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A Brief Social History of 20th Century America, As Told By Porches

February 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

When you cut a tree down, you can learn a lot about local history by examining its exposed trunk. How many rings does it have? How old is the tree? During which years did the area experience a drought?

By studying America’s early architecture, you can learn a lot about life in that time period. For instance, in the early 1900s, why did the Victorian Manse fall from favor so fast? Why did the diminutive bungalow gain ground so fast?

What ignited The Bungalow Craze?

The germ theory.

In the late 1800s, about one in five children died before their 18th birthday. Parents were desperate to do anything to protect their children’s health. When it was discovered that “germs” were the culprit and that sanitation was the cure, people couldn’t get out of those big houses fast enough. It’s a fascinating topic, and to learn more about this one slice of American architectural history, click here.

Porches also tell a story about the social fabric in early 20th Century America.

In the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, we loved our front porches, and by design, they were intended to “woo and welcome the weary wanderer.”

Men, women and children passed many happy hours on the oversized front porch, and it was an open invitation for folks to drop by a “set a spell” (as we say in the south).

In pre-air conditioning days, the front porch also provided a welcome respite from the summer heat.

Last but not least, there were the salutary effects of fresh air. Primitive heating systems (usually fired by coal) had no filtration, and were probably partly to blame for the fact that so many children suffered from pulmonary diseases.

And there was a body of belief that fresh air was a cure for so many diseases. Being “cooped up” in an unevenly heated, often drafty old house was a recipe for disease, according to the prevailing thought of the day. In the early 1900s, a daily dose of fresh air was akin to today’s fascination with vitamins and herbal remedies.  (In the 1920s, “sleeping porches” became the rage for this very reason.)

And we were a society of walkers. Most communities were full of walkers, on their daily rounds. Without modern refrigeration, excursions to the butcher, the grocer, the baker and the general store were daily events.

And if you passed by The Thornton Home on Thornrose Avenue and saw Rose sitting in her wicker swing on the front porch, it was de rigueur to walk up to (but not on) the front steps and say hello. If Rosemary was in a fittin’ mood, she’d invite you to “set down for a bit and rest a spell.”

Front porches were a significant piece of our social construct in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

When houses got smaller, so did the front porch. By the 1910s, they were significantly downsized. And by 1920, a funny thing happened on the way to the wicker swing. The porch got moved to the side of the house. We still wanted to be part of the community, but we also wanted our privacy, and some alone time with our loved ones.

And in the 1950s, the porch moved again - to the back of the house. After making the commute back home from the foundry or the mill or the Skippy Peanut Butter Plant, we wanted to relax and put our feet up and enjoy our own little oasis in the back yard, away from the madding world. If someone wanted to drop by, they’d darn well better call first, and if they just showed up at the door, we could ignore them, and remain safely ensconced (and hidden) on the back of the house.

As I said, it’s a fascinating thumbnail sketch of American society.

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Aunties home

My great Aunt (Addie Hoyt) lived in this classic Victorian home, which was extensively remodeled (completely rebuilt) in 1895. Note the massive front porch, replete with three hammocks hanging from the porch posts. This photo as taken about 1899 or 1900.

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close up

Here's a close-up of those three hammocks. Very inviting!

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auntie poker

Front porches were very inviting - by design - and also became kind of an "outdoor den" and social center. Here is Addie (facing the camera) playing poker with an unidentified woman friend on the front porch of her home. She captioned this photo, "We have a real kitty for the kitty!"

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contemporary shows off porch

A contemporary view of Addie's home (2012). This photo really shows off those amazing porches. The second floor porches facing the street were sometimes known as "Parade Porches." This house has two second-floor porches. BTW, this house is now a famous Wisconsin landmark, and it's also a B&B. It's known as the Fargo Mansion Inn. Look below for a link to the site.

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1920sw

In 1957, my parents moved into this house at 515 Nansemond Street (Waterview) in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was built in 1924, and you can see the open porch is now on the side of the house. By the early 1920s, porches had migrated to the side, giving the homeowner a little privacy.

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side porch

My parents loved this house, and they captured a picture that really showcases the idea of the "private oasis" and the side porch. This house was in the suburbs (of the time), and not many people were likely to be walking down the street (compared to downtown districts), and yet we still wanted a bit of privacy from the world. Between the long awnings and the tall shrubs, it's hard to see much of anything on that porch, and that was probably by design.

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house house

Close-up of the side porch. In the late1950s, my mother stepped out to her beloved side porch one summer evening and saw a bat hanging upside down in the corner. The next week, a contractor was at the house, screening in Mother's porch. She dearly loved that screened-in porch and spent many happy hours there, looking out at the side yard.

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front porch shelter rain

By 1925, front porches were a place to stand for a moment, sheltered from the elements, while you dug out your house keys. Or in this case, pose for an Easter photo (1957). My brother Tommy stands on the left, with Rickey on the right.

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house house

By the 1950s, porches had migrated to the back of the house. After a hard day at the office, we wanted our privacy and we didn't want to share our quiet time with strollers meandering down the street. There were new social rules. Visitors were by invitation only, and if someone decided to drop by (without calling ahead), we could hide safely in the back of the house, and they'd never know we were home. This house (my house) was built in1962. The porch on the back is invisible from neighbors on either side. When built, this was a screened-in porch with a cement floor. In 1979, the windows were installed, and the 12x14' room became a sunporch. We purchased the home in 2012, and did a few more improvements to the room (some repairs and the installation wall-to-wall carpet). This is now the place where we spend 95% of our time.

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house house

Even before proper porches, people tended to congregate in the front of the "old home place." This is a soddie ("the first house") in Dighton, Kansas. It was made of sod - literally.

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To learn more about Addie, click here.

To stay at Addie’s home, click here.

To read more about Rose’s much-loved mid-century brick ranch, click here.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

January 30th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Since August 2010, I’ve written almost 700 blogs. That’s a lot of blogs. Each blog has three or more photos. That’s thousands of photos.

Some of these blogs took several hours to compose, and then get bumped off the page within a week of their creation.

So I’m posting a few of my favorite blogs below. If you’ve enjoyed this site, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

The Sears Corona has always been one of my favorite houses (1921).

The Sears Corona has always been one of my favorite houses (1921).

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Sears Corona in Gillespie, Illinois.

A perfect Sears Corona in Gillespie, Illinois.

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Last year, I wrote a blog about the San Jose. I’ve never seen one, but this was Rebecca’s find. Awesome house. Click here.

This blog was devoted to Alhambras, and had pictures of my favorite Alhambras of all time.

The Magnolia is my favorite house, and this blog has photos of all six Magnolias that are in existence today.

In this blog (also picture heavy) I provided lots of info on how to identify a Magnolia.

And this features a story from a 92-year-old man that built a Magnolia in the 1920s.

This blog was created from photos sent in by Pat, an Ohio resident. LOTS of Sears Homes in Ohio!

West Virginia is one of my favorite places in all the world, and Lewisburg is loaded with Sears Homes. Click here to see many fun photos.

And if you have about 10 hours to spare, click here to read the story of my Aunt Addie’s apparent murder. Let me warn you, her story is addictive! You can’t read just one link!!

Click here to read about her exhumation, and let me tell, that’s quite a story too!

Really awesome photos of Carlinville, IL (which has 150 Sears Homes) can be seen here.

This is one of the MOST popular blogs at this site. It’s picture-heavy tour of my old house in Colonial Place. We sold it a couple years ago, and yet this blog is a perennial favorite.

Another perennial favorite is the story of how we redid our bathroom in the old house. Came out beautiful, but what a project!

Here’s a detailed blog on one of Sears most popular homes: The Vallonia.

This was another fascinating historical research project: Penniman - Virginia’s Ghost Town. Wow, what a story that turned out to be!

Those are just a few of my favorites.  If you want to read more, look to the right of the page and you’ll see this (shown below). Click on any one of those months to navigate through the older blogs.

Call

Click on this column (to the right) and you'll find the rest of those 680 blogs!

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Thanks for reading the blog, and please leave a comment below!

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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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house

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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house house

Notice the magnolia leaves on the Electrolier!

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photo

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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Coming Out Of The Closet: Murphy Beds

November 12th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

In the early years of the 20th Century, living a simple, modest, clutter-free life was an integral part of The Bungalow Craze.

Murphy Beds were an integral part of that “space-saving” mind-set. And they were very practical, too. After one’s morning prayers and ablutions, how often did one return to their sleeping quarters?

When the sun popped up in the morning, it was time to make the bed, fluff the pillows and tuck your bed back into the wall.

During tough economic times, there was an expectation that homeowners would take in needy family members. When times got really tough, homeowners took on borders, too.  (Bear in mind, this was before government became our All-in-all.)

The Murphy Bed made our little bungalows a little bit bigger, and a little more accommodating.

In the 1920s and 30s, the sale of Murphy Beds skyrocketed. In the 1950s and 60s, sales dropped, as Americans moved into bigger and bigger houses. In the 1990s and beyond, sales again are way up, due to a poor economy, high unemployment and rising housing costs.

Some of the early 20th Century kit homes offered by Sears and Aladdin featured Murphy Beds.

“The Cinderella” (so named because the house was so small it required less work), was a cute and cozy kit home offered by Sears in the early 1920s. This little bungalow made good use of its small spaces by incorporating a Murphy Bed. Take a look at the pictures below to see how they did things 100 years ago.

To learn more about built-ins in the 1920s kit home, click here.

To learn about breakfast nooks, click here.

Want to learn more about Murphy Beds? Click here.

If you enjoy the blog, please oh please, share the link on Facebook!  :)

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficient bungalow that saved the housewife

The Cinderella (1921 Sears catalog) was so named because it was an efficiently designed bungalow that saved the housewife much time and effort.

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house

Interior views of The Cinderella (1921).

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Houses

Less furniture to buy - less trouble and work. Good points, actually.

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houses

In the Cinderella, the beds were tucked into a closet during the day.

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housese

This is my favorite shot. This room was about five feet wide and ten feet deep, but it looks pretty darn spacious. And look at that sink at the end of the wall. Just a lone sink.

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house

The Cinderella assumed that both Living and Dining Rooms would be used as sleeping spaces.

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right order here

It's so easy, even a child can do it! Sort of.

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house

Floorplan shows how tiny that "bed space" really is. It was 10'11" long and - if the drawing is anything near scale, it appears about five feet wide. In modern times, the folks looking at this house probably thought, "How odd! A big walk-in closet next to the living room, and it even has a sink in the corner!"

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house house

"Dressing room and bed space." Pretty tiny space!!!

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Calumet also

"Twenty rooms in 12." Eight of those 20 rooms were closets with a bed.

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four rooms

Here are two of those eight "bedrooms." At least they have a window.

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wall

Close-up on the Murphy Bed in the Calumet.

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Bloom

And here's a real, live Calumet in Bloomington, IL.

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Aladdin Sonoma (1919)

Like Sears, Aladdin (Bay City, MI) also sold kit homes through mail order. They had a line of wee tiny Aladdin homes known as "Aladdinettes." Here's a picture of the Sonoma (1919), one of their Aladdinnette houses.

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And

The Aladdinnette's "bed space" was really tiny. Only 6'9" by 5'. You have to step out of the room to change your mind!!

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best

Close-up of the Aladdinnette's "closet bed."

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And despite those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

Despite what you've seen on those Laurel and Hardy episodes...

To read the next awesome blog, click here.

Interested in other early 20th Century space savers? Click here.

Youtube demonstration of a real Murphy Bed (1916).

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And Then Julia Contracted Scarlet Fever…

February 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thursday evening, after some diligent searching, I found the obituary for Julia Hawley Hoyt, Addie’s mother. The microfilm was so badly faded that the text was barely legible, but I did find it.

As I expected, Julia Hawley Hoyt never made it back to Lake Mills after November 30, 1894. She left her home in Lake Mills, Wisconsin after Thanksgiving to rush out to Denver, Colorado. Her eldest daughter (Anna Hoyt Whitmore) was sick with Scarlet Fever, as was Anna’s whole family (husband and three children, ages six, three and one).

The trek from Chicago to Denver took 26 hours. Julia would have arrived into Denver on December 1st. That was the day that little Ernie, Anna’s eldest child, died from the Scarlet Fever.

According to the obituary I found in the Lake Mills Leader Julia Hoyt contracted Scarlet Fever while she was there in Denver, and died in May, almost six months later.

Obituary

Died, at San Mateo, California, May 9th (1895), Mrs. Julia Hoyt of Lake Mills, Wisconsin at the age of 51 years. Mrs. Hoyt was born in Milford, Jefferson County in 1844 where she grew to womanhood. She was married to Mr. Homer Hoyt on October 16, 1862 at Milford.  She was the mother of three children, two daughters and one son,  Mrs. Wilbur Whitmore, Denver Colorado, Eugene B. Hoyt, and Miss Addie Hoyt of Lake Mills, all of whom survive to mourn the loss of a gentle and loving mother.


The funeral took place at San Mateo, California May 12th and the deceased was buried beside her father and sister. Mrs. Hoyt was called to Denver about last Thanksgiving time to assist her daughter in the care of her children who were sick with Scarlet Fever and during these tender ministrations contracted the disease, which at last resulted in dropsy causing her death.


As a devoted wife, a kind and loving mother, and a true neighbor, Mrs. Hoyt will long be remember, and her numerous friends will be moved with tenderest sympathy for the mourning children, who must sustain through grief and sorrow their irreparable loss.

“No more to hear her voice of love,

Nor feel her touch so kind,

waiting until the shadows move,

Revealing the beyond.”

From what I can glean, Addie was not able to attend her mothers funeral in San Mateo. That would also have been difficult. Addie last saw her mother around Thanksgiving 1895, when Julia Hoyt went to Denver to help Annas family deal with Scarlet Fever.

Addie last saw her mother around Thanksgiving 1894, when Julia Hoyt (shown here in 1888) went to Denver to help Anna's family deal with Scarlet Fever. Julia never returned to Lake Mills. While providing nursing duties to her family in Denver, she contracted Scarlet Fever which developed into "dropsy" or severe swelling, most likely occasioned by heart or kidney failure. This was a common cause of death from Scarlet Fever. Julia died May 1895, six months after her visit to Denver.

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How did beautiful young Addie end up with a troll like Enoch? Thats a good question. Losing her mother must have been tough, and in 1893, 94 and 95, there were a lot of losses for Addie. Perhaps she was so stricken with grief, she couldnt think clearly.

How did beautiful young Addie end up with a troll like Enoch? That's a good question. Losing her mother must have been tough, and in 1893, 94 and 95, there were a lot of losses for Addie. Perhaps she was so stricken with grief, she couldn't think clearly. Addie is shown here with her sister, Anna (right), who moved to Denver in 1887.

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Apap

This notice appeared in the Lake Mills Leader (newspaper) on December 6, 1894.

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Anna Hoyt Whitmore had three children, two of whom survived their bout with Scarlet Fever. Ernie did not, and he died on December 1, 1894.

Anna Hoyt Whitmore had three children, two of whom survived their bout with Scarlet Fever. "Ernie" did not, and he died on December 1, 1894.

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Ernie

Ernie's obit was published in both the "Denver Rock Mountain News" and the "Lake Mills Leader."

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Victor survived

Florence Whitmore and her baby brother "Victor" both survived Scarlet Fever in 1894. They're shown here in 1895, one year after Ernie's death.

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How did Addie

Between 1893 and 1895, Addie lost six of her closest family members to death, and her brother and sister moved out of the area. These eight losses left Addie isolated and alone and vulnerable. Nine months after the last death (her mother's passing in May 1895), Addie married Enoch. It was a mistake that would have fatal consequences. And Addie's "aloneness" in the world made it easier for Enoch to get away with murder - literally.

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“Every funeral tradition of the time was violated by this burial” (Yes, it’s really as interesting as it sounds).

To read more about little Ernie, click here.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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The Beautiful Letters from Beautiful People

December 25th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

In the last six months, more than 22,000 new visitors have come to my website just to learn more about Addie Hoyt Fargo. Her story has also appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and several other newspapers.

According to A History of Lake Mills, Enoch J. Fargo killed his wife Addie Hoyt Fargo (my great, great Aunt), in 1901. On November 3, 2011, I had Addie’s body exhumed, and that’s when we discovered that she’d been buried her in a shallow grave in Lake Mills.  Enoch Fargo allegedly bribed a local doctor to falsify Addie’s death certificate.

As a result of the newspaper stories and the new visitors to this website, I’ve received many supportive and lovely emails. In October, a woman who’s been following Addie’s story contacted me and urged me to push on.

Her story, her insights, and her comments touched me to tears. It was one of the most powerful notes I have ever received in my long career. With her permission, her story is below. Names have been changed.

Several years ago, my only daughter, Emily (age 16) was killed in a car crash. That day I lost my only daughter and my best friend, in one swoop. She knew me better than anyone before, and anyone since. It’s not just a mother’s heart that would tell you that Emily was a special bright young lady. Her teachers, her peers and the community as a whole felt that way too, and they also felt the loss of this remarkable, insightful and precious young woman.

In dealing with my grief then, and even now, my greatest fear was that people would forget her.

And what if my Emily had married someone like Enoch? What if she found herself alone, with no family and no support system and no one to help her? What if there was no one she could call upon when her world was falling apart? What if she died at the hands of a cold hearted, narcissistic, megalomaniac who was bold enough to murder his young wife, rich enough to buy off people and powerful enough to get to away with murder? More specifically, get away with her murder?

What if her soul couldn’t rest because nobody cared enough to reach beyond their own lives and their own busy-ness and their own problems and uncover the truth? What if her remarkable life was reduced to a few gossipy stories, excitedly whispered in the shadows of a small town?

What if the story of her accomplishments, her successes and the stories of her charity, graciousness, gentleness and goodness, were forgotten, and all that remained was this heart-wrenching legend of a tormented soul, trapped in the nightmarish memory of her own murder, aimlessly wandering the hallways of an old house, unable to find her way to the light of God’s love?

And then what if someday, someone discovered Addie’s photos, and started digging into the whole story, and started sharing that story with others, exposing that shadowy gossip to the light of day, so that the soul could finally find rest?

And what a glorious thing it would be, that the story of a 29-year-old woman’s life could be resurrected so many years later, so that she was not forgotten after her death, and so that her real life story could be told, thoroughly and truthfully.

We live, we die. Those who knew us die, and we might be reduced to pictures in a photo album. For someone to take such interest in our being,who never met us face to face, that can only be described as a gift of Love.

I DO believe in spirits. I believe that our life continues on after the body has “breathed its last.”

I read about you tossing those old photo albums and then retrieving them from the trash. I believe Addie is with you, saying “Rose, take this journey. Keep going forward. Don’t give up, and see this journey to the end.”

Rose, please please take this journey Addie gave you. You are meeting wonderful new people, affecting others lives, and enriching your own.

And most importantly, you’re “setting the record straight” about someone else’s remarkable, insightful and precious little girl.

To learn more about Addie’s life and death, click here.

Addie

Addie on her wedding day, February 1896. She was 24 years old. Five years later, she was dead. According to Enoch's own granddaughter, Addie was murdered by Enoch J. Fargo.

Photo

Christmas 1900, Addie sent this leatherette photo album to her brother-in-law. This story started for me when I found this photo album amongst my late father's possessions.

Photos inside the album covered a span of about five years.

Photos inside the album covered a span of about five years.

A

The inscription reads "A Merry Christmas to Wilbur, from Addie." Wilbur was married to Anna, Addie's older sister. Wilbur and Anna were married about 1886, and moved to Denver in the late 1880s. Why did Addie send this to her brother-in-law, and not her sister?

Last month, a dear friend created and sent this necklace along to me, to serve as a reminder that Addie is gently holding on to Rose. She said the delicate hands reminded her of Addie (who was very petite). I keep this on the lamp by my night stand, so that I may look at it each night.

Last month, a dear friend created and sent this necklace along to me, to serve as a reminder that Addie is gently holding on to "Rose." She said the delicate hands reminded her of Addie (who was very petite). I keep this on the lamp by my night stand, so that I may look at it each night, and be reminded that I am doing the right thing, and I am not alone.

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

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The People in Addie’s Life and Death

December 9th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

If you’re new to this site, it can be hard to figure out who’s who. For that reason, I’m writing this blog which will give a brief synopsis on the people involved.

Enoch

Enoch James Fargo was the son of a wealthy merchant, Enoch B. Fargo. Enoch James Fargo (1850-1921) married my great, great Aunt, Addie Hoyt, in February 1896.

According to Mary Wilson (Enoch’s granddaughter), Enoch shot Addie. (See page 274 of Wilson’s book, The History of Lake Mills.)

And there’s a lot of specific evidence that support’s Mary Wilson’s statement that Addie was murdered. In other words, Mary Wilson got it right.  When Addie was exhumed, she was found in a shallow grave. That, in and of itself, is very damning. And she was found wearing her shoes, which blows a few holes in the official story of Addie’s death. Read more here.

Addie was my great, great Aunt.

Addie (left) was my great, great Aunt. She's shown here with her sister (Anna) who was my great-grandmother. This photo was taken in 1887, when Addie was 15 years old. Anna would have been 21, and already married. Note the wedding band on Anna's hand.

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Addie in 1894, shortly before her marriage to Enoch James Fargo.

Addie in 1894, shortly before her marriage to Enoch James Fargo.

In the late 1880s, Addie’s beloved sister Anna married and moved to Denver.

In 1893, Addie’s paternal grandfather (Kimball Hoyt) died. In 1894, her paternal grandmother died. Addie probably lived with her grandparents at the time of their death.

These would be hard, hard years for Addie and full of losses.

Addie’s father and nephew (”Ernie”) died in 1894.  Her father’s brother (Addie’s Uncle) also died in 1894.

And then her mother died in January 1895.

Dad

Addie's father (Homer Hoyt) died in 1894.

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cap

Ernie (born 1888) died in 1894. He was six years old.

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Her mother died in early 1895.

Her mother died in January 1895.

This about this for a moment.

Between 1893-1895, Addie buried;

Her Grandmother,

Grandfather,

Uncle Smith Hoyt,

Six-year-old nephew (”Ernie”),

Mother,

and Father.

The six most important people in her life were dead in a period of two years.

And her sister (Anna) had moved away.

Addie was alone in the world, and probably scared to death.

And then she made the worst mistake of her life.

Literally.

She married Enoch James Fargo.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo. This is labeled as their wedding photo from 1896.

Addie married Enoch in February 1896. This is their wedding picture.

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Enoch had been married before, to this woman: Mary Rutherford Fargo.

Enoch had been married before, to this woman: Mary Rutherford Fargo. Mary and Enoch were married July 4, 1876, and had three children. Their first child (Elsie) was born December 1, 1876. Myrtle was born in 1878 and died 1887 (at nine years of age). Their youngest was born in 1884, and her name was Martha, but she was called, "Mattie." Mary Rutherford died in March 1895, and eleven months later, Enoch married young Addie (age 24).

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Elsie

Elsie Fargo was the daughter of Enoch James Fargo and Mary Rutherford Fargo. Elsie married Reverend Mccammon, and they had two children, Paul and Mary. It was Elsie's daughter (Mary Wilson) who wrote the book, "The History of Lake Mills."

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Mattie Pauline Fargo was the youngest child of Enoch and Mary. The day before Mattie's graduation, her step-mother (Addie Hoyt) died at the Fargo Mansion. Mattie was slated to give a talk on "The New Pilgrim's Progress" the next day (June 20th, 1901) at her commencement. In October 1922, Mattie Pauline married Dr. C. K. Faber of Junction City, KS.

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Addie was only four years older than Elsie, Enochs oldest daughter.

Addie was only four years older than Elsie, Enoch's oldest daughter. According to long-time Lake Mills' residents, Enoch wasn't a big fan of children. Mary Wilson was not a frequent visitor to the mansion, but grew up hearing about Enoch from her mother, Elsie Fargo (upper right). Addie is seated on the lower left.

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Enoch liked having servant girls in the house.

Enoch being vacuumed by one of two women servants in his employ.

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Ser

The 1900 census shows two servant girls from Germany living at the Fargo Mansion. One is Martha Draeger (perhaps Drager) and the other is Mary Frey or Fry. If Addie was killed in the house, you have to wonder if these two servant girls saw anything.

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Addie and Enoch lived in his pad, The Fargo Mansion.

Addie and Enoch lived in his little bungalow, The Fargo Mansion, in Lake Mills. It's now a bed and breakfast, and it's 7,500 square feet of grandeur and opulence.

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To learn more about the Fargo Mansion, and see a plethora of vintage photos, click here.

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Oatway

Dr. William H. Oatway was Enoch's personal physician, and may have been complicit in the cover-up of Addie's suspicious death. According to Mary Wilson, "He (Dr. Oatway) was quoted then as having said, 'No one was fooled'" by this claim that diphtheria was Addie's cause of death. This paper above shows the bottom-most portion of Addie's death certificate. Oatway was both the attending physician and the County Health Officer. Several months later, when Oatway filled out a report for the State Board of Health, he happily reported that there were no deaths from diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901. Plus, the burial permit number (shown above) is false.

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Maddie.

In Victorian times, a proper mourning period was 12 months. The townsfolk must have been scandalized when 53-year-old Enoch married his third wife (Martha) a scant seven months after Addie's suspicious death. Martha (shown above) was 28 years old. This photo came from Addie's own picture album, and is captioned, "Mattie" (a nickname for Martha). This tells me that Addie *trusted* Martha. According to Mary Wilson's book, Martha stayed overnight at the Fargo Mansion for several days at a time. Did Enoch kill Addie so that he could marry his true love, Martha? The legend is that Martha was a cousin to Addie, but this is NOT correct. Martha's mother was Marie Harbeck, who married Henry Hoyt in 1880. Martha was born in 1873 and lived with her maternal grandparents, William and Elizabeth "Betsy" Harbeck. Martha died in 1964.

To learn more about the falsified death certificate, click here.

To learn more about Addie’s suspicious death, click here.

To see Addie’s pretty dresses, click here.

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Addie’s Exhumation: Do I Regret Having Done All This?

November 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

The number one question I’m asked again and again is, “Now that the the autopsy findings are in, and they’re inconclusive, do you regret having done all this?”

The answer is, no, not at all. In fact, based on what was discovered, I’m reassured that I made exactly the right choice.

If it hadn’t been for the exhumation, we never would have known that Addie was buried in a shallow grave. A 34″ deep grave is not a proper burial. Addie’s remains have now arrived at my home in Norfolk, and she will be given a Christian funeral.

Secondly, without the exhumation, we would never have known that she was buried in her dress shoes. That is a powerful bit of evidence, and provides yet another proof that the official story (diphtheria) is pure fiction.

Thirdly, knowing that she did not die of diphtheria, and knowing that there was probably foul play involved, and knowing that she was not given a proper burial at a proper depth and that there was no burial permit (a violation of state law), it feels like a good decision to move her remains out of the plot in Lake Mills.

Do I regret having gone through all the time, trouble and expense of exhuming a body to learn more about a 110-year-old murder mystery?

Nope. Not at all. It was a good decision. I’m confident that Addie would be pleased.

To see the article (and video) that appeared in Thursday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, click here.

To read more about Addie, click here.

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The digging started at about 8:45 am.

Shallow

Addie's remains were found at 34" of depth.

Addies exhumation shallow

This photo shows how shallow the grave was.

Robin

Rose examines some of the remains that were unearthed.

Addies helpers

Addie's helpers searching for skeletal remains.

Addie

The story of Addie's mysterious demise seems to captivate everyone.

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Funeral director Dave Olsen stands in the background (orange shirt), ready to transport Addie's remains to the Medical Examiner's office in Milwaukee. Throughout this experience, Addie's remains were treated with the utmost respect. And Dave Olsen was one of the angels that helped me navigate the labyrinthine and complex process of disinterment.

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Another view of the grave site.

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UPDATE: Did Mattie P. Fargo Give That Talk on June 20, 1901?

November 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

Updated!  See highlighted text below!

According to the Lake Mills’ High School program, Mattie P. Fargo (Addie’s step-daughter) was scheduled to give a talk at the commencement, June 20, 1901. Her step-mother - Addie - had died the day before (June 19th).

Mattie’s scheduled talk was “The New Pilgrim’s Progress.”

When I was in Lake Mills recently, I read 15 months worth of the Lake Mills’ Leader. After I got home and really studied a few of these newspaper clippings, I realized I had the answer to this question about Mattie at my fingertips - sort of. In my zeal to copy articles about Addie, I copied the June 27, 1901 front page (where the ladies at the DAR that expressed their sadness at Addie’s sudden departure), but I didn’t notice the little nuggets just to the side.

On the right side of the newspaper’s front page was a detailed synopsis of the students’ talks at the commencement one week prior, complete with a summary of the young people’s public speaking abilities.

UPDATE!  Thanks to a friend in Lake Mills, we don’t know if Mattie was in attendance at her graduation, but according to the newspaper article that appeared the next week (June 27, 1901), her essay appeared in the Lake Mills Leader with a small note that said, “Essay of Mattie P. Fargo, not read at commencement exercises.”

Mattie

Was Mattie there, on June the 20th?

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Did she deliver her prepared talk on "The New Pilgrim's Progress"?

Matties graduation picture

Mattie's graduation picture from 1901.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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A Shallow Grave for Addie

November 14th, 2011 Sears Homes 4 comments

Yesterday afternoon, I was showing my daughter Crystal these newest photos of Addie, and she was in awe of the fancy outfits  and the quality of the professional photography. She said something that really stunned me, and truly summed up the whole of this sad, troubling story.

She said, “This woman was raised to be a cultured, sophisticated, refined member of society; Addie was destined to be someone remarkable, and someone who’d leave her mark on the world. Looking at these photos and her fine clothes, you’d imagine that this woman championed countless altruistic and worthy causes, and then passed on peacefully in her sleep at the age of 101, surrounded by adoring friends and loving family.”

“This is not someone that was you’d ever imagine would end up dead at 29, buried hastily in a shallow grave and then forgotten.”

Addie

Addie was born in 1872 to Julia Hawley Hoyt and Homer Hoyt. She's about six months old here. Infant photography in 1872 was pretty rare and probably expensive, too.

Addie at about two years old. Fancy clothes, too.

Addie at about two years old. Fancy clothes, too.

Adde Hoyt at about eight years of age.

Adde Hoyt at about eight years of age.

Another fine outfit! Addie was probably about 8 or 9 here.

Another fine outfit! Addie was probably about 8 or 9 here.

Lots of flowers for Addie

Lots of flowers for Addie! She was about 14 here.

Close-up of Addie

Close-up of Addie

Addie and her sister, Annie (my great-grandmother). This was taken in 1887, so Addie was 15 years old here.

Addie and her sister, Annie (my great-grandmother). This was taken in 1887, so Addie was 15 years old here.

Addie in 1889. This photo was found in the vertical files at the Fargo Library in Lake Mills. Addie would have been 17 years old here.

Addie in 1889. This photo was found in the vertical files at the Fargo Library in Lake Mills. Addie would have been 17 years old here.

Addie and her pony.

Addie and her pony.

Probably a debutante photo. Addie was 21 years old.

Probably a debutante photo. Addie was 21 years old. Note the small star on her forehead. This same necklace reappeared in her wedding photo.

Close-up of Addie in 1894.

Close-up of Addie in 1894.

Addie in 1894. This would have been the year that her father died. Her mother died in early 1895.

Addie in 1894. This would have been the year that her father died. Her mother (Julia Hawley Hoyt) died in early 1895. Her beloved nephew ("Ernie") also died in 1894.

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo. This is labeled as their wedding photo from 1896.

In February 1896, Addie Hoyt married Enoch Fargo in Chicago, IL. She was 24 and he was 46.

Addie

Her wedding photo (Feb 1896).

Close-up

Addie was a beautiful young woman.

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 fam 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.

close-up

Close-up of Addie with her step-children.

Unknown person

Addie preparing for a trip.

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

Five years of life with Enoch took a toll on Addie.

Five years of life with Enoch took a toll on Addie.

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It is hard to believe this is the same woman, but it is, five years after her wedding day.

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But the story did not end in 1901. She was exhumed from this shallow grave on Thursday, November 3, 2011. (Photo is copyright 2011, and is courtesy of Heather Lukaszewski and can not be reproduced without written permission.)

Addies grave is now empty. Ultimately, her remains will be returned to me (her next of kin). Addies remains will not be returning to Lake Mills.

Addie's grave is now empty. Ultimately, her remains will be returned to me (her next of kin). Addie's remains will not be returning to Lake Mills.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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