As of Thursday (November 3rd) at 11:45 am, Addie Hoyt Fargo is no longer in Lake Mills. (Update: Read the autopsy results here!)
Her skeletal remains were removed from the grave that bears her name and transported to Milwaukee, for a state-of-the-art, top-notch autopsy by Milwaukee Medical Examiner, Dr. Brian Peterson and Dr. Fred Anapol, Professor of Anthropology at University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
November 3rd was Addie’s exhumation day. To read more about why this exhumation was performed, click here.
At 7:15 am, I arrived at the gravesite. At 7:30, Minister McBride met me there, and we “gathered together” at Addie’s gravesite and asked for God’s blessings on the exhumation.
In all my travels, I don’t know when I’ve met a more Christly individual than Bill McBride. Lake Mills is richly blessed to have such a spiritual warrior in their midst.
And I think many of us present at the exhumation felt that Christly presence at this holy event. I know I did.
At 8:00 a.m., David Olsen (Olsen Funeral Home, Jefferson) arrived to assist the family (that’d be me). David Olsen is one of the heroes in this story, and without him, Addie’s exhumation would never have happened. I can’t say enough good things about this incredible man. He volunteered his services and gave countless hours of his time to make this come together.
His motive: He said it was the “right thing to do.”
Attorney Kurt Anderson arrived about 8:45 am. Like Dave Olsen, he was also a hero in this story. Without Kurt, there would not have been an exhumation. He spent countless hours working to get the court order and dealt with other legal issues.
Tom Boycks arrived about 9:00 am, and as soon as I laid eyes him, he gave me a big, warm smile. I was so happy to see him there. Innkeepers Tom Boycks and Barry Luce were another pair of angelic helpers in this story. I could talk for days about their many kindnesses. And don’t get me started on their gorgeous mansion. During my prolonged stay in Lake Mills, they treated me like a member of their own family, and permitted me to stay at their home.
Dr. Brian Peterson and Dr. Fred Anapol arrived at the cemetery about 9:40 am. (The exhumation was scheduled to start at 10:00 am.) These two men were the consummate professionals. As I watched them work, at times on their knees in the damp grave, I felt that Addie was smiling from above, pleased that all the right people had stepped into my life at exactly the right time, to unearth the truth. God, His Angels and maybe Addie herself didn’t just send me helpers; She sent me the “best of the best.”
As expected, skeletal remains were found in Addie’s grave, and the bones were mostly intact.
Yesterday, as the exhumation progressed, there were a few surprises.
First, a fact: I learned that coffins were typically buried at a depth of about 6-8 feet deep in Wisconsin.
Addie’s remains were found at 34″ (as measured by the medical examiner).
If she were in an 18″ high coffin, the top of the coffin would have been 16″ below the top of the soil. That’s an extremely shallow grave and a disturbing bit of evidence. (She was buried June 19, 1901. The ground would not have been frozen.)
This, coupled with the fact that there’s no burial permit for Addie is suspicious, and it suggests that it was not a professional grave digger who dug the grave.
Addie was wearing dress shoes, black leather with a tight lace on the front, and a small heel.
I’m still wrapping my mind around this. She died at 2:00 am from diphtheria. According to the obit, the disease was so fast-acting and so awful that she died in 16 hours, and was hastily buried and in the ground by 10:00 am. That’s eight hours later. If you were in bed, dying from diphtheria, would you be wearing your dress shoes? And if you died of a communicable disease and you were in the ground eight hours later, do you think someone would take the time to put on your high-top lace-up shoes? Probably not. They knew there’d be no viewing. Why was she wearing shoes? I’m still thinking about this.
Inside the grave were countless pieces of broken window glass, and it’s possible that the container in which Addie was buried had a glass top, but that doesn’t make sense either, because of the thickness of window glass. It was so thin that the first shovel full of dirt would have cracked the too-thin glass.
Update: We’re now fairly confident that this coffin had a small viewing window on the top. These were known as “safety coffins,” because they provided a means for viewing the deceased without the threat of contagion. Was it a “display coffin”? Was it the only thing in stock at 4:00 am at the local funeral home? Enoch knew there’d be no viewing. Why did he use such a coffin?
Second update! Unfortunately, due in large part to the extremely shallow grave (she was buried at 34″, above the frost line), and the length of time (110 years), and some missing pieces (much of her skull was missing), the autopsy was inconclusive. To read more about the autopsy results, click here..
To read more about Addie, click here.
To read about the inconsistencies in Addie’s obituary, click here.
The city required this "fence" at the site.
Addie's grave is now empty.
Addie's head stone in Lake Mills is now a cenotaph.
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