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All Things Considered…

February 19th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

Monday evening, a 50-second snippet of my interview with NPR radio host Jon Kalish, was featured on NPR’s program, All Things Considered.

I haven’t had the nerve to listen to it yet, but I’m told that the program was well done.

If you’d like to listen to it online, you can click here.

This must be a very popular program, because my website traffic has doubled in the last three days.

Train

All things considered, this is one of my favorite train photos! I love this picture because it looks like a photo of a model train set, but in fact, it's all life size! :D This excursion train is in Elkins, WV.

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To read about Sears Houses, click here.

To learn more about Aunt Addie, click here.

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Waynesboro and Their Kit Homes, Part III

June 16th, 2013 Sears Homes 5 comments

Thanks to Staunton resident and old house lover Linda Ramsey, we’ve now made several fun discoveries of kit homes in Waynesboro, using only Linda’s photos, good work and persistence!  (To read Waynesboro Part I click here. For Part II, click here.)

And Linda’s most recent find is the very rare Gordon Van Tine “Bristol” - right there in Waynesboro, Virginia.

She sent several photos to me several weeks ago, and among those photos was a perfect Alhambra and also a Collingwood (Sears House). In my excitement, I overlooked the best one in the bunch - the GVT Bristol!

In just the last few hours, Rachel Shoemaker and Linda Ramsey have identified several more kit homes in Waynesboro.

As a native of Virginia (and resident of Norfolk), I’d love to return to Waynesboro sometime soon and do a thorough street-by-street survey of the city. Judging by Linda’s many finds, when I was in Waynesboro in May, I missed “the sweet spot.”

When you’re a flat-lander tourist driving yourself around an old town, it can be tough to 1) stay on the road, 2) not sideswipe any parked cars, 3) not impale pedestrians with your hood ornament, 4) stare intently at each and every house.

I’ve done hundreds of architectural surveys in hundreds of cities, and I’d love to get some folks in Waynesboro involved in the fun!

Lastly, I’d be willing to bet that the home’s current owners do not know what they have.

Do you live in a Sears Home in Waynesboro?

To read the prior blogs featuring the kit homes in Waynesboro, click here and here.

To contact Rose and ask about her availability, please leave a comment below.

Thanks to Linda Ramsey for finding this house and thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for supplying the vintage catalog images.

If you’re in Waynesboro, please share this blog with anyone and everyone!!!

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The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine catalog. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker (who not only found this rare GVT model in her many catalogs, but also scanned the image and sent it along).

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Floorplan

So many of the floorplans for these kit homes were "similar" but the Bristol's unique shape afforded it a little extra flair on the room arrangement. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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I wonder if the home's current owners find that their home "commands enthusiastic admiration." It's quite unlikely that the home's owners know what they have a historically significant home. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker

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This was an unusually fine home. Look at the cathedral ceiling in the living room. I know of only one other kit house that had a raised ceiling like this, and that was a house offered by Pacific Ready Cut Homes in Los Angeles. This is a most unusual (and elegant) feature for a kit home. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine. Thanks to Rachel Shoemaker for sharing the catalog image!

The Bristol, from the 1935 Gordon Van Tine. Image is courtesy Rachel Shoemaker.

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Waynesboro

Be still my heart. I went through Waynesboro in May 2013, but I surely did miss this house. Fortunately, Sears House researcher Linda Ramsey did not miss it. And, I must say, it does appear to be a GVT Bristol. All the details are just right. Photograph is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And there's that unusually high roof. If it's not a GVT Bristol, it sure is doing a good imitation of one! Photograph is copyright 2013 Linda Ramsey and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read the prior blogs featuring the kit homes in Waynesboro, click here and here.

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The Sears Home in Needham, Massachusetts

May 24th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Last week, I visited Needham, Massachusetts and spent time with my daughter, Anna Rose.

After a Saturday morning breakfast, we were driving back to her house when I saw a house that caught my eye on Webster Avenue. As she pulled up to a nearby stop sign, I hopped out of the car (much to my daughter’s surprise), and said, “Circle the block and pick me up in a few minutes!”

Not only had I spotted a Sears House, but it was a Sears Ivanhoe, one of their biggest and best kit homes!  Unfortunately, due to the many trees, I was not able to get a good photo, but there’s definitely a fine-looking Ivanhoe hiding behind all those trees!

Later in the day, I drove around town a bit more, but didn’t see any other kit homes. Then again, I probably only saw 30% of the pre-WW2 neighborhoods in Needham. And Needham is a very difficult community to navigate! The streets are very narrow and the traffic is very heavy.

Did I miss a few? I’m betting that I did.

If you’re new to this site, you may be wondering, what IS a Sears kit home?

In the early 1900s, you could buy an entire house out of the Sears Roebuck catalog. These were not prefab houses, but real “kits” (with about 12,000 pieces of building materials!). The lumber came pre-cut and numbered to help facilitate construction. Those numbers, together with a 75-page instruction book, and blueprints designed for a novice, enabled a “man of average abilities” to build their own home.

In fact, Sears promised that you could have a house assembled and ready for occupancy in 90 days! When Sears closed their “Modern Homes” department in 1940, all sales records were destroyed, so the only way to find these homes in one by one. In fact, based on my 12 years of experience, more than 90% of the people living in these homes didn’t realize what they had until I knocked on their door and told them.

This is a piece of American history that is at great risk of being lost, which is why I travel all over the country, take photos and maintain this blog.

Do you know of more kit homes in the Boston neighborhoods? Please leave a comment below!

To read about another kit home I found in New England, click here.

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Needham is a suburb of Boston and to the flat-lander tourist, this appears to be an incredibly prosperous community.

Needham is a suburb of Boston and to the flat-lander tourist, it appears to be an incredibly prosperous community. The architecture is thoughtfully preserved and - with few exceptions - in excellent (original) condition. It's also a town full of churches. The Baptist Church is shown above.

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The Sears Home I found in Needham is an Ivanhoe, one of the largest, fanciest, and most expensive models that Sears offered (1920).

The Sears Home I found in Needham is an "Ivanhoe," one of the largest and fanciest models that Sears offered (1920). It was more than 2,000 square feet, not including the sunporches.

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The dotted lines on the floorplan represented beamed ceilings (made of oak).

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Great symmetry! And notice the side porches. Plus, there was quite a bit of space on the 3rd floor.

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This Ivanhoe is in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

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Another Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois.

Another Ivanhoe in Monmouth, Illinois. Photo is copyright 2010 Carol Parish and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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And heres the Ivahoe in Needham!

And here's the Ivahoe in Needham! Unfortunately, due to the abundance of trees, I had a heck of a time getting a photo of the house, but it's definitely a Sears Ivanhoe!

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Detail of the dormer on the 3rd floor.

Detail of the dormer on the 3rd floor.

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Another classic feature of the Ivanhoe are those oversized eaves. I was delighted to see that the house in Needham has not been decimated with aluminum trim and substitute sidings.

Another classic feature of the Ivanhoe are those oversized eaves. I was delighted to see that the house in Needham has not been decimated with aluminum trim and substitute sidings. These houses were built with all cypress exteriors. Cypress was billed as "The Wood Eternal." Because it's an oily, dense wood, it's naturally resistant to wood rot and insect infestation.

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A view from the other side.

A view from the other side. Again, the landscaping made it very difficult.

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And unlike 90% of the Ivanhoes I've seen, this one in Needham still retains its original little windows in the living room. The house is currently being remodeled. I hope the windows survive!

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And it sits on a big spacious lot!

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I’d love to hear from folks in Needham. Are there other kit homes in the city? Please contact me by leaving a comment below!

Want to learn more about the superior quality building materials that were used in Sears Homes? Click here.

To learn more about kit homes in Boston, click here.

To learn more about Anna, click here.

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Christmas at the Fargo Mansion

December 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

It’s been about a year since I last stayed at the Fargo Mansion Inn in Lake Mills, Wisconsin but the many fond memories of that visit still remain. Many folks in that small, picturesque village showed me so many kindnesses. And two of the kindest, most sincere people I met during that trip were Tom Boycks and Barry Luce, owners of the Fargo Mansion Inn.

Were it not for these two, the 7,500-square foot Queen Anne mansion would have been reduced to several tons of construction debris at the county landfill. It was slated for demolition when they stepped in and bought it, sans heat, plumbing and electricity.

It’s been 25 years since those two saved this house, and today, it’s hard to imagine what Lake Mills would look like without this most impressive manse.

Since purchasing the solid-brick, 112-year-old house, Barry and Tom have poured their heart and soul (and a lot of money) into a thoughtful and thorough restoration. Visiting this house should be high on your “bucket list.” To make a reservation, click here.

The Fargo Mansion first came into my life in Summer 2011, shortly after my father’s death. Amongst his things, I found two old photo albums. One of the albums had an inscription: “Merry Christmas, Wilbur.”

Wilbur was my great-grandfather, but who was Addie Hoyt Fargo? Well, that’s a long story. To learn more about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To see pictures of Addie’s House, all dressed up for Christmas, scroll down!  (Thanks to Jan Vanderheiden for the photos!)

To read about Addie’s special Christmas present to Wilbur in 1900, click here.

To reserve a room at the Fargo Mansion (and see more gorgeous photos), click here.

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Addies house as it appeared in 1896, soon after a major remodeling.

Addie's house as it appeared in 1896, soon after a major remodeling.

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This beautiful house underwent a major remodeling in 1895 and 1896. Today, its a nationally known B&B. Addie would be proud!

This beautiful house underwent a major remodeling in 1895 and 1896. Today, it's a nationally known B&B. Addie would be proud! (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Inside, Tom and Barry have done a beautiful job of decorating the house for the holidays.

Inside, Tom and Barry have done a beautiful job of decorating the house for the holidays. (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Addie also did a fine job of decorating, back in 1896.

Addie also did a fine job of decorating, back in 1896. This photo faces the same corner as the contemporary photo shown above. Sadly, that newel post light ("Our Lady of the Naked Light") disappeared in the intervening decades.

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Tom and Barry love this old house, and it really shows.

Tom and Barry love this old house, and it really shows. (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Addie loved her house, too.

Addie loved her house, too. In the background, you can see that massive staircase and reception hall. Look at the fretwork and heavy curtains over the doorways.

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I love the vintage toys at the base of the tree. This tree sits at the base of the staircase. (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Notice the magnolia leaves on the Electrolier!

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When my father died in June 2011, I found this photo album buried in an old nightstand. Apparently Addie gave this to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore for a Christmas gift.

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Heres a picture of Addie with her older sister, Anna. Anna (born 1866) married Wilbur and moved to Denver. Wilbur and Annas families were both from Lake Mills and theyre my great-grandparents.

Here's a picture of Addie with her older sister, Anna. Anna (born 1866) married Wilbur and moved to Denver. Wilbur and Anna's families were both from Lake Mills and they're my great-grandparents.

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Wilbur and Anna about the time of their engagement (late 1880s).

Wilbur and Anna about the time of their engagement (late 1880s).

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To learn more about the Hoyts, click here.

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Writing for Fun and Fame, Minus the Fortune

December 19th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Writing about Sears Homes has been a fun gig, but my income from this career has been quite modest. But, there are other means of compensation beyond dollars.

Last year, my co-author Dale and I wrote a book on the kit homes of Montgomery Ward. As part of this research, I pored over old Wardway Homes catalogs, reading the many testimonials from happy customers. And I saw an especially interesting testimonial from a man named “Ringer” in Quinter, Kansas.

“We are well pleased with our Ohio which bought of you,” wrote Mathias Ringer in the 1919 Wardway Homes catalog. “Everybody is welcome on the Ringer Ranch. Everything is modern and is from Montgomery Ward, furniture and all. We want to build two more of these later on” (page 44).

Feeling bold, I sent a letter to all the Ringers in Quinter, Kansas and told them about my project.  Within 30 days, I had a letter from a Gail Ringer, telling me that Mathias Ringer was his grandfather and that Mathias had relocated to Quinter from Somerset County, Pennsylvania to get away from the coal mines. Then 19 years old, Mathias was told that he had the early stages of black lung, and that if he got out of the coal mines and into a better climate, he might live many more years.

And that’s how Mathias Ringer landed in Quinter, Kansas.

Gail Ringer invited me to come to Quinter and stay with him for a few days and see the Wardway Ohio (a spacious cross-gabled kit home) that his grandfather had built. I readily accepted the invitation.

I arrived in Quinter in early August 2007, and the Ringers treated me like long-lost family. Gail Ringer regaled me with stories of his grandfather and father. He shared his memories of growing up in the Wardway Ohio (pictured below).

This whole trip really demonstrates the true benefits of being a writer. I had the time of my life, and it was a delight to find people who had such a clear and strong sense of family and integrity.

Last year,  I received a letter in the mail that my friend Gail Ringer had passed on.  It had been my hope that he’d see a copy of this new book on Wardway Homes before he died (with his interview inside), but it didn’t work out that way.

In the letter from Gail’s son, he wrote, “His anticipation of your 2007 visit was like a spring tonic for him. When the plans for your arrival began to materialize, he perked up immensely. Thanks so much for your part in reviving his spirit.”

As I said, sometimes the best recompense comes in non-pecuniary forms.

Gail Ringer

Gail Ringer was a class act and a true gentleman and also possessed an amazing memory. He invited me - a total stranger - to come stay at his home in Kansas while I did research for my book on Wardway Homes. Meeting people like Gail is one of the true and enduring joys of being a writer.

Wardway Ohio - from the 1921 Wardway catalog

Wardway Ohio - from the 1921 Wardway catalog

Testimonial that caught my eye in the Wardway Homes catalog

Testimonial in slightly different form in the 1921 Wardway Homes catalog

The Ringer Ranch in Kansas

The Ringer Ranch in Kansas

And sometimes, there’s a little bit of fame, too!

Fame

Fame

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Wardway homes, click here.

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Was Aunt Addie Shot in the Head? (Part VI)

August 1st, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

Updated!  Following my visit last week to Lake Mills, we’ve now uncovered evidence that proves - incontrovertibly - that Dr. Oatway did falsify Addie’s death certificate! This is a powerful piece of evidence!

June 19, 1901 was a very, very busy day in Lake Mills.

That was the day that 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.

The local newspaper account (below) states that Addie first started feeling unwell Tuesday morning, June 18th 1901.  According to the obituary (also below), Enoch’s physician (Dr. Oatway) was summoned and “The fact that she was afflicted with this dread disease was only apparent to her physician only a few hours [before she died].”

That’s a remarkable detail.

For one, Dr. Oatway specialized in diseases of the ear, nose and throat. Diphtheria was a disease of the nose and throat. How in the world could an ear, nose and throat doctor miss a disease that first attacks the nose and throat?

Secondly, the progression of this disease - from onset to death - typically took a minimum of 6-8 days and more often, the progression was measured in weeks and arose from complications involving the brain and heart. Diphtheria was not an automatic death sentence. It was the young and elderly that perished. It was expected that otherwise healthy adults would survive this disease.

Addie came from hardy stock. Her sister (Anna Hoyt Whitmore) lived to be 99 years old.

In the early 1900s, the fatality rate for diphtheria was 5-10% for people Addie’s age (more than five years old and less than 40).  The higher death rate (less than 20%) applied to those who were under five years of age and more than 40. [Source: College of Physicians of Philadelphia, History Project.]

And one can’t help but assume that the death rate for a 29-year-old healthy woman probably be the lowest of all. In other words, how many six and seven year old children died from diphtheria? Probably enough to skew those numbers.

A fascinating aside:  The Iditarod in Alaska was first known as “The Great Race of Mercy.”  In 1925, there was an outbreak of diphtheria in Nome, and 20 drivers (mushers) and 150 sled dogs made the arduous 670-mile journey from Anchorage to Nome, to deliver the life-saving serum as fast as possible. They traversed the entire distance in less than six days’ time. Our modern-day Iditarod commemorates this “Great Race of Mercy,” that saved the lives of countless native Inuit children in 1925.

Knowing all these facts, it’s a tough sell to say that Addie first started feeling unwell sometime late Tuesday morning and was dead 18 hours later (at 2:00 am on the 19th).

Was this Oatway’s way of giving us a subtle clue in this murder mystery? Was he trying to tell someone, “This is all a contrivance. Healthy 29-year-olds don’t die in 18 hours from diphtheria.”

Let’s set all that aside for a moment. There’s another tough sell in this story.

The timing.

So Addie was unwell late Tuesday morning, and dead by 2:00 am Wednesday morning.

Addie dies at 2:00 A. M.

The doctor is summoned to pronounce her dead.

The body is removed.

A burial permit is issued.

An undertaker is engaged.

A casket is selected and obtained. (Someone from Addie’s station would have had a “custom” coffin, built to fit, as it were. Or maybe her lifeless form was simply shoved into an off-the-shelf pine box.)

Addie’s body is prepared for burial.

Grave diggers are summoned and hired to prepare a grave, and it’s likely - given the timing - that this was done in the dark.

The death certificate is completed by Dr. Oatway as attending physician.

The death certificate is certified as true by the County Health Officer, who just happens to be…

Dr. Oatway.

Addie is “laid to rest” is 10:00 A.M. the next morning.

Not a visitation, but “laid to rest.” The casket is never opened - allegedly because of the grievous fears of contagion.

Soon after 10:00 A.M., we can assume that her body is lowered into the soft earth of a waiting grave.

Eight hours after her death.

Eight hours!

As my friend David Spriggs said, “Talk about efficiency! All that in one day for an unexpected death?? Why, it is almost as if they knew that it was going to happen and had already made preparations.”

And while they were in a hurry to get this done, they were not in a hurry to tell the family. I’ve found notes, apparently penned by my Great Grandmother (Anna Hoyt Whitmore), that suggest that - as of 1904 - she assumed that her sister Addie was still alive and well in Lake Mills.

To learn more about the details of Addie’s mysterious death, click here.

Thanks to David Spriggs (Norfolk) for providing the substance of this blog, and also to Bruce A. Samoore, Volunteer Historical Researcher (Wisconsin) for unearthing much of the hard-to-find genealogical facts, death certificates and obituaries. And special thanks to Heather Lukaszewski (Waukesha, Wisconsin) for spending too-many-hours to count at the library, digging up old newspaper articles on Dr. Oatway!

The more I learn, the more I become convinced, it seems unlikely that Addie died from diphtheria.

I need your help. Please leave a comment below with your ideas, insights or thoughts.

To read the newest information, click here (updated September 12th at 11 pm).

To read Part VII, 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.

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).

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Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Addie's death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway. The lower portion shows that the death certificate was certified on June 19, 1901.

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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.

I bet Addie was "very much shocked" too. This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

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

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

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

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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Elias Knows a Good Book When He Sees It!

July 27th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

And I know a cute boy when I see one!  :)

Elias and his mom were at the Borders in Champaign when they spotted my newest book on the shelf, and my daughter (Elias’ mom), snapped a nice picture for me.

The Sears Homes of Illinois” (printed late November 2010), has 250 color photos of Sears Homes, and of my eight books, this is one of my favorites.

And three-year-old Elias is - far and away - my #1 favorite grandson!  :)

Elias likes books.

Elias is my first (and currently only) grandchild! And it would seem that he has very good tastes in books! (Photo is copyright 2011 Anna Rose Carr and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

Elias gazing at the new book.

Elias gazing at the new book. (Photo is copyright 2011 Anna Rose Carr and may not be reproduced without written permission.)

The rear cover:

And a sample of an inside page.

To read an excerpt, click here.

To buy the book, click here or here.

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Annie and Addie: The Hoyt Sisters From Lake Mills

July 16th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

The young woman’s face in the old photo looked hauntingly familiar, but who was she?

It all started June 13, 2011, when I cleaned out the apartment at my late father’s assisted living facility and found a book of old photos. The most significant clue was this lone sentence on the back of a wedding photo: “Enoch and Addie Hoyt Fargo on their wedding day, 1896.”

Thanks to David Spriggs (a local historian and kind soul), I learned that Enoch  and Addie lived in Lake Mills, WI, and that Addie was my great, great Aunt.

Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch and she was his second wife. She was 24 at the time of her marriage to Enoch, and only four years older than Enoch’s eldest daughter (Elsie Fargo). This was Addie’s first marriage and it would be her last. According to two published accounts, her ever-loving husband Enoch slipped into Addie’s bedroom about 2:00 am on June 19, 1901, and put a bullet in her brain while she lay sleeping. Addie was only 29 years old when her life was taken.

The story is that Enoch had fallen in love with Martha (”Maddie”) Louise Hoyt (no relation to Addie Hoyt).

Seven months after young Addie died, Enoch married his third wife, Martha (in February 1902). It caused quite a scandal at the time. A proper period of mourning in the Victorian era was a minimum of twelve months. Remarriage during the period of mourning was unthinkable.

Maddie (wife #3) died in 1964, having outlived Enoch by 40 years. Enoch died in 1921 in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Maddie was living in California at the time of Enoch’s death. If I were married to Enoch, I also would have put 3,000 miles between me and the hubby.

My grandfather (who passed on in 1989) was a real fan of both history and genealogy, and yet no one in the Fuller clan had heard about Aunt Addie, prior to the discovery of this photo album. My 92-year-old Uncle Ed (my father’s twin brother), doesn’t remember hearing about Aunt Addie, either.

Anna Hoyt was my great-grandmother, and Anna and Addie were sistersAnna Hoyt ended up marrying Wilbur W. Whitmore and landed in Denver, Colorado. This photo album that I found amongst my father’s treasured possessions was inscribed, “A Merry Christmas, to Wilbur, from Addie.” (To see photos of Anna and Wilbur, click here.)

Anna and Addie had a baby brother, Eugene B. Hoyt (1874-1950) that never married. Anna died four months shy of her 100th birthday (1866-1966). It would seem that dear Aunt Addie died about 70 years before her time.

The Fuller clan (of which I am one) are Addie Hoyt Fargo’s closest (and perhaps only) living relatives.

Many thanks to David Spriggs (Norfolk) and Bruce A. Samoore, Volunteer Historical Researcher (Wisconsin) for discovering much of the genealogical information.

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 on their wedding day in February 1896. Addie was only 24 years old, and he was 46. This was her first marriage, his second. He had two daughters, the oldest of which was four years younger than Addie. Enoch allegedly shot Addie five years after their wedding day. Addie Hoyt Fargo was my great-great Aunt.

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When I first started looking at these photos, I thought that Addie had it all. Here she was, a beautiful young woman married to an older wealthy gent. He moved her into the family home, a Victorian manse built in 1881. Hers was a life of wealth, privilege, comfort and opulence - for a time.

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman (age 24 in this photo). Her new husband was 46 at the time of their marriage.

My favorite photo of all.

This is one of my favorite photos, showing Addie sitting in her bedroom. Sadly, this is the very room where she was supposedly shot in her sleep.

Addie Hoyt Enoch was my grandmothers sister. Heres a picture of Annie Hoyt Whitmore from 1910. Annie, born in 1866, would have been 44 years old in this photo. This picture hangs in my formal dining room.

Addie Hoyt Fargo and Anna Hoyt Whitmore were sisters, and Anna Hoyt Whitmore was my great-grandmother. Here's a picture of Anna Hoyt Whitmore from 1910. Anna, born in 1866, would have been 44 years old in this photo. Annie lived to be 99 years old, dying four months shy of her 100th birthday. This picture hangs in my formal dining room.

Close-up of Anna Hoyt (sister of Addie)

Close-up of Anna Hoyt (sister of Addie)

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Anna (left) was 44 in this photo. Addie (right) was 24 in this photo.

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Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Addie's sister) had three children, and this is one of them (Ernie Eugene Whitmore). Ernie (born 1888) would have been Addie's nephew, and she was 16 when he was born. This photograph was taken a few weeks before his death. He was six years old. In 1894, Anna Hoyt Whitmore buried her six-year-old son, and seven years later, her baby sister died at the age of 29.

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This photo - from 1922 - shows Wilbur and Anna Hoyt Whitmore taking their twin grandsons out for a ride. My father is sitting with Wilbur and my Uncle Ed is sitting with his maternal grandmother, Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Addie's sister).

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twin

Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) holds Edgar A. Fuller (Junior) and Wilbur holds Thomas (my father). This picture is about 1921. At this time, Anna Hoyt Whitmore was still living in Denver. It's incredible to think that Anna Hoyt Whitmore lived another 45 years after this photo was taken. After her husband Wilbur died in 1939, Anna moved to California.

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 with her new husband, Enoch Fargo. Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

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

Adie

Addie in 1896 (left) and in 1901 (right), shortly before she died. She was 29 years old in the photo on the right. Five years with Enoch had taken its toll on dear Addie.

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Addie, the papers dutifully recorded, died within 24 hours of her "sickness."

sElise Fargo (Mccammon) at the Fargo Mansion sometime in the late 1890s. Elsie was one of three daughters born to Mary Rutherford Fargo (Wife #1) and Enoch Fargo. Elsie was the eldest, and it was Elsies daughter (Mary Mccammon Wilson) who wrote The History of Lake Mills. Its in that book that Mary Wilson states plainly, [Enoch] shot Addie! (p 341).

Elise Fargo (Mccammon) at the Fargo Mansion sometime in the late 1890s. Elsie was one of three daughters born to Mary Rutherford Fargo (Wife #1) and Enoch Fargo. Elsie was the eldest, and it was Elsie's daughter (Mary Mccammon Wilson) who wrote "The History of Lake Mills." It's in that book that Mary Wilson states plainly, "Enoch shot Addie!" (p. 275).

Maddie.

Here's Enoch's third wife, "Maddie." Published accounts state that Enoch killed Addie in her sleep so that he could marry his true love, Maddie Hoyt (shown here). The legend is that Maddie was a cousin to Addie, but this doesn't appear to be correct. Genealogical research shows that Maddie Louise Hoyt (given name "Martha") was *no* blood relation to Addie Hoyt. Maddie's mother was Marie Harbeck, who married Henry Hoyt in 1880. Maddie was born in 1873, and was listed in the 1890 census as the step-child of Henry Hoyt. Incredibly, Maddie's grandmother (Elizabeth "Betsy" Harbeck) was also a Fargo. Maddie died in 1964.

To read more about Addie Hoyt’s murder, click here.

To learn about the kit homes in Lake Mills, click here.

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The Fargo Mansion: A Glimpse Into Another Time

July 9th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

This 1890s photo album was discovered amongst my late father’s treasures and it’s filled with amazing photos.  At first, I had no idea who these people were, but after some digging, I learned these were photos my great Aunt Addie, sister of my great-grandmother. They’re beautiful photos with an amazing bit of detail.

To see a cluster of amazing photos from another time, scroll on down.

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

Please leave a comment if you enjoy the photos!  Thanks to Brice Anderson for running up to Lake Mills, Wisconsin to snap a few photos of the old home place.  All color photos are courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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 with her new husband, Enoch Fargo. Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

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.

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Contemporary photo of those same steps. The old steps have sunk into the ground a bit. For reasons I don't fully seem able to explain, this photo seems especially haunting. This photo is also courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Addie should have taken her little traveling suit and bag and made a run for it. In 1901, Enoch shot Addie in the head as she lay sleeping in her bed.

Daughter Elsie beside the stone steps.

Daughter Elsie beside the stone steps.

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).

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.

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman, but this is a not-so-beautiful chair. It has faces on the arms and back.

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 her bedroom - where she was shot by her not-so-loving husband.

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Close-up of the bed.

Happier times at the Fargo Mansion

Happier times at the Fargo Mansion

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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 today (or yesterday, actually). 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. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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View from the street. 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).

Maddie

Maddie (shown above) was Enoch's third wife. He married Maddie seven months after Addie Hoyt's death. If I were Maddie, I would have slept with one eye open. Maddie was said to be a frequent overnight guest at the Fargo Mansion.

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, the papers dutifully recorded, died within 24 hours of her "sickness." In the end, it was lead poisoning that did in Addie, delivered via a revolver at close range.

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Addie Hoyt and Enoch Fargo on their wedding day, 1896.

To learn about my suspicions that Addie suffered from arsenic poisoning, click here.

To read about Addie’s death and hasty burial, click here.

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

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The Hoyt Sisters of Wisconsin

June 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

As mentioned in a prior post, two weeks ago, I cleaned out the apartment at my father’s assisted living facility and found a photo album from the late 1800s, full of people that I didn’t recognize. The most significant clue was these few words scribbled on the back of one photo (first photo below). It said, “Enoch and Addie Hoyt Fargo on their wedding day, 1896.”

My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Hoyt, so I figured I had to be related to these folks - somehow.

Friday morning (June 24, 2010), I posted the photos on Facebook, asking for ideas or suggestions on where to learn more. By Friday evening I had learned a lot, thanks to my friend and local historian David Spriggs.

We learned that Enoch Fargo and Addie Hoyt Fargo lived in Lake Mills, WI, and that Addie was his second wife. She was 22 years younger than Enoch, and only four years older than her eldest step-daughter! This was Addie’s first marriage and it was short-lived. She died in 1901, a mere five years after her wedding day. Born in 1872, she was only 29 years old when she died.

There were rumors that Addie did not die a natural death, but that Enoch had fallen in love with Addie’s even younger cousin, Martha Hoyt. It was Martha who provided nursing duties, and sat at Addie’s bedside as she lay dying.

Six weeks after young Addie died, Enoch married Martha. It caused quite a scandal at the time.

Martha fared better than the first two wives, and she outlived Enoch by 40 years. Enoch died in 1921. Martha (also known as Maddie), was born in 1873 and died in 1964.

As to my familial connection, Addie Hoyt and Anna Hoyt were sisters, and Anna Hoyt was my great-grandmother, so Addie Hoyt Fargo was my great, great Aunt. Anna Hoyt ended up marrying Wilbur W. Whitmore and landed in Denver, Colorado. This photo album that I found amongst my father’s treasured possessions was inscribed, “A Merry Christmas, to Wilbur, from Addie.” I’m not sure why Addie gave a photo album to her brother-in-law, but apparently she did. (To see photos of Anna and Wilbur, click here.)

Anna and Addie had a baby brother, Eugene B. Hoyt (1874-1850) that never married. Anna died four months shy of her 100th birthday (1866-1966).  It would seem that poor Addie died about 70 years before her time.

In short, the Fullers (of which I am one) are probably Addie Hoyt Fargo’s closest living relatives.

Thanks to David Spriggs’, I learned that Addie and Enoch’s house is in Lake Mills, WI and is still standing. In fact, it’s now a Bed and Breakfast. And thanks to Mark Hardin for finding those birth/death dates!

Friday night, I talked with the owners of the B&B and told them about my amazing shoebox discovery! They provided some history on the family and Enoch’s three wives. And as always, please leave a comment if you know anything more!

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. This is labeled as their wedding photo from 1896. Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch. This was her first marriage, his second. He had two daughters, the oldest of which was four years younger than Addie. Addie died a mere five years after this picture was taken. Addie Hoyt Fargo would have been my great-great Aunt. I wish Uncle Enoch had remembered (or foreknown me) in his will!

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Addie

When I first started looking at these photos, I thought that Addie had it all. Here she was, a beautiful young woman married to an older wealthy gent. He moved her into the family home, a Victorian manse built in 1881. Hers was a life of wealth, privilege, comfort and opulence - for a time. According to local lore, Addie's death was suspicious, and Enoch was in love with Addie's cousin, Martha. The fact that he remarried six weeks after Addie died is more than a little questionable. Addie died at 29 years old.

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman and she would have been 24 years old in this photo. Her new husband was 46 at the time of their marriage.

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Addie Hoyt Enoch was my grandmothers sister. Heres a picture of Annie Hoyt Whitmore from 1910. Annie, born in 1866, would have been 44 years old in this photo. This picture hangs in my formal dining room.

Addie Hoyt Fargo and Anna Hoyt Whitmore were sisters, and Anna Hoyt Whitmore was my great-grandmother. Here's a picture of Annie Hoyt Whitmore from 1910. Annie, born in 1866, would have been 44 years old in this photo. Annie lived to be 99 years old, dying four months shy of her 100th birthday. This picture hangs in my formal dining room.

Close-up of Anna Hoyt (sister of Addie)

Close-up of Anna Hoyt (sister of Addie)

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Anna (left) was 44 in this photo. Addie (right) was 24 in this photo.

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later

This photo - from 1922 - shows Wilbur and Anna Hoyt Whitmore taking their twin grandsons out for a ride. My father is sitting with Wilbur and my Uncle Ed is sitting with his maternal grandmother, Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Addie's sister).

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twin

Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) holds Edgar A. Fuller (Junior) and Wilbur holds Thomas (my father). This picture is about 1921. At this time, the families were still living in Denver. It's incredible to think that Anna Hoyt Whitmore lived another 45 years after this photo was taken.

Anna Hoyt Whitmore married Wilbur W. Whitmore and they had three children - Florence, Victor and Ernie. Ernie died at the age of six, and there are no photos (that Ive found) of Victor. Ernie was the eldest. This is a photo of Florence Whitmore Fuller, my paternal grandmother.

Anna Hoyt and Wilbur W. Whitmore and they had three children - Florence, Victor and Ernie. Ernie died at the age of six, and there are no photos (that I've found) of Victor. Ernie was the eldest. This is a photo of Florence Whitmore Fuller, my paternal grandmother, and the daughter of Anna Hoyt Whitmore. Florence was the mother of the twins (pictured above).

Ernie Eugene Hoyt, brother of Victor and Florence. He was born in 1886 and died in 1894. This photograph was apparently taken shortly before he died.

Ernie Eugene Whitmore, brother of Victor and Florence. He was born in 1886 and died in 1894. This photograph was apparently taken shortly before he died. In 1894, Anna Hoyt Whitmore buried her six-year-old son, and seven years later, her beloved sister died at the age of 29.

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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 Fargo family 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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The Fargo Mansion, photographed in 1896, about 15 years after it was built.

The Fargo Mansion, photographed in 1896, about 15 years after it was built.

Another view of The Fargo Mansion

Another view of The Fargo Mansion, built 1881.

If you know any more about the Hoyts or Whitmores, please leave me a note!

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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