Christmas 1900: Addie’s Special Gift to Wilbur
I’ve heard coincidences defined as “wonderful little miracles where God chooses to remain anonymous.”
When you look back at the many events that had to transpire in order for Addie’s picture albums to end up in my possession, it surely does appear to be a long string of God’s anonymous miracles.
It started in 1896, when Addie and/or Enoch hired a professional photographer to capture the story of their day to day life at the Fargo Mansion Inn. The picture album in my possession represents a five-year span, which is quite remarkable. And then sometime in late 1900, Addie - who was obviously a woman who prided herself on her appearance - permitted someone to take her photo when she was not looking her best.
In fact, she looked awful.
In addition, her hairline has receded. This is not the look of someone styling their hair a little differently. This is a hairline that has moved back significantly. Look around the ears, and you can see this even more. In fact, the smooth hairline around the perimeter of her forehead is gone, and in its place is a zig-zag hariline, looking more like a hairplug job gone wrong, rather than a 29-year-woman’s scalp.
Why did she permit herself to be photographed in this condition? Had she been poisoned with arsenic? Typical signs of arsenic poisoning are hair loss. Laying that to the side for a moment, why all the bruising about her face? Was she being beaten by Enoch? People who are ready to discount this out-of-hand need to study their history a little better. In late 19th Century America, there were many who thought it was a man’s duty to “keep his wife in line,” and women were considered more akin to children than equal partners.
I don’t know what’s going on with Addie in this photo, but it’s a radical departure from all the other photos in Addie’s album. And it’s on a remarkably different cardstock (much lighter and thinner) and it had faded significantly (as compared to the other photos). In fact, this photo appeared to be more of a snapshot, whereas the others seemed to be professionally done.
Why did Addie include this small photo in the album she sent to her brother-in-law Wilbur for Christmas 1900? Was it a plea for help? Was it Addie’s way of telling her only surviving family that she was being beaten by her husband?
Seven months after Anna (Addie’s sister) and Wilbur (Anna’s husband) received this parcel at their home in Denver, 29-year-old Addie was dead. According to Enoch’s granddaughter Mary Wilson (author of The History of Lake Mills), Addie did not die of diphtheria (as is stated on the death certificate), but was murdered by her husband, Enoch Fargo.
In 1939, Wilbur died and a short time later, his widow (Anna Hoyt Whitmore) moved to Santa Monica, to be near her daughter, Florence Whitmore Fuller. Anna Hoyt Whitmore died in 1966, at the age of 99 years and four months. She’d outlived her baby sister by 70 years.
As Florence and her husband Edgar A. Fuller went through Anna’s many possessions, they decided to keep this old photo album.
In the mid-1980s, both Florence and Edgar passed on, and my father (their son), drove out to California and cleaned out their massive old house. He dragged home a U-haul, filled with things from their home in Santa Monica.
And then June 2011, my father died, three days shy of his 92nd birthday. Amongst his few possessions, I discovered this photo album.
On June 25, 2011, I sent an email to my friend David Spriggs asking him, “Hey, I found this photo album and I don’t know who these people are. Can you help me?”
It’s hard to imagine that it all started with a Christmas present, 111 years ago this Christmas.
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