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500,000th Visitor To This Website!

December 16th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Yesterday, this website had its 500,000th visitor.

That’s pretty exciting news.

Since 1999, I’ve been writing and talking about Sears Homes. In August 2010, I started “blogging regularly” at this site. And then in June 2011, a new topic appeared: Addie Hoyt Fargo. She was my great Aunt, who died under very suspicious circumstances in Lake Mills, Wisconsin in 1901.

Apparently, folks share my interest in these topics, and for that, I’m very grateful.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about my beautiful aunt Addie, click here.

Interesting in learning more about the rich and complex funeral customs of the late 19th Century? Click here.

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Addie Hoyt Fargo and Anna Hoyt Whitmore were sisters. Anna Hoyt was my great-great grandmother, and the Hoyt family moved to Lake Mills in the early 1840s.

Addie Hoyt Fargo and Anna Hoyt Whitmore were sisters. Anna Hoyt was my great grandmother. The Hoyt family moved to Lake Mills in the early 1840s. Anna was born in 1866 and Addie was born in 1872. In this photo (taken about 1889), Addie is on the left.

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This picture was taken on Addies wedding day in February 1896. Was this photo taken on the same day as the first photo shown above (with the cape)? I dont think so, but its hard to know for sure.

This picture was taken on Addie's wedding day in February 1896.

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This photo, taken in 1894, really showcases Addies elegance and sophistication. She came from a wealthy family.

This photo, taken in 1894, really showcases Addie's elegance and sophistication. She came from a wealthy family.

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I love it that theres a mink *in* her hat.

I love it that there's a mink *in* her hat.

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A photo of Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion (Lake Mills) in the late 1890s.

A photo of Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion (Lake Mills) in the late 1890s.

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This photo was taken in the early 1890s in Lake Mills. It was titled Addie and her pony. I found it at the Lake Mills Library.

This photo was taken in the early 1890s in Lake Mills. It was titled "Addie and her pony." I found it at the Lake Mills Library during a research trip in November 2011.

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A photo of Addie

As shown in this photo, Addie was a snappy dresser.

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To read about Addie’s exhumation, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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The Hawleys: One of the First Families of Jefferson County (Wisconsin)

February 25th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

On Friday, I posted a detailed blog about Addie’s deep roots in the Lake Mills community.

Addie Hoyt (1872-1901) was the granddaughter of Kimball Hoyt and his wife, Sally Sanborn Hoyt. The Hoyts first came to Jefferson County in 1843. When Sally Sanborn Hoyt died in June 1894, her obituary described her and Kimball as “pioneers” of the area. Click here to read more about that side of Addie’s family.

After that blog appeared, one of Addie’s many friends in Lake Mills contacted me and said, “Rose, don’t forget about the Hawleys. They were also pioneers in this county.”

Captain Hezekiah Beach Hawley and his wife, Theresa Hawley were Addie’s maternal grandparents. They were originally from New York, and I’m not sure when they arrived in Jefferson County, but by August 1, 1844, the Captain and his wife were the proud owners of 40 acres of the prettiest piece of farmland you ever did see in Milford, Wisconsin, purchased directly from the United States Government.

John Tyler was the president at the time (as is noted on the deed).  In 1843, one year earlier, some folks from Vermont had purchased some land not too far from the Hawleys. Their name was Mr. and Mrs. Kimball Hoyt.

The Hoyts had a little boy named Homer (born 1844), and the Hawleys had a little girl named Julia (also born 1844).

On October 16, 1861, Homer Hoyt married the Captain’s daughter, Julia Hawley. Oh, how I would love to know a little more about that courtship.

Captain Hezekiah Beach Hawley was an old sea captain, and I’m sure any landlubber who came calling for young Julia endured quite a grilling. Captain Hawley was 40 years old when Julia was born. By the time of her marriage, Hezekiah was 57 (and the newlyweds were 17!). Judging by look on his face in this old photo (below), it’d be safe to guess that the old captain didn’t soften with age.

Homer and Julia had three children, Anna (born 1866), Addie (born 1872) and Eugene (born 1875).  In 1877, Captain Hawley died. At least he got to meet his three grandchildren. And maybe by then, he’d even forgiven Homer for marrying his beautiful daughter.

One can hope.

In the social mathematics of the era that defined a woman’s worth, young Addie Hoyt had great value. According to information gleaned from the Lake Mills Leader (newspaper), Addie’s life was full of promise and potential. She was intelligent, witty, articulate, talented, sophisticated and accomplished.

Addie Hoyt had deep roots in her community, which - in Small Town America - added greatly to her social standing. On both her father’s side (the Hoyts) and her mother’s side (the Hawleys), Addie came from a “good old Wisconsin family.”

And yet, thus far, despite some pretty strenuous searching, I’ve been unable to find a single piece of information about either the Hoyts or the Hawleys from local libraries or historical societies or museums.

Addie’s grandparents - the Hoyts and the Hawleys - both moved to the area in the early 1840s and purchased quite a bit of land (more than 100 acres) from the government, and in time, both families became prosperous and wealthy. I am baffled as to why no one in Jefferson County seems to have a letter or a journal or any correspondence or information about these two important families.

One of the main reasons I keep writing about Addie is in the hopes that someone somewhere will come forward with some information that tells us exactly happened to Addie.

How did Addie’s life story - which started off so rich with hope and promise - end so tragically?

The cemeteries of Jefferson County are well populated with Hoyts and Hawleys. These “pioneer families” worked hard to build something that the settlers and other followers would enjoy in the decades ahead.

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Captain Hezekiah Beach Hawley looks like quite a character. He was the father of Julia Hawley (Addies mother) and Captain Hawley and his wife Theresa were two of the pioneers of Jefferson County.

Captain Hezekiah Beach Hawley looks like quite a character. He was the father of Julia Hawley Hoyt (Addie's mother). Captain Hawley and his wife Theresa moved into Jefferson County in the early 1840s, and they were two of the pioneers of that area.

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He was born in 1804 and died in 1877. Addie was five years old when The Captain died.

He was born in 1804 and died in 1877, when Addie was five.

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And the Captains wife, Theresa Hathaway Hawley. She outlived the Captain by 21 years, dying in 1898 in Dayton, WI.

And the Captain's wife, Theresa Hathaway Hawley. She outlived the Captain by 21 years, dying in 1898 in Dayton, WI. In fact, she outlived her daughter (Julia), her son-in-law (Homer), her granddaughter (Addie) and even her great-grandson (Ernie).

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He purchased land

Captain Hawley purchased 40 acres from the US Government in 1844.

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Close up of the

Close up of the paperwork. The date was August 1, 1844.

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A picture of young Homer Hoyt at the time of his marriage to Julia Hawley (in 1861). He was a dapper young fellow, wasnt he?

A picture of young Homer Hoyt at the time of his marriage to Julia Hawley (in 1861). He was a dapper young fellow, wasn't he?

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Homer Hoyt and Julia Hawley Hoyt had three children, Anna (1866), Addie (1872) and Eugene (1875).

Homer Hoyt and Julia Hawley Hoyt had three children, Anna (1866), Addie (1872) and Eugene (1875). Homer and Julia died within a year of each other (1894 and 1895). This picture was taken in 1888.

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What happened to Addie?

What happened to Homer and Julia's little girl, "Addie"? How did someone with such a bright future get tangled up with someone like Enoch?

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To learn more about Addie, click here.

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The Fargo Mansion in The News - Then and Now

February 11th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

In the early 1980s, the Fargo Mansion Inn was slated for demolition. The two men who purchased it and saved it (Tom Boycks and Barry Luce) have done a remarkable job of restoring it.

This weekend, this wonderful house (and one of the Innkeepers, Tom Boycks) were featured in the news.

And it’s a very photogenic house. I’ve given 200 lectures in 25 states, and I’ve stayed in a lot of B&Bs, and I can honestly say that the Fargo Mansion Inn was my favorite. Perhaps part of the reason is my family connection. The house belonged to my great, great Aunt Addie and her husband, Enoch J. Fargo. As mentioned in other blogs, the current owners have done a first-class job of restoring this beautiful 7,500-square-foot Queen Anne manse.

In the last few days, David Spriggs and I have been slowly working our way through old editions of the Lake Mills Leader (newspaper) and in the process, we found some fascinating historical tidbits about the grand old house. On a personal note, one of the most interesting tidbits was discovering that my grandmother visited “Aunt Addie’s house” when she was six years old.

To read about the murder of Addie Hoyt, click here.

To learn more about the Fargo Mansion, click here.

To book a room at this magnificent B&B, click here.

Newspaper

Enoch married Addie on February 11, 1896. This notice about the remodeling of the Fargo Mansion appeared in the newspaper on August 13, 1896.

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more here

The same newspaper (August 13, 1896) said that the Fargos had moved into their "cottage by the lake." You might think that was so the work could be done to the "big house" and yet the article says that the Hubbs family had moved in!

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House

On August 27, 1896 the paper said that Mr. Henningson was making good progress on the remodeling of the Fargo Mansion.

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house

As of October 29, 1896, Enoch and Addie's home was "nearing completion."

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house house

On November 12, 1896, Addie and Enoch moved into a corner of the house.

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house warming

The big housewarming was on July 8, 1897, almost a full year after the work had started.

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Florence

In 1887, Anna Hoyt (Addie's sister) married Wilbur Whitmore and moved away from Lake Mills, settling in Denver, Colorado. Anna's first child died at the age of six. Anna's second child ("Florence") was born in 1891. Florence Whitmore (my grandmother) was six years old when she went east to visit "Aunt Addie" in Lake Mills. This item appeared in the Lake Mills Leader on July 8, 1897. Little Florence had traveled - by train - alone from Denver for Addie's big house-warming party.

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My grandmother, Florence Whitmore (Fuller).

My grandmother, Florence Whitmore (Fuller). It was quite something to think that my grandmother had visited Addie and Enoch at their home in Lake Mills.

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Florence

Florence didn't return to Denver until October 26, 1897. This snippet (above) appeared on October 27th. Florence was with her Auntie in Lake Mills for almost four months (from early July to late October . Perhaps even more interesting, six-year-old Florence traveled *alone* from Chicago to Denver. I'd imagine that Auntie took little Florence to Chicago, because there was "non-stop service" from Chicago to Denver.

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Apparently Florence survived that long train ride in 1897.

Apparently little Florence survived that long train ride in 1897. "Grandmother Fuller" lived into her 90s, passing on in 1985. I wish I'd known to ask Florence about Addie.

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Fargo Mansion

Addie put together a photo album for her sister (living in Denver), and in that photo album, there were several pictures of the Fargo Mansion.

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Addie

This was a rarity for this time period: A photo of the bedroom. One of my friends (who's well versed in the ways of Victorian women) asked me, "Was Addie pregnant here?" I told her, "I don't think so." She replied, "This photo really makes me wonder. The rocking chair, the fluffy dress, and the needlework, plus it was very unusual for a woman to permit a professional photographer to take pictures of her in the bedroom."

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Addie in front

Addie in front of the Fargo Mansion.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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“Every Funeral Tradition of the Time Was Violated By This Burial…”

February 9th, 2012 Sears Homes 6 comments

“In 1901, a death in a small town was a community event, and in a town with only 1800 people, death was a big event.”

That’s one of about three dozen amazing tidbits I learned about funeral customs during my conversation with Marty Mitchell, Funeral Director of Mitchell Funeral Home in Marshalltown, Iowa. Marty has a special interest in early 20th Century burial customs, and has an amazing collection of artifacts from that period.

A social slap in the face to the community.

“The funeral of this young wife of the town’s most prominent citizen would have been a very elegant and elaborate affair,” he told me. “Addie’s sudden death would have captured the whole town’s interest, and everyone would have turned out for the viewing and then later, attended the funeral. The lack of a proper funeral for this 29-year-old woman - who died so suddenly - would have been a social slap in the face to the community.”

Mr. Mitchell couldn’t understand how all this could have transpired in less than eight hours.

“It would have been totally unacceptable for a community to wake up the next the day and find out, ‘Enoch’s wife died last night and Addie’s already in the ground.’ The immediate burial - dead at 2:00 a.m., and buried by 10:00 a.m. - would have been quite a scandal. People in town would have been wondering what in the world was going on.”

Diphtheria equals fast burial? Not really.

I asked about the claim that a communicable disease prompted the fast burial. Mr. Mitchell made the point that a century ago, it was contagious disease that usually took the lives of children, and yet they were not tossed into the ground immediately and unceremoniously. In fact, their funerals were also fairly elaborate affairs with embalming, wakes, viewing, and finally a burial. Typically, a Victorian-era funeral spanned about three days, from death to interment.

Arsenic and old lead.

In 1901, embalming fluid was made with arsenic and lead, and it was a powerful disinfectant.

“The funeral director would never even have questioned the family about the embalming, like we do today,” he told me. “They just would have set up the embalming fluid and started right in. And there’s a fair chance he wouldn’t have even asked about the cause of death.”

Addie’s black shoes.

As I suspected, Addie’s black dress shoes were also a point of interest.

In 1901, a woman’s shoes were removed when their body was prepared for burial, and “burial slippers” were then placed on their feet. Mr. Mitchell explained that burial slippers were made of CLOTH, not leather, and they would not have endured through the years.

Remembering the remnants of black leather lace-up shoes found in Addie’s grave - with their 1-1/2″ heel - I asked Mr. Mitchell, “Is it possible that burial shoes would have had a heel?”

His reply was, “No, there was no heel. In fact, these shoes didn’t have soles, like you’d find in a pair of everyday shoes, but just cloth bottoms. And the bottoms were just a piece of fabric that was sewn on. These slippers had a type of elastic band so you could slip them easily onto the deceased’s feet.”

“Your aunt must have died in those black boots and was then carried right out to the grave,” he told me, “because if a funeral director was involved in preparing her body, those shoes would have been removed, and the burial slippers would have been put on her feet. She would not have been buried in walking shoes. There’s just no way.”

Addie was murdered.

The black shoes prove that Addie was murdered, and that old Enoch didn’t even have the decency to give his young wife a proper burial. If Addie was sick, those shoes would have been removed when she went to bed. If her body was prepared for burial, those shoes would have been removed and burial slippers put on in their place.

Ah, but there’s still more.

“Addie should have been buried in the best casket that was available,” he told me. “From what you’ve described, it sounds like an oak coffin, which was not the best. Mahogany and cypress would have been higher end. It doesn’t sound like Addie’s coffin was either one of those, because they don’t rot.” (All that remained of Addie’s coffin were small slivers of wood inside the sterling silver coffin handles.)

Cast-iron caskets.

“And if Enoch was claiming that diphtheria was the cause of death, her casket should have been either metal or cast iron. And I’m sure that a funeral home would have recommended a vault for someone of Addie’s prominence.”

According to Mr. Mitchell, vaults were widely used in this time period, commonly made of metal or brick. Less commonly, pre-formed concrete slabs were inserted into the grave. The vaults had no bottom, just sides and a top. They were expensive, so it was the well-to-do who had vaults for their loved ones.

And what about Addie’s shallow grave? Mr. Mitchell explained that traditional grave depth was planned to provide a minimum of three feet of earth atop the casket. Adding in the casket’s height and a domed vault, created a grave depth of about six feet.

When I told him that Addie’s remains were found at 34″, he said, “Wow, that’s a very, very shallow grave.”

He explained: “One of the reasons that we make sure there’s three feet of earth on the casket is because of animal intrusion. Given the other facts in this burial, I almost wonder if that was intentional. Once animals invade a grave, they’ll divide up the body and carry it off.  Our funeral home is right in the middle of Iowa, and years ago, we had a grave with a crushed lid, and the animals dug into it and they took everything off in different directions. There was nothing to re-inter. I almost wonder Enoch buried her in a shallow grave intentionally, thinking that animals would deal with her remains.”

In conclusion, I think Mr. Mitchell is right. I think an animal did deal with Addie’s remains, but it was the two-legged kind.

To read part II of this blog, click here.

Dr. Peterson

This photo really shows the shallowness of Addie's grave. The day of exhumation, we arrived with buckets and ladders and ropes and shovels, ready to dig down to six to eight feet. This grave is just beyond knee-deep.

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Dr. Fred Anapol and a student examine Addie's remains.

exhume

Dr. Peterson and Dr. Anapol carefully extricate old bones from the grave site.

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Addie's days in a shallow grave are now over.

Addie on her wedding day, February 1896. She was 24.

Addie on her wedding day, February 1896. She was 24.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

To see Addie in her beautiful dresses, click here.

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Lake Mills Cemetery and Addie’s Family

December 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 9 comments

On November 3, 2011, Addie Hoyt’s remains were exhumed and taken to Milwaukee for an autopsy. Read about the results of that autopsy here.

When I was in Lake Mills (early September and then again in late October), I walked the full breadth and length of the cemetery, looking for my (and Addie’s) relatives. (Addie Hoyt Fargo was my great, great aunt.)

I found more than a few family headstones. And I also found that I have a few questions.

Addie Hoyts remains were removed on November 3rd, 2011. She was Enoch Fargos second wife. According to Enochs granddaughter (Mary Wilson), Enoch killed Addie.

Addie Hoyt's remains were removed on November 3rd, 2011. She was Enoch Fargo's second wife. According to Enoch's granddaughter (Mary Wilson), Enoch killed Addie.

Addies sister (right) was Anna (1866-1966), and Anna married Wilbur W. Whitmore. Shortly after their marriage, they moved to Denver.

Addie's sister (right) was Anna (1866-1966), and Anna married Wilbur W. Whitmore. Shortly after their marriage, they moved to Denver. Anna is buried in Denver with her husband (1865-1939) and their young son (Ernest Eugene Whitmore, 1888-1894).

Eugene Beech Hoyt was a fairly dapper-looking fellow.

Addie's brother was Eugene Beach Hoyt. He was a fairly dapper-looking fellow.

Addie and Annie had a brother, Eugene.

Is Eugene buried here in Lake Mills, or is this simply a memorial marker?

Homer

Homer Hoyt (the father of Addie, Annie and Eugene) is not buried in Lake Mills. This is a memorial stone at the Lake Mills cemetery. According to this, Homer died in 1894 and is buried in Everett, Washington. Addie's mother died in January 1895, in San Mateo, California. Phebe was a sister of Homer, and she died at the age of 2.

Kim

Kimball Hoyt and Sally Hoyt were Addie's paternal grandparents. They died in 1893 and 1894. Addie lost six relatives between 1893 and January 1895. She lost her father, her mother, her paternal grandparents, her Uncle Smith Hoyt and her nephew (Anna's little boy).

These markers represent several of the Sanborns. Kimball Hoyt married Sally Sanborn, and apparently, there were several Sanborns in Lake Mills in the earlyy 1800s.

These markers represent several of the Sanborns. Kimball Hoyt married Sally Sanborn, and apparently, there were several Sanborns in Lake Mills in the early 1800s. Sally Sanborn Hoyt would have been Addie's father's mother (or Addie's grandmother).

Addie

Addie's foot stone is still in place at the cemetery, but as my friends have pointed out, it's only a marker. Her remains have been removed from this disrespectfully shallow grave. No piece or part of Addie Hoyt remains in the Fargo plot.

I would love to know if Eugene is buried there at the Lake Mills Cemetery. If so, he is the only immediate family member buried there. Addie’s remains have been removed, Anna is buried in Denver (with her husband), and Homer (Dad) is in Everett, Washington. Julia Hawley Hoyt (Addie’s Mom) died (and is probably buried) in California.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

To learn more about Addie and Anna, click here.

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The Prettiest Kit Home You Ever Saw (in Tahlequah, Oklahoma)

December 21st, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

More kit homes have been found in Tahlequah! To read the most recent update, click here.

Dear friend and indefatigable researcher Rachel Shoemaker has found an abundance of kit homes in Oklahoma, and recently, she found one of the prettiest Gordon Van Tine “Roberts” that I have ever seen - anytime and anywhere!  (Gordon Van Tine was a competitor of Sears in the kit home business. GVT sold about 50,000 kit homes from 1910 - 1945.)

This kit home is located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma which was the original capital of the Cherokee Nation in 1838. According to Wikipedia, Tahlequah became a settlement in 1832. Street signs in the city are printed in both English and the Cherokee language.

I’m told that Tahlequah is a lovely city, located at the western edge of the Ozark Mountains, and it’s also the home of Merle Travis, Sonny Sixkiller (football player) and Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

To learn more about kit homes, click here.

To learn more about the kit homes in Oklahoma, click here.

To learn more about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts as seen in the 1921 catalog.

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK

GVT Roberts in Tahlequah, OK, and it's a beauty! Like the house above, this also has the two-story porch on the left side. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Rober

The GVT Roberts has had several additions through the years, but still looks much like the catalog page shown above. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Im not sure why this house has a periscope.

I'm not sure why this house has a periscope. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language.

Street signs are printed in both English and in Cherokee language. (Photo is copyright 2011, Rachel Shoemaker and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

To contact Rachel Shoemaker, please leave a comment below.  She’s done extensive research on the kit homes in Oklahoma, and has traveled countless miles, researching and documenting these historically significant homes. We’re both puzzled as to how and why so many kit homes landed here, but it’s time that someone hired Rachel to do a proper survey of this impressive collection of Oklahoma’s architectural treasure trove of kit homes.  Heretofore, all the work she’s done has been at her own expense.

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A History of Lake Mills and The Story of a Murder

December 18th, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

“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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about Addie, please share this link with others on Facebook!

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." According to Mary Wilson, her information about Addie's murder came from Elsie Fargo Mccammon.

Mary WilsonElsie 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.

Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion.

The Fargo Mansion in the late 1890s.

The Fargo Mansion in the late 1890s.

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What The Medical Examiner Told Me About Addie…

December 3rd, 2011 Sears Homes 21 comments

Addie was exhumed on November 3, 2011, and taken to Milwaukee for an autopsy. To read why this was done, click here. To read the latest, click here.

Two weeks after the exhumation, I talked with the medical examiner by phone, and he gave me a full report.

Perhaps the most important thing that needs to be known is that the autopsy results were inconclusive.

Inconclusive.

Based on the email and the comments received, a lot of people are very fuzzy on what that means.

It means this:  The autopsy did not prove that Addie was murdered (due to both the lack of skeletal remains and their poor condition), and it did not prove that she was not murdered.

Let me share something else the medical examiner told me in that conversation on November 17th at 10:28 in the morning. He said, and I quote, “We didn’t have a lot of [Addie's] skull.”

While her lower jaw was found, with several teeth still in place, her upper jaw and teeth were not found. Nor was her face (the skull bones underlying her face). Nor were a few other pieces and parts.

That’s one of the reasons that the results were inconclusive. You can’t make a definitive finding when there’s a lack of physical evidence.

That’s the first important point, and here’s the second. In Mary Wilson’s book (The History of Lake Mills), she writes, “A number of persons who knew Mr. Fargo will tell the same story - he shot Addie!” (page 274).

Mary Wilson doesn’t say, Enoch shot Addie in the head. She says, Enoch shot Addie.

I asked the medical examiner, if there’d be any evidence now - 110 years later - of a gunshot wound to the chest, and he said no.

Further, he said that “most of Addie’s ribs were broken,” (that’s another direct quote), and it’s likely that the breaks happened post-mortem, but it’s impossible to know for sure. Her remains were in very poor condition, and that made it difficult to test for much of anything.

Poor Addie, buried in that shallow grave - above the frost line - was not far from returning to dust.

“It hard to make sense of whether or not there was foul play,” he told me.

And he added, forensic science “is like a camera. The further away you get from the subject, the harder it is to see.”

And 1901 is a long, long way from 2011.

He added, “That’s the problem with these contemporary criminal dramas like CSI. They create unrealistically high expectations.”

In conclusion, Addie’s autopsy was inconclusive.

Again, that simply means that the autopsy did not prove that Addie was murdered (due to both the lack of skeletal remains and their poor condition), and it did not prove that she was not murdered.

Several people have sent thoughtful emails saying that they’re sorry I wasn’t able to get “closure,” and while I appreciate their kindness, the fact is, I’m glad I did this. Finding her buried in a shallow grave, coupled with the discovery that she was wearing dress shoes was enough for me to know - I did the right thing.

Further, I’ve also received many notes from people who knew Mary Wilson personally, and they affirm that she was a trustworthy source, and that she would not have fabricated such a fantastic story.

Did Enoch murder Addie? Mary Wilson certainly thought so.

The autopsy was inconclusive, but based on the amazing paper trail that Oatway left behind, it is clear that Addie Hoyt did not die of diphtheria, which begs the question, what happened to Addie, that those present at her death felt they had to fabricate the story of diphtheria. What were they trying to cover up? And there is also the fact that Enoch remarried seven months after Addie died, and in fact, he married the woman that had been living in the Fargo Mansion when Addie died.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

You can find Addie on Facebook. Search for Addie Hoyt Fargo in Lake Mills.

To learn about Addie and Annie (her sister), click here.

Addie in 1894, two years before she married Enoch.

Addie in 1894, two years before she married Enoch.

Addie

Addie (left) was 15 when this photo was taken (in 1887), and her life was already half over. She was 29 years old when she was killed. On the right is Addie's sister, Anna Hoyt (my great-grandmother). Anna (right) was 21 and was already married to Wilbur Whitmore and living in Denver, Colorado.

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Addies foot stone still remains at her empty tomb.

Addie's head stone in Lake Mills is now a cenotaph. Her remains are now in Norfolk with me, and the rest of her family. No more shallow graves for Addie.

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Some of the nasty notes I get from anonymous nuts purport to tell me that this is not a shallow grave.  Given that the frost line is 3-4 feet, and given that the traditional burial depth is 6-8 feet, Id have to say that this picture is worth a whole lot of words.

Some of the nasty notes I get from anonymous trolls try to tell me that this is not a shallow grave. Given that the frost line in Wisconsin is 3-4 feet, and given that the traditional burial depth is 6-8 feet, I'd have to say that this picture is worth a whole lot of words.

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Turns out, we didnt need those ladders and buckets and ropes to excavate the grave. It was knee-deep in places.

Turns out, we didn't need those ladders and buckets and ropes to excavate the grave. It was about knee-deep in places. This was alarming. Assuming a coffin height of 18", the top of Addie's coffin was only about 16" below the grass.

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And there is now enough circumstantial evidence that one thing is clear; Diphtheria was not the cause of death.

Enoch was so arrogant he didn't even worry about getting caught in his lies. Despite strongly worded state laws, the Fargo Mansion was never quarantined or fumigated, following the "tragic loss" of Addie to diphtheria. You'd think that he'd at least follow the law, to create the appearance of diphtheria, especially since he'd lost his nine-year-old daughter (Myrtle) in 1887, when quarantine laws were not followed expeditiously. Myrtle (born 1878) contracted Typhoid (and died from it) when she got into a neighbor's burn pile and played with an infected doll. She was nine years old.

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Addie, shortly before her death.

Addie, shortly before her death.

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Addie in 1895, and in 1901. Life with Enoch was very, very hard.

Addie in 1896, and five years later, 1901. Life with Enoch was very, very hard.

Was she beaten? Its certainly possible. Look at her lip and her nose and her right eye.

Was she beaten? It's certainly possible. Look at her swollen lip and her nose and her right eye.

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Addie and Her Story

November 29th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

If you’ve enjoyed hearing about Addie Hoyt Fargo, please bookmark this page. You can also sign up at the website to automatically receive an email notification when new blogs are posted. I highly recommend that feature, too.

On the upper right side of the page, there’s an “@” with an orange background and it says, “Email Feed.” Click on that logo, and you can sign up for the automatic email notification. (Your email will not be saved and/or used for any other purpose.)

Many people found out about Addie through Facebook but due to time constraints and other issues (and frankly, problems with Facebook), I’ll be posting less and less there.

As more and more people get interested in this story, more and more facts are coming to light, and it’s my expectation that - before long - we’ll learn a lot more about what happened to Addie on Tuesday night (June 18th), 1901 and Wednesday morning (June 19th).

It’s deeply gratifying to know that Addie’s silence in a shallow grave has come to an end. After 110 years, she has a voice again.

Please share this link with your friends, and spread the word. It’s a fascinating story, and an important story, and with so many good souls working laboriously to get to the truth, something wonderful is bound to happen. Of that, I am sure.

Please stay in touch with Addie via this website. www.searshomes.org

Thank you for caring about Addie.

Rosemary Thornton

thorntonrose@hotmail.com

Addie sitting on the steps of the Fargo Mansion. I love this outfit for its practicality and simple beauty.

Addie sitting on the steps of the Fargo Mansion.

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They Didn’t *Act* Like It Was Diphtheria…

November 11th, 2011 Sears Homes 10 comments

Last night, I stayed up way too late reading about the Wisconsin State Health Code in the early 1900s.

And frankly, it was a fascinating read. To understand Addie’s alleged murder,  you have to learn a little more about that time period, and think back to life in early 20th Century America. Reading through these historical materials helped me to do just that.

I learned some interesting facts.

1)  If diphtheria (or another communicable disease) was found in a home, the house was to be quarantined and placarded. Health officials had discovered that people were not abiding by the placard (and the laws supporting it), so sentries were to be stationed at the house to make sure no one went in or out. This might sound extreme, but if your only defense against a communicable disease is to prevent its spread, a strictly enforced quarantine would be a very good plan.

Again, in a historical context, the germ theory was new information.

For so many years, mothers could only watch in helpless horror as their young children died from any one of a myriad of “common” diseases. And then in the late 1800s, Dr. Joseph Lister discovered that germs were culprit. Mothers and fathers, weary of burying their children, had a new arch enemy: household dirt. As is explained in the 1908 book, Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’ Cook-Book:

Not many years ago disease was most often deemed the act of Providence as a chastening or visitation for moral evil. Many diseases are now known to be merely human ignorance and uncleanliness. The sins for which humanity suffers are violations of the laws of sanitation and hygiene, or simply the one great law of absolute sanitary cleanliness… Every symptom of preventable disease and communicable disease…should suggest the question: “Is the cause of this illness an unsanitary condition within my control?”

Now that the enemy had been identified, modern women attacked it with every tool in their arsenal. Keeping a house clean was far more than a matter of mere pride: The well-being, nay, the very life of one’s child might depend upon a home’s cleanliness. What mother wanted to sit at the bedside of their sick child, tenderly wiping his fevered brow and pondering the awful question: “Was the cause of this illness an unsanitary condition within my control?”

Which leads me to another discovery. Diphtheria was described in the vintage literature as The Poor Immigrant’s Disease. It was found primarily in the big cities, and in the slums. It was believed that sanitary living, cleanliness and good diet did much to ameliorate the threat of contracting diphtheria. And that led me to another question: Why would Oatway say that Addie died of The Poor Immigrant’s Disease?

Timing.

What if Addie had been seen in downtown Lake Mills the morning of the 18th? And having read 15 months of the Lake Mills Leader, I can tell you - Addie was a busy girl. She was always doing something! If she had been out on Tuesday morning (the 18th), Oatway would know that his concocted story would have to match a certain timeline.

Diphtheria hadn’t been seen in Lake Mills or contiguous small towns for years. Perhaps most people didn’t know or understand the typical progression of this disease. Most people didn’t have the education (or the resources) to double-check Oatway’s claim that diphtheria could kill within 15 hours of onset. They didn’t understand that the heavy membrane of the soft palate that accompanied malignant diphtheria (as it was then known) didn’t start to form until 2-3 days after onset. In other words, most people wouldn’t have the background and/or life experience to know that his claim was far-fetched.

Back to the other facts I discovered…

2) After the patient had recovered (or died) from diphtheria (or any other communicable disease), their personal possessions (clothing and linens) were to be destroyed by burning or - in the case of small items - buried with them.

3) The body of the recently deceased was to be “disinfected” and the rules for the disinfection of the body followed a strict protocol and specific steps.

4) The house was also to be disinfected and fumigated. Note, not just the sick room, but the entire house.

5) In Wisconsin, if the deceased had died from diphtheria (or other communicable disease), they were to be buried or cremated within 24 hours of death, and there was to be no public funeral (again, due to fears about spreading the disease). In most states, these bodies could NOT be disinterred for a period of time (three years to ten years).

6) Traditional burial depths in Midwestern states were six feet deep.  As of 1910, I can not find a legal requirement under-girding this, but I’m still looking. In one Midwestern state, there was a specific demand that if the person had died of small pox (a very contagious disease) the body was to be buried “extra deep” (beyond the standard six feet). At the time, it was believed that diphtheria germs could remain viable (presenting a contagion hazard) for up to 48 hours after a person’s death.

7) Enoch and his first wife (Mary Rutherford) had a little girl named Mertie (”Myrtle”) who died in 1887 at the age of nine. A neighbor child had contracted Typhoid and died, and the family had put her toys out on the burn pile. Little Mertie grabbed a little doll off the burn pile and played with it. Soon thereafter, Mertie contracted Typhoid and passed on. The point of this story is - Enoch should have been terrified of communicable disease and would understand the need to do anything to keep his other two girls safe. One would think he’d have put the Fargo Mansion on the “burn pile” if he thought it was needful to keep the other two girls safe from this diphtheria that Oatway had described as especially virulent and fast-acting.

8 ) When I was in Lake Mills a few days ago, I read the Lake Mills Leader from November 1900 - February 1902. I paid special attention to the articles in June and July of 1901 (when Addie died). I did not find any mention of the Fargo Mansion being placarded and quarantined. You’d think this would be front page news in Lake Mills in Summer 1901.

Six months prior (December 13, 1900), the Lake Mills Leader had three separate stories about the happenings at The Fargo Manse (fancy dinner for 12, Addie’s trip to Milwaukee and Enoch’s installation of electric lights in the barn). Each of these three little stories made the FRONT page of the Lake Mills Leader. In January 1901, the Lake Mills Leader ran a detailed story on Crepaco, E. J. Fargo’s massive creamery in Lake Mills. Largely a puff piece, the subtitle for this splendiferous article was, “Sketch of the Great Plant.”

E. J. Fargo was the big deal in Lake Mills. If the Fargo Mansion (as it was then known) had been quarantined, we would have known about it.

Despite Addie’s alleged death from Ninja-Stealth Diphtheria, the house (and its residents) were never quarantined. Again, this was a violation of state law and Dr. Oatway (a professional physician and the public health officer for Lake Mills) knew that he was violating state law.

But this was consistent with his other behavior. On Addie’s death certificate, Oatway said she died of diphtheria. In Addie’s obit, Oatway is quoted as saying that it was the most virulent and fast-acting strain of diphtheria that he’d ever seen in his career. A few months later when he filed a report with the state board of health, he reported that there’d been no cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901.

He tells the public (via an obit) that she died of diphtheria, but then takes no action to sterilize the house and/or quarantine the family. If the Fargo Mansion was not quarantined, he was violating the very laws he was sworn to uphold, and he was not fulfilling his paid duties as the Lake Mills public health officer.

Those are some interesting facts. Here are a few more.

Addie was buried in her lace-up shoes. Addie was buried without her wedding jewelry (or any jewelry, for that matter). Addie’s remains were found at 34″ of depth. Addie’s coffin apparently had a glass viewing window on the top.

So, if we follow the official storyline about diphtheria, Enoch was so worried about contagion and in such a hurry to get Addie buried, that she was in the ground by 10:00 am, after a presumed death of 2:00 am. And yet, he took the time to dress her in street clothes (hence the fancy shoes), knowing that there’d be no funeral and no public viewing? That’s a tough sell.

If this was a traditional funeral, I’d say, “Sure, people were often dressed to the nines in preparation for burial,” but the obit tells us that she died at 2:00 am and was in the ground eight hours later. That’s a rush job, to say the least.

And even though Enoch was so worried about contagion and in such a hurry to get her buried, he took the time to remove her jewelry and even pry her wedding band off her delicate little fingers?

And even though Enoch was so worried about contagion from this Ninja-Stealth Diphtheria, her grave was dug to a depth of only 34″ instead of the traditional six feet of depth?

And even though Enoch was so worried about contagion from this Ninja-Stealth Diphtheria, his house was never quarantined or disinfected?

And the viewing window on the coffin really had me flummoxed. Why in the world would you spend the extra money to buy a fancy coffin with a small viewing window on the top, when you know that there’s not going to be a viewing? What’s the point of buying the fancier coffin when it’s just going directly into the ground?

Was it the only thing they had in stock at 2:00 am at Hansen & Hildebrandt? I couldn’t figure this one out, and then my husband offered a theory. These coffins with the little viewing window were designed for those loved ones who’d succumbed to a contagious disease. You could still gaze upon the beautiful face of your dearly departed without any risk of exposure to germs.

The hubby said, “It’s the coffin that you’d buy if you were following the script that Addie died from communicable disease.”

And these few facts (above) don’t even address the many other inconsistencies we’ve found in this story. Read more about them here.

Lastly, one has to wonder: What did the townspeople think? They knew about quarantines and they knew about contagious disease. Why wasn’t Fargo being forced to comply? Did they also have suspicions about Addie’s fast death? If they did, what were they to do?

Enoch’s company employed 86 people in January 1901. If the average household was five people, that meant that 430 of Lake Mills’ 1,800 residents could be in big trouble fast if they questioned Enoch J. Fargo’s explanation of events. In addition to those 430, how many other people were beholden to Fargo, and wanted to stay on his good side? And what about the rest of the Fargo clan? Probably a large number of Lake Mills’ people were dependent upon some member of the Fargo family for their income and livelihood.

And what about the rest of Lake Mills’ 1800 residents? William H. Oatway was more than just the town doctor; he was also the public health officer, and like Enoch, another formidable member of the community. What common citizen would dare confront both of these powerful men?

Addie

Addie was exhumed on Thursday, November 3, 2011. Addie Hoyt Fargo is no longer in the grave that bears her name.

Addies little

Was this what the well-dressed, sick-in-bed diphtheria patient wore ? Based on the remnants found in Addie's grave, these were probably similar to the shoes that Addie was wearing (and was buried with) when she died in June 1901.

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Addie was exhumed on November 3, 2011. She will not be returning to Lake Mills.

Addie was exhumed on November 3, 2011. She will not be returning to Lake Mills. After the autopsy is complete, Addie's remains will be coming home with me.

grave

This photo really demonstrates the shallowness of Addie's grave.

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Addies grave was empty by 12:00 noon.

Addie's grave was empty by 12:00 noon.

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First, my favorite. I assume this was a traveling outfit for Addie, judging by the little bag at her side.

The necklace draped around her neck appears in several photos, but there were no items of jewelry found in her grave. Interestingly, one gold dental crown was found, but no jewelry.

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Close-up of the "necklace." If someone knows what this is called, I'd love to know.

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

Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion.

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Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Note the date (near the bottom), and directly underneath the date is the burial permit number. In fact, burial permit #32 was issued to Alinda G. Hornikle, who died on March 26, 1902 at 3:00 am. Alinda G. Hornikle was 24 years old.

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Close-up of the parental info. Why didnt Oatway bother to contact Homer Hoyt, who was still living in the small town of Lake Mills, and get this information?

Close-up of the parental info. "Mr. Hoyt" was not born in Wisconsin, but Vermont. Was it really too much trouble for Oatway to ask Enoch about the first names of Addie's parents?

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the

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.

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Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

word

This burial permit (#21) is dated May 1st, and the death occurred the day before - April 30th.

word

Addie's should have been permit #22 (judging by the date). But "John Smith" died on June 26th, and this burial permit was dated June 27th. Addie died on June 19, 1901.

wor

As mentioned above, burial permits were required for every grave that was opened. This burial permit was for a stillborn baby (unnamed). As Bill told us, a burial permit was required for every grave - no exceptions. This was the only permit I saw that had the same permit date and death date. In the case of an unnamed, stillborn child, the logistics involved in burial were very different.

Enoch

Enoch J. Fargo

Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) in 1910, at the age of 44, pictured beside Addie Hoyt Fargo (right) in 1896, at the age of 24.  Anna lived to be 99 years old. Its likely that Addie would have also lived a long life.

Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) in 1910, at the age of 44, pictured beside Addie Hoyt Fargo (right) in 1896, at the age of 24. Anna lived to be 99 years old. It's likely that Addie would have also lived a long life. Anna moved to Denver in the 1880s. In early 20th Century America, Denver was a long way from Lake Mills. Notes written in Anna's own hand suggest that - as late as 1904 - she did not know that her baby sister was dead.

And perhaps

And perhaps most chilling of all is this photo of Addie - before and after Enoch. These two photos were taken five years apart. On the left, she was 24 years old. On the right, she was barely 29. Addie's life with Enoch was a hard life. Notice the swollen lip, skewed nose and puffy eyes. In addition, her hairline has receded significantly. She hardly looks like the same woman.

W

The Fargo Mansion - sometime around the late 1890s.

If you’d like to help with this project, please leave a comment below. If you have any information to share, please leave a comment.

To read more about Addie, click here.