“A number of persons who knew [Enoch] will tell the same story - he shot Addie!”
So wrote Mary Wilson (Enoch’s granddaughter) on page 274 of A History of Lake Mills.
Since the articles on Addie have started to appear, I’ve received a surprising number of supportive comments from people who tell me, “I knew Mary Wilson personally, and she was very proud of her book and her work. If Mary Wilson said that Enoch murdered Addie, you can believe that it’s true.”
In fact, three long-time Lake Mills residents have told me that yes, Mary was a little eccentric, but she was also a thorough and honest historian, and she was a woman that was ahead of her time. In an article that appeared in the Tahlequah Daily Press on Mother’s Day 2008, Mary Wilson’s son (E. James Fargo Wilson) was quoted as saying, “[Mary] was way ahead of her time.” (It’s a fascinating piece, and you can read the full article here.)
Last week, I called Tom Boycks, who (together with Barry Luce) owns the Fargo Mansion Inn in Lake Mills. The first time I met Tom, he proudly displayed his own copy of Mary’s book, The History of Lake Mills, hand-delivered to him almost 30 years ago by Mary Wilson herself.
Tom and Barry knew Mary Wilson very well, and thought very highly of her.
I asked Tom about something that Mary did not address in her book: The source of the story about Addie’s murder.
“Barry and I closed on the mansion in April of 1985,” Tom said. “And it wasn’t long after we closed that Mary Wilson came to the house and introduced herself. The house was still boarded up and it was a real mess in here. Mary Wilson stood right in the foyer, and pointed up at the top of the staircase and said, ‘That’s where my grandfather did Addie Hoyt in - right at the top of the stairs. She was his second wife. To cover it up, he got the doctor to alter the death record.’”
And how does Tom remember that conversation so well?
As they came to know Mary Wilson, she re-told them that story about Addie’s murder, and there was never any deviation from its original telling.
And the source of the story?
Tom said, “Mary Wilson told us that it was her mother, Elsie Fargo Mccammon (Enoch’s daughter), who told Mary about the murder of Enoch’s second wife. It was Elsie that told Mary about Enoch killing his second wife at the top of the staircase.”
Elsie was born in 1876, so she was a scant four years younger than Addie. At the time of Addie’s death, Elsie was 25 years old, and according to the 1900 census, Elsie was living at the Fargo Mansion.
And speaking as a historian and a mother, this account - handed down from Elsie to Mary - is one of the most important pieces of evidence that Addie Hoyt Fargo was indeed murdered.
Why would a mother tell this fantastic story to her daughter, unless it was true?
By all accounts, Elsie was an upstanding, moral, and respectable member of her community. She picked an ordained Methodist minister (Reverend Charles Mccammon) to be her life partner, and remained married to him until his death in 1946. It does not seem likely that a woman like this would lie to her own child about something so important.
Why did Elsie share this story with Mary? Maybe she didn’t want the story of this crime to be forgotten or lost.
Sadly, I’ve also heard from people who attempt to disparage and discredit Mary Wilson’s telling of these events. At the end of her long life (1910 - 1999), Mary Wilson is said to have suffered some dementia, but her book was published in 1983, and speaking as a fellow writer, I’d venture to guess she’d been working on this book for many years prior to its publication. Those who knew her in the early 1980s tell me that Mary was sharp as a tack.
The handful of negative comments I’ve received about Mary Wilson have come from Lake Mills’ natives and/or residents. And that strikes me as especially unfortunate, because those are the very people that Mary was seeking to help and to bless. In the preface of The History of Lake Mills, Mary wrote,
Thanks to my supportive friends, and those who are very interested in the preservation of local history. Also, I would like to recognize the encouragement given by the members of my family. With gratitude, we shall remember those who parted the branches for those of us who followed.
In writing this 820-page tome, it’s clear that Mary was striving to preserve the history of Lake Mills, and I, for one, am grateful that she “parted the branches” for those of us who are following in her footsteps.
To learn more about the history of the Fargo Mansion, click here.
To learn about visiting the Fargo Mansion, click here.
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Elsie Fargo was the daughter of Enoch James Fargo and Mary Rutherford Fargo. Elsie married Reverend Mccammon, and they had two children, Paul and Mary. It was Elsie's daughter (Mary Wilson) who wrote the book, "The History of Lake Mills." According to Mary Wilson, her information about Addie's murder came from Elsie Fargo Mccammon.
Elsie Fargo at the Fargo Mansion, about 1899. Elsie told her daughter, Mary Wilson, that Enoch murdered Addie.
Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion.
The Fargo Mansion in the late 1890s.
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