughter was Mary Wilson, who authored The History of Lake Mills. In this book, it’s Enoch’s own granddaughter describing what happened to Addie Hoyt Fargo.

Mrs. Wilson also writes about Dr. William Oatway, the physician who was allegedly complicit in this crime, and reports that Oatway stated years later, “No one was fooled” by his alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death).

That book was an incredible resource in my research, and gave me the foundation on which to start building a case. And in the ensuing four months, I’ve discovered a multitude of documents and resources that point to the fact that Mary Wilson’s accounting of this crime in Lake Mills is probably accurate.

It’s a tough book to find, and I paid almost $50 for my copy, which is a true testament to this book’s enduring value and appeal.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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My favorite photo of all.

An amazing glimpse into another time, this photo shows Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion Inn in Lake Mills.

Addie

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.

Addie

Addie Hoyt - in 1896 (wedding day) and 1901 (shortly before her death). 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 has to wonder if 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. She sent this photo to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore, living in Denver at the time.

Contrast

This shows the remarkable difference in the hairline.

Comp

Comparison of Addie's lips, showing the swelling and misalignment (on the latter photo on right).

To keep reading about Addie, click here.

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My Dear Auntie Died Six Years Ago Today…

October 25th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the late 1990s, my mother’s beloved older sister “Engie,” became unable to care for herself. The family hired a caregiver who proved wholly unsatisfactory. In October 2000, my mother and I flew out to Alameda to pick up Engie and bring her back to Illinois (where I was living at the time).

My mother was in her late 70s at the time, and the stress of worrying about her dear sister was taking a toll on her emotional and physical health. I couldn’t bear to see my mother suffer so. I volunteered to move Engie to Illinois and put her in a good-quality home and watch over her as if she were my own sister.

This comforted my mother.

I also made a promise to my mother that I would continue to take care of Engie until the day she took her last breath.

A promise is a promise, but a promise made to one’s dear mother is a solemn vow.

Little did I know that my own mother would die about 14 months later. Despite my deep grief, I pushed on and upheld my end of the bargain, and continued to visit Engie frequently and watch over her and pray for her and sing her to sleep at night and kiss her on the cheek - which always made her smile.

Below is an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript, detailing my care of Engie. This excerpt discusses Engie’s last day, October 25, 2005.

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Engie and I had come a long way together and now our walk together was coming to an end. Just six days earlier, I’d been sitting at the local restaurant, eating pumpkin pancakes with Pamela, with no idea of what awaited me at the nursing home. Now I was parked at Engie’s bedside, basking in the glow of this heavenly energy, and waiting for that shimmering tether that connected her soul and body to snap free.

And five days earlier, I’d been sitting in this same spot when my eyes fell on an old photo of Engie. It was a good clear photo, showing Engie, her husband Charlie and Engie’s brother, Harry. They were all dressed in their Sunday best, with Engie wearing a fashionable hat, white gloves and clutching a small purse. She sure looked cute in her classic 1950s dress with green polka dots. I picked up the picture to take a closer look and noticed that it was taken in 1959, the year of my birth. Isn’t that a coincidence, I thought to myself.

Then I looked at Engie’s 87-year-old body laying on the bed. And then it hit me. When that photo was taken, Engie was in her mid-40s, or about my age. When that photo was taken, she was where I am now, on the nine-decade timeline that is the average woman’s life. If Engie was my age in 1959, then did that mean that one day, I would be the age she is now?

Now we all may know - on an intellectual level - that our time on this earth is limited, but this little example gave me the proverbial smack between the eyes. While still reeling from this revelation, I noticed something else about this photo that I’d never seen before. In the background, there was an old wall clock with its hands positioned neatly at 10 and 2. An angel voice whispered to me, “This will be the time when Engie passes on. Remember, our times are in Thine hands. God knows the end from the beginning.”

Another angel message that was not aligned with my personal belief systems, but there it was. Did God really know such details of our mortal life? I decided I was probably thinking too much and gently set the photo back on the night stand and returned to singing “Rock of Ages” for the 49th time.

______________

I could hear the hospice nurse in the hallway, rustling about and asking what had happened to Engie’s standing order for morphine. Upon overhearing this, I felt a wave of irritation arising in me, gathering strength and momentum. For several days, we’d been talking about having morphine ready if needed and now, someone thought it was needed and no one could find it? I decided to let that little drama stay outside in the hallway. I didn’t want to leave Engie and I didn’t want to come down from this mountaintop of spiritual clarity. I don’t remember a time in my life when I felt so calm, serene and completely unafraid.

I continued to hold Engie’s hand and sing hymns. The words of these hymns came alive with meaning to me and I sang softly, slowly and with tears in my eyes. The time between her breaths was getting longer and longer and often it was more a series of little sighs than a breath. For a few moments, I tried breathing in concert with her but couldn’t hold my breath that long.

Then I heard the hospice nurse approaching our room. I bent over and whispered into Engie’s ear, “He’s well-intentioned, but he’s coming back in here with something neither you nor I think you need. You might want to get while the getting’s good.”

I said it in half-jest. She took me seriously.

Morphine in hand, he started to dribble the liquid into her open mouth and her breathing became quite odd, almost like tiny puffs. He said, “I think she’s going.”

I looked down at her and she had stopped breathing, but she’d already done that so many times. But then she let out a tiny little squeak and the last bit of pink color, on her chest and neck and parts of her face, disappeared in a flash.

“She’s gone,” he said.

I closed my eyes and prayed the most earnest, heart-felt prayers of my life, pleading that God’s angels would lead her and keep her safe. I prayed that the angelic ushers would lead her directly to the light of God’s love and that her transition would be blessed and joyous and simple. I thought of my favorite Bible verse and its applicability to this moment: “Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way and bring thee into the place I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20).

The hospice nurse spoke again and said, “She gone to heaven now. She’s with Jesus and safe forever.”

In my journal, I wrote,

“The nurse’s comments - and the love that motivated them - were a great comfort. When she was actually passing on - those few seconds when she was leaving the building - I felt a powerful surge of all kinds of emotions and spiritual energy. I felt hyper-attuned to the things of spirit and felt supremely close to God. Tears poured down my face. It was a blend of joy that she was reunited with her family and it was also a relief that I had finished the work God gave me to do - that of being her caretaker. I always loved her and always will love her, but seeing her in that state for five years was very, very hard. But even now, writing these words a few days later, I remember experiencing those tears of relief and their odd coupling with a profound joy that she was with her family again.”

After a few seconds passed, I asked the nurse if he was really sure that she was gone. After all, she’d stopped breathing before - for periods up to 45 seconds.

“That’s why we get another nurse to confirm.”

With that, he dashed out of the room and reappeared in less than 20 seconds with a staff nurse from the home. She felt for Engie’s pulse, looked me in the eye and said softly, “Yes, she has passed.”

I replied, “Are you really sure?” Suddenly, I had an image of putting Engie  into a body bag while she was still alive. And she’d hung on for so long, how could we be sure she wouldn’t come back? In retrospect, I probably wasn’t doing my best human reasoning at this moment. But looking at her still form left little doubt. In less than two minutes, her color was now dramatically different, as was the appearance of her face and body.

The hospice nurse said, “I’m calling it. Time of death, 10:10 a.m.” And that’s when a chill ran through me. That was the same time in the picture by her bed, on the wall clock I’d never noticed until five days ago. All our time is in God’s hand. Really and truly and literally and figuratively. God knows the end from the beginning. Before Engie ever came to earth, God knew what time she’d returned to heaven.

The nurses left me alone with Engie and then a diminutive, young aide appeared in the room, carrying two towels, a sponge, a small plastic tub and a washcloth.

“Would you rather have a moment with her before I clean her up?” she asked.

“Yes, I would.”

I could no longer sit at the edge of Engie’s bed, but stood at its foot. I took a moment to pray and enjoy the presence of that angelic army that had silently shared this space and time with us. I closed my eyes and looked for them but found myself saying out loud, “Everyone’s gone!” The room was flat and cold and empty. They’d all left without saying good-bye and they’d left in a hurry! The life energy that I’d felt coursing through that room was simply gone. It  was akin to being a guest at a big, happy party, turning your back for a moment and then looking back to see that everyone had rushed off.

_________

Years earlier, I’d read Catherine Marshall’s book, “A Man Called Peter,” a biography of Peter Marshall, chaplain to the Senate in 1947 - 1949 and well-known minister of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. The most memorable part of this well-written book was Catherine’s telling of Peter’s death. After he passed on, Catherine remained in the hospital room, seated beside Peter’s body. She said she became aware of a shining, loving and powerful presence in the room and it was made clear to her that Peter and someone else were there to help her through this difficult time. She said she didn’t want to leave the room because she knew she was in the presence of the very essence of divine love. After a time, this presence faded and she knew it was time to leave. This experience, she related, helped her deal with the grief of losing her husband so suddenly.

I suppose I was expecting to have a similar experience. In Peter’s case, he was 46 years old and his death was very sudden. Engie and I had had years to prepare for this. Perhaps that was the difference.

_________

In my journal, I described the life-force that I’d felt in Engie’s room as “pure energy and pure love, if you can imagine the two conjoined, powerful and strong and awesome and amazing.”

But now everyone was gone and I was alone and I looked over at Engie’s still form and all I could think was, “What in the world am I doing in here with a dead body?” That single glimpse of the body brought on another wave of nausea, so I quickly rose and left the room. (Later, in my journal I wrote, “I feel like God was telling me that Engie had spent enough time in the nursing homes. When it was over, she didn’t want to linger. She was ready to get out of there.”)

Unsure of what to do next, I went to the nurse’s station and asked simply, “What do I do now?”

They asked for the name of the funeral home I wanted to use and they made the call for me. I called my brother Tom, but couldn’t get through. I went outside to look at the pretty blue sky and breathe in some of the beautiful fall morning. I walked to my car and sat inside of it for a time. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or be disturbed. I just wanted to compose myself and gather my thoughts and ponder the enormity of this experience. After a few minutes, I walked back toward the front door of the nursing home and met the hospice nurse, loading his things into a crummy-looking, rusted-out Ford pick-up truck.

“I wish that someone doing such holy, sacred work,” I thought to myself, “could have the simple joy of a better-looking and more reliable set of wheels.”

I thanked him for his good work and told him how grateful I was that he’d been there when Engie passed. He seemed relieved and expressed concern that he had intruded on such a private moment.

“Oh no,” I told him. “I think she was waiting for you to return so I wouldn’t be alone in the room when she passed on.”

When I returned to Engie’s room, I found that someone had come in to clean her up a bit. Her hands were overlapped, resting on her chest and her eyes were closed and her hair had been combed. To think that some minimum-wage, overworked nurse’s aide had taken the time and effort to tidy up Engie’s body was deeply touching. I sat down on the empty bed in the semi-private room and waited for someone from the funeral home to show up. And then Engie’s body started making some really strange gurgling sounds and I had to leave the room. I told her good-bye, which was ridiculous, because I knew that Engie was long gone.

The funeral director arrived and I met with him in the nursing home’s atrium. We sat down and talked about the arrangements. I was surprised by how concerned I was about Engie’s body. I told him that it was part of our religious tradition that her naked body not be exposed at any time during this cremation process and that I needed to know that her body would be treated with respect and care. In voicing these things, I realized that my job as advocate wasn’t over yet.

I then asked him at least two dozen questions to which he gave thoughtful, carefully worded replies. I apologized for the interrogation but told him, “These things matter to me. I’ve taken care of her for five years. I need to make sure her body is taken care of properly.”

His reply surprised me.

“I don’t mind your questions. In fact, I’m glad to answer them. You have no idea how often the family calls us with a credit card and tells us where to pick up the body. We never meet them and we never hear from them again. You’re asking questions because you care. That’s a good thing.”

Next, he went to his vehicle (a white windowless minivan) and pulled out a gurney with a folded sheet laid neatly on top. I met him at her room and asked if he needed help moving her onto the gurney, to which he said no. I asked again that he take care to keep her body discreetly covered. He did so as I looked on, and he treated her body with great care. He then wrapped her up in the sheet, explaining that she would not be uncovered again and that the sheet would be destroyed in the cremation process.

I walked with him as he pushed the gurney down the nursing hall corridors. Realizing it was the last stroll I’d take with my dear Auntie, my still-damp eyes started to tear up again. Nurses in the hallway stopped moving, turned toward us and offered a solemn nod as our little procession went by. One young aide stopped and touched my arm and said, “I’m so sorry about your Aunt. I hear you stayed with her to the end. You’re a good niece.”

Her comments touched me deeply.

We walked out the back door and he loaded the gurney into the back door of the custom-designed minivan. We shook hands and I thanked him for his care and thoughtfulness. He said he’d be in touch and to call if I had any more questions. After locking down the gurney and shutting the back door, he got in the van and drove away.

I remember standing there at the curb, gazing up toward the deep blue sky and saying, “I did it, Mom. I stayed with her until she drew her last breath. Hardest thing I ever did, but I did it.”

A dear friend, whom I leaned on heavily during this time said, “You honored your mother by keeping that promise. She’d be proud of you.”

I took great comfort in that.

Walking down the sidewalk to my car, I remember thinking, “So this is how life feels when there’s no fear, no regrets, no guilt, no negative emotions of any kind? This feels real good.”

I felt more alive that day than I’d ever felt before. And I felt proud of myself for doing something hard, not quitting in the middle and seeing it through to the end. It was all good.

For the next few days, that feeling of being hyper-attuned to the things of spirit and the things of God remained with me. It manifested itself in several ways. I felt a deep-down-to-the-bones serenity. I couldn’t bear to hear people gossip or talk ugly about each other. I couldn’t watch television, for any violence was too disturbing. Before the phone rang, I knew - not only that it was going to ring, but who was calling. It was an amazing experience. And I’m sorry to say that that spiritual high eventually faded, but it was memorable, life-changing and transformative.

And there was another interesting piece of this experience that I still retain, even two years later. When I thought of Engie, I never thought of her as dead. I had a persistent feeling that I’d packed her off for an adventure in a new place. I felt like a mom who’d bundled up her child and sent her off to summer camp for a season of fun.

The movie “What The Bleep Do We Know?” refers to the human body as a four-layer bio suit. When I thought of Engie, it wasn’t even a feeling that, here’s the body and here’s the soul and they’ve separated now. Her bio-suit didn’t define her or even represent her. It was just the outfit she wore for these last eight decades. And now, she’d left the suit behind so she could move on to the next adventure. It was as though she’d left behind her snowsuit because she’d gone off to live in the sunny tropics.

Engie’s body was cremated and because she was a WWII veteran, I made arrangements to have her ashes interred at a Veteran’s cemetery in St. Louis (Jefferson Barracks).

Today marks the sixth anniversary of that life-changing day.

I hope her soul is at peace.

Auntie in the army

Auntie in the army

Aunt Engie with her father, Edward Brown.

Aunt Engie with her father, Edward Brown (and Huey).

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An Architectural Gem in Wisconsin!

October 22nd, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

During my stay in Lake Mills in early September (2011), I was invited by gracious innkeepers Tom and Barry to be their guest at the Fargo Mansion Inn. So for two glorious days and two restful nights, I lived and moved and had my being inside the walls of this unspeakably beautiful old manse on Mulberry Street.

I’m an architectural historian. I’ve seen plenty of old houses. If I had a nickle for every old house I’ve seen…

However, the Fargo Mansion is in a class by itself. It’s an extraordinary building that’s been meticulously and faithfully restored to its former splendor. And it’s massive, with 7,500 square feet of architectural grandeur. Every single spot where your eyeballs happen to rest is a new view of opulence and magnificence and Victorian luxuriance. Built in 1881, it’s a classic Queen Anne house, with towers and turrets and Victorian refinements and frippery and fretwork.

When the Fargo Manse came into Tom and Barry’s life in the early 1980s, it was slated for demolition.  Sitting in the front parlor with Tom and Barry last month, I was captivated with the story of how these two hardworking men saved the crumbling structure. The tired old manse had a failing roof (and rain water infiltration), boarded up windows, frozen and busted pipes (radiators and domestic water) and many of the fireplace mantels and moldings were gone. In anticipation of the home’s demolition, all utility connections had been removed from the building.

It’s disturbing to think that Wisconsin nearly lost this architectural gem.

In addition to its being a real gem, this was my great Aunt Addie’s home. Judging by the many photos I have of her in this house, this was a happy home for Addie - for a time. She moved in as a bride of 24 years old, and she died there, five years later.

This is one of those times when words are inadequate, so feast your eyes on the photos below. And if you’re ever within 100 miles of The Fargo Inn Mansion, you really should treat yourself to a night or two at the Inn. And did I mention, the breakfast that Tom served was one of the Top 15 Best Breakfasts I’ve ever had in my 52 years? And that morning memory was sweetened ever more when Tom brought in a small painted porcelain vase and set it down beside me on the table.

“This was your Aunt Addie’s,” he said softly. “I knew you’d like to see it.”

He was right.


The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in with her new husband, Enoch Fargo.  Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in.

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

The fam

The fam sits on the front step of the Fargo Mansion. Addie is on the lower left, with Enoch seated above her. Elsie (born 1876) is on the upper right and Mattie (born 1884) is on the lower right. Elsie was a scant four years younger than her new step-mother, Addie.

The same spot, 110 years later.

The same spot, 110 years later.

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Addie prepares to board the train. According to Mary Wilson's book ("The History of Lake Mills"), Addie was inspired to start a local chapter of the DAR when she met Mrs. James Sydney Peck on a train ride, coming home from Sparta. Note the traveling bag at Addie's side.

Just inside the main entry is this small (and high) window. Notice the beveled glass and ornate quartersawn oak trim. At first glance, I thought this was a mirror. I thought Id joined Addies world when I stood in front of this mirror and no one was looking back!

Just inside the main entry is this small (and high) window. Notice the beveled glass and ornate quartersawn oak trim. At first glance, I thought this was a mirror. I thought I'd joined Addie's world when I stood in front of this "mirror" and no one was looking back!

Interior shots of the mansion. This is the music room.

The music room inside the Fargo Mansion. I believe this is Mattie (seated with book), Addie at the piano and Elsie standing (far right).

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The grand staircase in the front reception hall. The woodwork is beautifully sculpted.

Close-up of the newel post.

Close-up of the newel post.

This is a shot from the foyer looking into the music room. If you look closely, youll see a guitar in the background.

This is a shot from the foyer looking into the music room. If you look closely, you'll see a guitar in the background. Note the newel post on the right.

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This is a closer view of the "music room" (seen above) taken from the stairs, but it shows the horse-hair bench that sits within the rounded tower. According to Innkeeper Tom Boycks, this bench is original to the house.

Looking into the dining room

This tiled "solarium" sat at the edge of the expansive dining room. Tom explained that with its southern exposure, it made the perfect spot for growing plants and other greenery. The floor inside the massive bay window is tiled. At the far left was a small sink (cold water and a drain) for watering the plants, which was removed in later years.

Close-up  of the tiled floor

Close-up of the tiled floor, which is in beautiful condition. The floors throughout the Fargo Manse are maple, upstairs and downstairs, and they're in stunningly beautiful condition.

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Notice the massive windows in the front parlor. As Tom pointed out, it's a tough house to decorate. It's all windows and doorways and radiators and fireplaces.

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Detail of the oak trim and frieze in the front parlor.

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This shot was taken from the steps, looking down toward the front door. Notice that curved wall by the front door. And all that wainscoting and trim is quartersawn oak. See that radiator to the far right? Every radiator throughout the house was destroyed when the house endured a Wisconsin winter with no heat. Tom and Barry sought out and found salvaged radiators for every room in this 7,500 square foot house. That's what's so remarkable about the Fargo Manse. To look at it today, you'd never guess that they started with a shell of a building, and brought it back to life.

Another view of this incredible staircase

Another view of this incredible staircase (second floor).

Curved hallway on the second fllor.

Curved hallway on the second floor.

Addies room is at the top of the stairs.

Addie's room is at the top of the stairs.

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman. She was 24 here.

Addie in her wedding gown?

Addie in her wedding gown.

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My favorite photo of all.

My favorite photo of all. I love the detail and the beauty and the opulence. This was Addie in the master bedroom, now known as the Enoch Fargo room.

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Close-up of the bed.

Happier times at the Fargo Mansion

Addie loved her cats. Judging by the look on this one's face, I'm not sure the feeling was mutual.

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Addie stands in a bower of flowers on the grounds of the Fargo Mansion.

The Fargo Mansion today (or yesterday, actually).

The Fargo Mansion as it appears today. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Fargo Mansion in Lake Mills. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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This grandiose Victorian manse was built in 1881 and extensively remodeled about three or four years later. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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The porch of the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

Mattie

Addie sits with someone (Elsie?) on the front porch of the house. The original fretwork and railings are still evident in the contemporary picture (above).

Addie in front of the house

Addie standing in the home's side yard.

Tall tower

Tall tower of the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Porte Cochere on the Fargo Mansion. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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A view of the home's rear. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Addie's obituary.

If you’ve any information to share, please leave a comment below.

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Sears Pre-cut Kit Garages: A Dandy Place for Your Automobile

October 17th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Sears sold kit homes, and they also sold kit garages.  In fact, in the late 1910s, they offered a specialty catalog of nothing but their pre-cut kit garages.

Identifying a “Sears kit garage” is far more difficult than identifying kit homes, because they’re such simple structures.

Two of the “Sears garages” shown below are probably custom-built structures, designed (and built) after the house, and intended to mirror the design elements of the existing home.

Enjoy the photos below.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

The Sears Osborn was a unique home with its oriental peak on the roofline.

The Sears Osborn was a unique home with its "oriental peak" on the roofline.

And God bless these dear owners who had this garage custom-built to match their beautiful Osborn. Sears didnt offer this design in their catalogs, but it sure is a nice match to the original Sears House!

And God bless these dear owners who had this garage custom-built to match their beautiful Osborn. Sears didn't offer this design in their catalogs, but it sure is a nice match to the original Sears House!

Sears

This could be an original Sears garage. It sits on the same lot as a Sears Fullerton in Olmstead, Illinois and has several distinctive features that suggest it certainly could be from Sears.

Is this a Sears garage?

Is this a Sears garage? I'd guess that it may be a "super-sized" Sears garage. It shares living space with a Sears Newbury in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This house is sized to accommodate a post-WW2 sedan. Since Sears stopped selling kit houses (and garages) in 1939, it's more likely to have been added after the fact. Nonetheless, it was beautifully done and it's precise age stumped the expert! (This photograph is courtesy of Sandra Spann and can not be used or reproduced without written permission. Copyright 2011, Sandra Spann.)

In the back pages of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, youll find a page devoted to their garages.

In the back pages of the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog, you'll find a page devoted to their garages.

Notice that one of them is designed to match the Sears Alhambra.

Notice that the lower left garage is designed to match the Sears Alhambra.

Close-up of the Alhambra garage.

Close-up of the Alhambra garage.

The appearance of their kit garages had changed quite a bit by the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The appearance of their kit garages had changed quite a bit by the 1938 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

A second page from the 1938 catalog.

A second page from the 1938 catalog.

And from the 1940 catalog.

And from the 1940 catalog.

This early 1920s specialty catalog was devoted to the kit garages sold by Sears.

This 1919 specialty catalog was devoted to the kit garages sold by Sears. The one featured here is actually a prefab garage, which was shipped in sections, and could be assembled in under six hours (according to Sears).

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For reasons I don't understand, these were called "Star Garages."

Close-up of one of the models

Close-up of one of the models. Notice the five-piece eave brackets which match the Olmstead garage (above).

If you preferred ugly and cheap, they could help with that, too.

If you preferred "ugly and cheap," they could help with that, too.

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Less cheap, but still. Ick. I love how these graphics are flashing a little bit of fender. Kinda sexy, isn't it?

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A pedestrian garage with an ever more pedestrian name.

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"The Manor" even sounds expensive (because it is).

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This is a "simplex" garage, which means it is prefab (shipped in sections, and bolts together pretty darn fast). "Pre-cut" means the house is shipped with pre-cut framing members. A "pre-cut" house (or garage) is similar to a stick-built structure, but the framing members are already cut to the right lengths, so the time-consuming chore of measuring and sawing is already taken care of.

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Another "Simplex" prefab garage. Look at the size!!! 9x12.

To learn more about Sears barns, click here.

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The House of the Future (in 1948)

October 14th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Yesterday, I pulled off the interstate in Nashville, North Carolina to wait for a phone call from my brother. After sitting around for a few minutes, I decided to drive around Nashville and see what I could find.

And I found a Lustron!

Lustron in Nashville, NC

Lustron in Nashville, NC

It’s had a pretty substantial sun room added to the side, but it’s most definitely a Lustron!

And here’s one I found in Irwin, PA.

Lustron in Irwin

This Lustron in Irwin had been lovingly cared for!

Perhaps my favorite Lustron is the one I found in Danville, Virginia. This is such a beautiful photo, I can hardly believe that I’m the photographer!  :)  The deep blue skies and blossoming dogwood in the foreground are pretty nice, too.

Lustron in Danville

Lustron in Danville, Virginia

Lustron

Close-up of the window on Danville's Lustron.

So, what is a Lustron?

It was an all-steel house,  with walls made of 2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel finish. The roof was porcelain enamel steel, and unlike traditional roofing shingles, has a lifespan of at least 60 years (and perhaps much more).

“Never before has America seen a house like this,” read a 1949 advertisement for the Lustron, also hailed as “the house of the future.”

The modest ranches were designed and created by entrepreneur Carl Strandlunds to help deal with the severe housing shortage after World War II. Unfortunately, Lustrons never became very popular. Three years after the company first started (in 1947), it went into bankruptcy. Sixty years later, there’s still much debate about the reasons for the company’s collapse. The debate over the reasons for Lustron’s demise became a topic for a fascinating documentary.

Fewer than 3,000 Lustrons were created, and offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.

Quantico, Virginia was home to the largest collection of Lustrons in the country, but those 60 houses were destroyed by our federal “save the spotted chipmunk, who-cares-if-it’s-a-historically-important-house” bureaucrats.

Yup, all those Lustron houses in Quantico are now gone. Some were moved, most were demolished.

On the inside walls of the Lustrons, nails could not be used. Instead, magnets are used to hang pictures. The porcelain enamel finish on the 2×2 panels is tough, which makes re-painting the panels virtually impossible. The Lustron (seen below) in Danville, Virginia was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin.

Painting a Lustron is akin to painting the top of your grandma’s 1965 Lady Kenmore washing machine. Painting porcelain enamel never ends well.

Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and not surprisingly, Columbus has an abundance of Lustrons. These little post-WW2 prefabs were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins, WV was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Lustron

Lustron in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The three-bedroom Lustrons were far less common than the two-bedroom Lustron. This one is in very good condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

Close-up

Close-up of Lustron wall and window. Homeowner has done a pretty good job of maintaining the home, with touched-up paint applied to exterior. When the porcelain enamel finish is nicked or chipped, it must be painted to prevent rusting of the steel panels. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These shingles are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These "shingles" are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The next Lustron is in Rocky Mount, NC. It’s been painted beige, but it should be draped in black for this little house should be mourned. The little home is now deceased, but the body hasn’t been buried yet. There is significant putrification occurring.

Very, very sad.

And heres a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the skin. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea.

This sad little Lustron appears to have died from carbuncles of the flesh. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Never a good idea to paint a Lustron. There are about 2,500 Lustrons in the country, and they really were ahead of their time. It's heart-wrenching to see one of these remarkable homes abused and abandoned.

Too sad for words.

Too sad for words.

To learn more, I recommend Tom Fetters’ book, “Lustron Homes.” It can be found at Amazon.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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Dr. Oatway, Your Slip is Showing!

October 13th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Dr. Oatway misrepresented the facts on Addie’s death certificate. Or he misrepresented the facts to the state board of health. Either of which tell us, Dr. Oatway filed a false report - with someone.

In 1876, Wisconsin (and many other states) created a “State Board of Health” that compiled facts and stats on communicable diseases. “Health Officers” were appointed (and paid) by the state, and it was their job to help track, record and monitor the prevalence and severity of the dreaded scourges of the day such as diphtheria, small pox, consumption, cholera and typhoid.

Each year, these health officers filed a report with the state, wherein they answered several specific questions. Two of the most interesting questions they were asked were, “Are the laws regarding birth certificates and burial permits enforced in your community?” and “What’s the incidence of communicable disease in your community?”

As mentioned in a prior blog, I was fascinated to see that it wasn’t death certificates the state was interested in, but burial permits. More on that here.

God bless the great state of Wisconsin, which not only preserved these reports, but has put them online. And thanks to Mark Hardin, for finding these reports.  Full text here.

The report referenced in this blog covers the time period during which Addie Hoyt Fargo allegedly died of diphtheria (”Nineteenth Report of the State Board of Health to Wisconsin” for 1901/1902).

And the health officer that filed the report for Lake Mills was our Dr. Oatway. The same Dr. Oatway that attended to Addie as she lay dying from diphtheria. The same Dr. Oatway that filled out her death certificate, and certified it as true, and falsified the burial permit number. The same Dr. Oatway that allegedly falsified this death certificate and later admitted, “No one was fooled.”

In the report he filed with the state of Wisconsin, Oatway stated, “the law requiring the report of dangerous contagious diseases is observed with regard to small pox, diphtheria and scarlet fever only.”

Reporting as the health officer, he mentions the deaths from a number of diseases but he says nothing about any cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills, or deaths from diphtheria in Lake Mills.

But wait, why did he sign (and certify) on Addie’s death certificate that she died of diphtheria?

That’s a pretty big inconsistency. Did he lie on the death certificate, or did he lie when he filed his report with the state?  Because Oatway DID lie, and the question is WHERE?

As my brother Ed would say, “This certainly puts another wheel on the wagon…”

And it gets even better. Further on in the report, Oatway says that “the laws requiring the issuing of burial permits are observed.”

Oh really?

Then why isn’t there a burial permit for Addie? Why did he lie on the death certificate and say there was a burial permit, when there was not? Why did he lie to the state? How many lies did this man tell?

Did Addie die of diphtheria? According to the report he filed with the state of Wisconsin, she did not.

More happy news can be found on page 15 of this report, which states that the deceased victims of diphtheria and other communicable diseases were to be placed in “sturdy coffins.” When Addie’s disinterment day arrives, that could be a real blessing.

To read more about Addie, click here.

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This snippet appeared in the 1902 "Report of the State Board of Health" for Wisconsin and covered the the time period during which Addie Hoyt allegedly died of diphtheria. How did Oatway forget about Addie's horrible diphtheric death?

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This statement, taken from the above text and penned by Oatway, says that if there was a case of diphtheria in his town (Lake Mills), it *would* be reported.

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Unless you're paid off by Enoch Fargo to falsify a death certificate...

Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Under the date (June 1901), Addie's death certificate reads, "Burial Permit #32." State law demanded accuracy in reporting of birth certificates and burial permits. He would be required to lie again when he submitted his written report to the state of Wisconsin.

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Addie's obituary as it appeared in the local paper, soon after her death.

To read more about Addie’s death, click here.

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“The Law Requiring the Report of Dangerous Disease is Observed.” Kinda. Sorta.

October 12th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks (again) to Mark Hardin, I have now read parts of the “Nineteenth Report of the State Board to Health to Wisconsin” for 1901/1902, which covers the time period during which Addie Hoyt Fargo allegedly died of diphtheria. This report was for the state of Wisconsin, and has a listing of all reports from all health officers in Wisconsin cities, towns, villages and townships. Full text here.

Doctor Oatway was the county health officer at the time. The same Dr. Oatway that attended to Addie as she lay dying from diphtheria.

In this report, he states that there were no deaths from diphtheria in the city in 1901. But wait, how can that be? Addie contracted diphtheria. She died of diphtheria. The death certificate states that, and Oatway certified that the death certificate was true, but this report contradicts the death certificate.

What the heck?

So Addie allegedly died of diphtheria, but Oatway didn’t report her diphtheria or subsequent death to the state (in his report below)? Maybe if there’d been a requirement that murder victims be reported to the state of Wisconsin, he would have remembered to report Addie under that column.

No time for a loquacious blog today, so please read the text  in full, and please leave comments below.

As my beloved brother Ed would say, “This certainly puts another wheel on the wagon…”

Page 15 of this report states that the deceased victims of diphtheria and other communicable diseases were to be placed in “sturdy coffins.” When Addie’s disinterment day arrives, that could be a real blessing.

And the best part, is the last line of this report:  Oatway says that “the laws requiring the issuing of…burial permits are observed.”

Wow, wow, wow.

Guess he’d rather lie to the state than end up in jail?

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An interesting read. Read the entire article to get an idea of how much he lied. So, does this mean that he FORGOT about Addie, one of Lake Mills' most prominent citizens? Or did his conscience win the day, and refused to state publicly that she died from a disease process?

Please leave comments below. I always learn so much from other people’s ideas and intelligent insights.

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Addie’s Non-Existent Burial Permit: Even More Important Than Originally Thought

October 11th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

This weekend, I discovered a blog that questioned some of my statements about Addie’s murder. The blog writer feels that Addie was not murdered, and that my conclusions are erroneous.

I’m right, and he’s wrong (I love it when that happens), and I can explain the reasons why.

For instance, this fellow refuted my statement regarding the low mortality rate of diphtheria. (I’d said that in the early 2oth Century, someone in Addie’s age bracket had a 5-10% chance of dying from diphtheria.) His blog denounces that statistic, and claims that the contemporary rate (the 2011 mortality rate) from diphtheria is 10%, but that in the early 20th Century, the mortality rate “was closer to 50%.”

His source for this information is a chart, with lots of pretty colors and squiggly lines, but if he’d looked closer at his own chart, he’d see that it actually represented mortality rates per 100,000 people, and it was a chart referencing disease rates of the population as a whole. In other words, it was designed to show what percentage of the U. S. population had perished in a particular year from diphtheria (and the rate for 1901 was .00004%).

That chart tells us nothing about the 1901 mortality rate for patients afflicted with diphtheria.

Monday morning and afternoon, I spent too many hours reading, “Report of the State Board of Health, State of Wisconsin, 1899-1900″ (and what a page turner that was). The document represents the time period from September 1899 to September 1900, and it’ll have to do until I can find the report for 1900-1901. (Addie died in June 1901.)

Now keep in mind that this report included all ages. Children under five and adults past 40 had twice the mortality rate of other age groups. And within this document was a section titled, “Health Officer’s Correspondence,” with a plethora of notes from physicians declaring that diphtheria often moved through families, killing all the young children. In other words, children’s deaths, due to diphtheria, probably represent a lot of these “mortality rate” numbers.

In the state of Wisconsin, in 1899, the mortality rate for diphtheria was 13% (see graphic below). But being the intrepid researcher, I wanted to learn even more.

In 1900, physicians agreed that proper sanitation was the key to inhibiting the spread of diphtheria-laden germs. Larger cities with sanitation issues and close living arrangements had higher mortality rates. For instance, in Milwaukee, the mortality rate for diphtheria was 16.75%. Conversely, if you just looked at the cities and villages with 2,000 people or less, the mortality rate was a mere 9.1%.

[Milwaukee (population 280,000), reported 746 cases of diphtheria and 125 deaths. Conversely, the smaller towns of Menomonie, Kaukauna, Hortonville and Westfield reported 10, 6, 5 and 4 cases of diphtheria and no deaths. In Schleisingervhle, there were 20 cases and only 1 death. This was pretty typical of small towns in Wisconsin.]

Back to cities and villages with less than 2,000 people:  About 9% of the people in those areas perished from diphtheria. Bear in mind, that 9.1% rate included children. If you could strip away the “under five and more than 40″ group, the number would surely be significantly less. In Hay River, there was one case of diphtheria and one death: A child.

Hay River Health Officer J. C. Lake’s report says that he would not have lost that one child if the parents had sought help earlier.

In the 1890s, diphtheria rates began to decline, due to the discovery and availability of an anti-toxin, developed by German scientist Emil von Behring. By 1895, the anti-toxin was in production in the United States, and in use throughout the country.

All of which is to say, the 1900 mortality rate of 9.1% is very believable, and if we could extract adults from that number, it would surely be much lower.

In conclusion, I stand by my original statement. The odds that Addie died from diphtheria are pretty low. Factor in her age (29 years old), and her duration of illness (16 hours) and those odds become almost laughable.

And more to the point, there were zero cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills and surrounding areas. And this was not uncommon. About 25% of Wisconsin’s small cities had no reported cases of diphtheria. In these smaller towns, there was lots of small pox, pneumonia. consumption, la grippe, and dysentery, but no diphtheria.

In the anti-Addie blog mentioned above, there was another fact he took exception to. He claimed that the lack of a burial permit proved only that there’d been a bureaucratic boo-boo. My afternoon in this dusty old tome proved him wrong on that score, too.

With few exceptions, the physicians’ comments included a statement such as, “The laws requiring the reporting of births and burial permits are observed,” or some physicians wrote, “The laws requiring the reporting of births are not always observed because neighbor women sometimes attend to the birth…”

In regards to the burial permit, most doctors said that the “reporting of burial permits are always observed…”

The lone exception was a health officer in a rural setting who stated that all of his deceased patients did have “properly filled out burial permits,” but then his report took an interesting turn with a commentary about a quack on the edge of town and “who knows what he’s doing out there.”

I was impressed that there were two documents the state wanted a report on: Birth certificates and burial permits. Not death certificates, but BURIAL permits. This tells me that burial permits were considered an important state document and it was expected that health officers would make certain that these records were meticulously maintained.

Of the 135 physicians’ reports that I read, there was only one that said that “the laws regarding the issuing of burial permits are strictly maintained.”

Notice the addition of that word, “strictly”?

That statement with its extra important words came from the health officer in Lake Mills.

Yup.

Lake Mills.

Perhaps if someone died out on the farm and was buried in the family plot and later moved to a city cemetery, there would not have been a burial permit from the city of Lake Mills.

But if someone (oh, say, someone like Addie) died in the city of Lake Mills, and was attended to by a local physician (oh say, someone like Oatway) who just happens to be the HEALTH OFFICER who understands that he’ll be duty bound to file a report in a few weeks, explaining that “laws regarding the issue of burial permits are strictly maintained,” then I’d guess that someone like Addie had darn well better have a burial permit filed and properly executed.

Oatway knew that the state required that Addie’s death certificate have a burial permit number, so he made one up. Oatway also knew that Enoch’s demand that Addie be buried at once (before 10:00 am the next morning), prevented Oatway from getting a legitimate burial permit, so he falsified the document and made up a burial permit number (#32), and then signed a sworn affidavit that the information was true.

So which is worse, conspiring to cover up a murder, or malfeasance and violation of state law?

Thanks to Mark Hardin for finding this report from early 20th Century Wisconsin!! What an amazing bunch of facts and figures!!

To learn more about Addie, click here.

To see the talk Rose gave in Lake Mills, click here.


Lake Mills

Lake Mills' Health Officer Dr. Dodge states here that the "laws requiring the report of births and the issuing of burial permits are strictly observed." Of the 135 reports that I read, only one contained the phrase "strictly observed" and that was the report from the Lake Mills Health Officer.

burial

Stats on diphtheria deaths, as seen in the 1899-1900 "Report of the State Board of Health." In smaller towns, the mortality rate from diphtheria was much less than the statewide average of 13%, and was closer to 9%. In Milwaukee (Wisconsin's largest town with 280,000 residents), the mortality rate was closer to 16.75%.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo. This is labeled as their wedding photo from 1896.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo in 1896 at the time of their wedding. Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch. He allegedly murdered Addie so that he could marry Maddie Hoyt (no relation).

And perhaps

Addie at age 24 (left) and age 29 (right). Life with Enoch was hard. On the right, notice the swollen lip, skewed nose and puffy eyes. She hardly looks like the same woman.

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Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Addie's death certificate, falsified by Dr. Oatway. Under the date (June 1901), it reads, "Burial Permit #32." State law demanded accuracy in reporting of birth certificates and burial permits. He would be required to lie again when he submitted his written report to the state of Wisconsin. That's the problem with lying; one lie requires another and another and another.

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This burial permit (#21) is dated May 1st, and the death occurred the day before - April 30th.

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Addie's should have been permit #22 (judging by the date). But "John Smith" died on June 26th, and this burial permit was dated June 27th. Addie died on June 19, 1901.

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As mentioned above, burial permits were required for every grave that was opened. This burial permit was for a stillborn baby (unnamed). As cemetery sexton Bill Hartwig explained, a burial permit was required for every grave - no exceptions. This was the only permit I saw that had the same permit date and death date. In the case of an unnamed, stillborn child, the logistics involved in burial were very different.

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On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there.  Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, hed up and move to Waukesha.

On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there. Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, he'd up and move to Waukesha.

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Addie's obituary as it appeared in the local paper, soon after her death.

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This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

Addie

Her life ended when she was 29 years old.

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman.

The fam sitting in front of the house in Lake Mills, WI. Enoch is at the top, with Addie below him. Enochs two daughters are Elsie and Mattie.

The fam sitting in front of the house in Lake Mills, WI. Enoch is at the top, with Addie below him. Enoch's two daughters are Elsie (top right) and Mattie (lower right). Elsie (1876-1959) married a McCammon. Mattie (1883-1956) became Mattie Fargo Raber.

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Fluffy plays with Addie

Addie loved cats.

Talk about a feather in your cap!

And the cats tolerated her.

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Unknown person

Addie preparing for a trip.

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was murdered by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

And heres Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for.

And here's Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for. Contrary to local lore, she was not related to the Hoyts of Lake Mills in anyway. Maddie Louise Harbeck Hoyt Fargo was born seven years before her mother (Marie Harbeck) married Henry Hoyt. In 1880, Maddie (then seven years old) was living with her grandparents in Lake Mills. Her grandmother was Elizabeth Fargo Harbeck.

To read more about Addie and Annie Hoyt, click here.

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