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Posts Tagged ‘Anna Rose Carr’

Warning: Not For the Faint of Heart!

August 14th, 2014 Sears Homes 8 comments

Dale and Rebecca found Sears Modern Home #174 while out tooling around in Iowa City a few weeks ago.

I have nothing more to add.

I’ll let the pictures tell the sad story.

But I warn you - do NOT scroll down unless you have a strong stomach! Graphic images to follow!

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Modern Home #124 looks a lot bigger than it is.

Modern Home #174 was a rare house. I've never seen one in real life.

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In fact, its a mere 18 feet wide.

Not very big, either. In fact, it's a mere 18 feet wide.

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Upstairs, you can see what a small house this is.

Upstairs, you can see what a small house this is.

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Looks promising, doesnt it?

Looks promising, doesn't it?

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Yeah.

Oh my. Oh me, oh my. If I knew how to embed music, I'd have the music from the shower scene in "Psycho" inserted here. This house has suffered a gruesome, wretched demise, far worse than any horror flick. Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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At least when Buster Keaton did something similiar to a kit house, it was funny.

At least when Buster Keaton did something similiar to a kit house, it was funny.

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To learn more about Buster Keaton’s short “One Week,” click here.

To see a blog on America’s 14 Ugliest Houses (which features a Sears Kit home originally featured on my site), click here.

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Where Are You, My Little Springfield Pretty?

August 13th, 2014 Sears Homes 7 comments

Springfield Missouri is home to Sears Modern Home #177, which is very exciting to me, because this is a model that has never been seen “in the flesh,” by me, Rachel, Rebecca or Dale.

And it’s quite an unusual house, so it should be easy to spot.

Later this year, I’ll be traveling through central Missouri, and I’m going to make a special stop in Springfield, Missouri.

Just to see this house.

But before embarking on this wild house chase, I’ve been perusing* google maps, striving to find at least a NEIGHBORHOOD where this house might sit. Heretofore, I’ve been largely unsuccessful. So if you live in or near Springfield and have any idea where I might find this house, please give me a hint?

Thanks!

Hopefully, a few weeks from now, I’ll be able to post a picture of Sears Modern Home #177!

To read about the cool houses I recently found in Jacksonville, IL, click here.


What do those marks on the lumber of a kit house really mean?

*Perusing is one of the MOST misused words in the English language. It means “to study intensely.”

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Sears Modern Home 177, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

Sears Modern Home 177, as seen in the 1916 catalog.

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Quite a house, and its one Ive never seen.

Quite a house, and it's one I've never seen.

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And theres one in Springfield, Missouri, but WHERE?

And there's one in Springfield, Missouri, but WHERE?

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Nice floorplan, too!

Nice floorplan, too!

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this

There's a Niota, too but it's not nearly as exciting as the #177!

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And thanks to Rachels ability to sniff out a Sears House from 200 miles away, weve already located the Niota!

And thanks to Rachel's ability to sniff out a Sears House from 200 miles away, we've already located the Niota! She found this on Webster Avenue, but no sign of Modern Home #177!

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So where is Sears Modern Home #177?

I’d love to know!

Contact Rose by leaving a commment below!

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What do those marks on the lumber of a kit house really mean?

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The Roycroft Twins in Jacksonville, Illinois

August 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

Sears gets all the ink, but fact is, Gordon Van Tine was a very substantial (and impressive) kit home company, too. You can learn a lot about GVT by visiting Dale’s website here. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes, and Gordon Van Tine - based in Davenport, Iowa - sold about 50,000.

Both Dale and Rachel (another dear friend) managed to get their hands on a wonderful old original GVT brochure, filled with testimonials from Gordon Van Tine’s happiest customers, and shared it with me.

One ad in particular caught my eye: It was a pair of Gordon Van Tine homes built next door to each other in Jacksonville, Illinois. Well shoot, Jacksonville was only 90 minutes from Alton, where I often visit family.

Last week when I was in Alton, I drove out to Jacksonville and got some pictures of The Roycroft Twins!

I would love to return to Jacksonville and give a talk on the many other kit homes I found! Contact Rose and let’s make a date!

Tomorrow (or later this week), I plan to write a blog on the REST of the kit homes in J-ville.

Special thanks to Rachel for finding the street address of these two homes. Rachel has her own wonderful blog, and it can be found here.

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The Roycroft, as seen in the 1929 GVT catalog.

The Roycroft, as seen in the 1929 GVT catalog.

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Small house, but good floorplan.

Small house, but good floorplan.

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It's a fine-looking house! Other than the twins in Jacksonville, I've never seen one - that I know of. After the vinyl-siding salesmen have their way with a house like this, it has the potential to be transmogrified into a homogenized, faceless, pedestrian, monotonous, dull, featureless front-gabled bore, so I may have missed the others.

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Both Dale and Rachel managed to score this vintage 1920s brochure full of testimonials from happy GVT buyers.

Both Dale and Rachel managed to score this vintage 1920s brochure with testimonials from happy GVT buyers. It's a fun brochure and chocked full of photos.

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I must say, I dont think Id eat much pudding if it looked like this.

I must say, I don't think I'd eat much pudding if it looked like this.

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Inside the brochure, is this fun image.

Inside the brochure, is this fun image. Turns out that 440 North Clay was a business address for Mr. Fernandes, and not the site of the Roycroft Twins.

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But Rachel turned on the ignition to her Google Car and did some virtual driving and found the twinkies on Church Street.

But Rachel turned on the ignition to her Google Car and did some virtual driving and found the twinkies just off West College Street in Jacksonville. (The image above is from the 1929 'Proof in the Pudding' brochure.)

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And here they are today.

And here they are today. Fortunately, the porches and some other details have survived.

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Twinkie #1.

Twinkie #1.

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Twinkie #2.

Twinkie #2.

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Just across the street from the Roycroft Twins, I found this!

Just across the street from the Roycroft Twins, I found this! Did Mr. Fernandes build this too?

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And its in mostly original condition! What a fine-looking house!

And it's in good condition! What a fine-looking house!

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Sears Wilmore, as seen in the 1940 Sears catalog.

And I found several Sears Homes in Jacksonville, too.

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Perfection

Perfection. This was my favorite "Sears House" find, The Sears Wilmore, complete with white picket fence.

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To visit Dale’s website, click here.

To visit Rachel’s blog, just put Mr. Mousie right here.

If you know Mr. Fernandes, please leave a comment!

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Modern Home #158: Did Anyone Love You Enough to Build You?

June 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

There are many models of Sears Homes that I have never seen “in the flesh,” and Sears Modern Home #158 is one of them. It was offered only a short time (about 1910 to 1913), and yet, it was an attractive home with a good floor plan.

I hadn’t though much about this particular model until recently, when Sarah in our “Sears House” Facebook group mentioned that she’d found a reference to #158 in a contemporary book.

“Flesh and Bone” (a novel, written by Jefferson Bass and published in 2007), has several lines on our beloved Sears Modern Home #158.

The excerpt reads,

You know one of my favorite things about this house? Guess who created it.”

“Let’s see,” I said. “Surely I can dredge up the name from my encyclopedic knowledge of Chattanooga architects of the early 1900s…”

“Wasn’t a Chattanooga architect,” she grinned.

“Sears.”

“Sears? Who Sears? From where - New York?”

“Not ‘Who Sears’: ‘Sears Who.’ Sears Roebuck, the department store,” she said, pointing to a wall.

There, she’d hung a framed page from the century-old Sears catalog, showing an ad for the house I was standing in. It bore the catchy name “Modern Home #158,” and a price tag of $1,548.

“Houses by mail order,” said Jess. “The house came into town on a freight car, in pieces. Probably four grand, all told, for the kit plus the caboodle.”

“I’m guessing it appreciated some since then.”

“Well, I appreciate it some,” she said.

I’d love to know why author Jefferson Bass picked #158. Does he know of one somewhere? Or did he pick it out of a book at random?

Is there a #158 in Chattanooga, TN (as is described in the story)?

I’d love to know!

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158 1910

In the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog (shown here), Model #158 was priced at $1,533. In Mr. Bass' novel "Flesh and Bone," it's given a price of $1,548.

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He got the rice right.

In "Houses by Mail" (a 1985 field guide to Sears Homes - published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation), Sears Modern Home #158 is listed with a low price of $1,548. Seems likely that *this* was the source of Mr. Bass' info. The "four grand" is given as a total price, which is pretty close, and reflects the info shown here.

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Beautiful house, too

Modern Home #158 was a classic foursquare with some a sprinkling of Prairie-style thrown in.

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With servants quarters

Yes, a kit house with servant's quarters.

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This 2,200-square foot house was unusually spacious for a kit house. And check out the first-floor powder room! Another unusual feature for this era.

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Two sets of staircases, and lots of space on the second floor.

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And

Modern Home #158 was also shown on the cover of the 1910 Sears Modern Homes catalog (far right).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To join our Facebook group, click here.

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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Heres

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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