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A History of Lake Mills and The Story of a Murder

“A number of persons who knew [Enoch] will tell the same story - he shot Addie!”

So wrote Mary Wilson (Enoch’s granddaughter) on page 274 of A History of Lake Mills.

Since the articles on Addie have started to appear, I’ve received a surprising number of supportive comments from people who tell me, “I knew Mary Wilson personally, and she was very proud of her book and her work. If Mary Wilson said that Enoch murdered Addie, you can believe that it’s true.”

In fact, three long-time Lake Mills residents have told me that yes, Mary was a little eccentric, but she was also a thorough and honest historian, and she was a woman that was ahead of her time. In an article that appeared in the Tahlequah Daily Press on Mother’s Day 2008, Mary Wilson’s son (E.  James Fargo Wilson) was quoted as saying, “[Mary] was way ahead of her time.” (It’s a fascinating piece, and you can read the full article here.)

Last week, I called Tom Boycks, who (together with Barry Luce) owns the Fargo Mansion Inn in Lake Mills. The first time I met Tom, he proudly displayed his own copy of Mary’s book, The History of Lake Mills, hand-delivered to him almost 30 years ago by Mary Wilson herself.

Tom and Barry knew Mary Wilson very well, and thought very highly of her.

I asked Tom about something that Mary did not address in her book: The source of the story about Addie’s murder.

“Barry and I closed on the mansion in April of 1985,” Tom said. “And it wasn’t long after we closed that Mary Wilson came to the house and introduced herself. The house was still boarded up and it was a real mess in here. Mary Wilson stood right in the foyer, and pointed up at the top of the staircase and said, ‘That’s where my grandfather did Addie Hoyt in - right at the top of the stairs. She was his second wife. To cover it up, he got the doctor to alter the death record.’”

And how does Tom remember that conversation so well?

As they came to know Mary Wilson, she re-told them that story about Addie’s murder, and there was never any deviation from its original telling.

And the source of the story?

Tom said, “Mary Wilson told us that it was her mother, Elsie Fargo Mccammon (Enoch’s daughter), who told Mary about the murder of Enoch’s second wife. It was Elsie that told Mary about Enoch killing his second wife at the top of the staircase.”

Elsie was born in 1876, so she was a scant four years younger than Addie. At the time of Addie’s death, Elsie was 25 years old, and according to the 1900 census, Elsie was living at the Fargo Mansion.

And speaking as a historian and a mother, this account - handed down from Elsie to Mary - is one of the most important pieces of evidence that Addie Hoyt Fargo was indeed murdered.

Why would a mother tell this fantastic story to her daughter, unless it was true?

By all accounts, Elsie was an upstanding, moral, and respectable member of her community. She picked an ordained Methodist minister (Reverend Charles Mccammon) to be her life partner, and remained married to him until his death in 1946. It does not seem likely that a woman like this would lie to her own child about something so important.

Why did Elsie share this story with Mary? Maybe she didn’t want the story of this crime to be forgotten or lost.

Sadly, I’ve also heard from people who attempt to disparage and discredit Mary Wilson’s telling of these events. At the end of her long life (1910 - 1999), Mary Wilson is said to have suffered some dementia, but her book was published in 1983, and speaking as a fellow writer, I’d venture to guess she’d been working on this book for many years prior to its publication. Those who knew her in the early 1980s tell me that Mary was sharp as a tack.

The handful of negative comments I’ve received about Mary Wilson have come from Lake Mills’ natives and/or residents. And that strikes me as especially unfortunate, because those are the very people that Mary was seeking to help and to bless. In the preface of The History of Lake Mills, Mary wrote,

Thanks to my supportive friends, and those who are very interested in the preservation of local history. Also, I would like to recognize the encouragement given by the members of my family. With gratitude, we shall remember those who parted the branches for those of us who followed.

In writing this 820-page tome, it’s clear that Mary was striving to preserve the history of Lake Mills, and I, for one, am grateful that she “parted the branches” for those of us who are following in her footsteps.

To learn more about the history of the Fargo Mansion, click here.

To learn about visiting the Fargo Mansion, click here.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about Addie, please share this link with others on Facebook!

Elsie

Elsie Fargo was the daughter of Enoch James Fargo and Mary Rutherford Fargo. Elsie married Reverend Mccammon, and they had two children, Paul and Mary. It was Elsie's daughter (Mary Wilson) who wrote the book, "The History of Lake Mills." According to Mary Wilson, her information about Addie's murder came from Elsie Fargo Mccammon.

Mary WilsonElsie Fargo at the Fargo Mansion, about 1899. Elsie told her daughter, Mary Wilson, that Enoch murdered Addie.
Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion.

Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion.

The Fargo Mansion in the late 1890s.

The Fargo Mansion in the late 1890s.

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  1. Mandie Brewer
    December 18th, 2011 at 23:23 | #1

    I worked with Alzheimer and Dementia patients for several years, and yes that would have been one of the longest drawn out cases anyone has ever seen. Plus, the disease is like hitting rewind on a VCR (or a DVD) and the oldest memories are the last lost. She would have held onto what her mother said until the end. If she had progressed far enough in the disease to become “weakened mentally” she would have not been able to figure out HOW to write a book, let alone get one published.

  2. pebbleintx
    December 19th, 2011 at 00:37 | #2

    Mary Wilson was a smart, kind woman that was well educated and had a natural love for history. I knew her well, and was impressed with her mental acuity, before and after the time she was writing that book. Mary was confident about the content of the book and the progression of the historic facts she included. She was absolutely of “of sound mind” during the course of writing her book and publishing it.

  3. Karla Vitense Schroedl Kenevan
    December 19th, 2011 at 15:10 | #3

    Just goes to show…truth is larger than fiction!! Excellent research!

  4. pebbleintx
    December 20th, 2011 at 21:47 | #4

    Elsie Fargo Mccammon, Mary’s mother, was a beautiful woman. Has anyone run across any pictures of Mary Mccammon Wilson when she was young?

  5. Linda Derse
    December 21st, 2011 at 10:11 | #5

    Rose it was declared in a court of law that you where Addie’s next of kin. So I don’t understand WHY YOU can’t have the foot stone removed from the cemetery. Addie is no longer there. People going to the cemetery from now on (and I am sure there will be plenty) will get the wrong impression by her stone being there. I’m sure they’ll assume - logically - that her body is still entombed there. That is very wrong. Is it so Enoch’s relatives can place flowers there? I don’t get it.

  6. Steve Masche
    December 21st, 2011 at 17:58 | #6

    I too knew Mary Wilson for many years, and she always was involved with helping underprivileged children and with city affairs.

    Sometimes it seemed that the people who were running the city didn’t care what Mary had to say, maybe they thought she was just a busy body, but they didn’t know her. I also have a copy of her book that she signed for me.

    Just recently I picked up a copy of the Greenwood’s State Bank calendar, which contains old photos of the city and some residents. As I was looking at the pictures, I noticed a picture that had some town residents in it, and the lady in the photo looked a lot like Addie!

    The date on the bottom says 1913 but that could be a error, or maybe I just think she looks like Addie. I haven’t looked at it under a magnifying glass and the only pictures of Addie are the ones I’ve seen that you have. I’m always interested in history and I am glad that you are trying to solve an old mystery. Thank you for keeping it alive for all of us, I think your doing Addie a great service, If only we all could have known her!.

    Steve

  7. JODY cHENEY
    December 26th, 2011 at 11:01 | #7

    I also knew Mary through her son John Wilson. We attended school together and I was at her home a number of times.

    I also have a signed copy of the her book, “A History of Lake Mills.” I loved living in that little town and they were some of the happiest memories of my childhood, but there was one thing. Mary was not always supported by the townspeople because she was considered a rebel.

    Imagine, a historian with that much knowledge of the town’s history a rebel. Well I guess there were many famous persons considered rebels because their thinking did not conform with what the opinion of the majority.

    But one thing I want to add is this. I think the stone should remain. It is history and Addie was Enoch’s second wife and she was buried there. She is at peace at home with Rosemary now, but we do not want to see a piece of Lake Mills’ history lost. That is one thing we are railing against at this point. Like it or not, Addie was from Lake Mills and she did marry that old coot, and she was - at the time of her death - a Fargo.

    That did not change her, and all of her photos maintain the grace of that wonderful person, but lets not change that history. Leave the stone so future generations will know the truth about Addie. We’re most interested in Truth, and we’re fighting for the Truth, and the truth is, Addie was his second wife, and she is no longer there, and he can no longer harm her. So be it. Just my opinion.

  8. Samantha Shelton
    December 30th, 2011 at 06:21 | #8

    It’s just so sad to read about Addie’s death, and I have to think if her death was as horrible as it sure as hell looks, her life with that S.O.B must have been a living hell! To know that there was no hope for her, no one to come to her rescue, is just as equally disturbing. Hopelessness is an awful feeling for anyone to have.

    The whole town must have know of what was going on in that house, but out of fear they did nothing. Enoch the narcissist, I know that breed of man all too well. My ex-husband literally beat all of my front teeth out of my mouth but I’m still here, with a pretty new smile. But that was because I had someone to rescue me, so I suppose I should feel lucky. May Addie rest in peace, and finally get the justice that she deserves!

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