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Posts Tagged ‘the fargos of lake mills’

“Every Funeral Tradition of the Time Was Violated By This Burial…” (Part II)

February 13th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

“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,’” said Marty Mitchell, Funeral Director of Mitchell Funeral Home in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Marty has extensive knowledge of turn-of-the-century burial customs, and has an amazing collection of artifacts from that period.

“Addie’s immediate burial - dead at 2:00 a.m., and buried by 10:00 a.m. - would have been quite a scandal,” he told me. “People in town would have been wondering what in the world was going on.”

Based on my reading of more than 75 obituaries from that time period, Marty is (pardon the pun), “dead on.”

For the last few days, I’ve been methodically reading the Lake Mills Leader newspaper on microfilm. Thus far, I’ve read from 1894-1898. And how many of those 75+ obituaries had same-day burials (as in, within 24 hours)?

NONE.

Not one.

Although I’ve not yet sat down and tallied up the precise numbers, there were a few deaths from typhoid, pneumonia, grippe (flu), and consumption (TB), all of which were considered communicable diseases. All of those folks - rich and poor - had proper funeral services, spanning a period of two, three or four days (from death to burial).

Not one of these obituaries tell a bizarre story like Addie’s, of dying in the wee hours and being buried the same morning. Then again, none of these people were married to Enoch James Fargo.

To learn more about Victorian-era funeral customs, click here.

Addies

Addie was buried on June 19th, 1901 in a shallow, hastily dug grave. On November 3, 2011, her body was exhumed. Her remains are now in Norfolk, VA (with her family).

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This obit from September 1898

Charles Ives died from Typhoid in September 1898. It was also considered a highly contagious disease, and yet he was transported by train and buried three days after death.

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Oatway

At the time of Addie's death (June 1901), Oatway was still a neophyte. He'd been a doctor for 2-1/2 years in June 1901 (when Addie died) He'd started his practice the year before in Waterloo.

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Good old genial Dr. Oatway.

Good old genial Dr. Oatway.

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As mentioned in another blog, the anti-toxin was in use by 1895. If Addie *did* have diphtheria - which she did NOT - this anti-toxin had already proven itself to be a good remedy.

As mentioned in another blog, the anti-toxin was in use by 1895. (The article above is from the "Lake Mills Leader," December 19, 1895.) If Addie *did* have diphtheria - which she did NOT - this anti-toxin had already proven itself to be a good remedy. About 90% of the adults who contracted diphtheria survived it. The 10% who perished typically died when the bacteria made its way to their heart or lungs. No one - young or old - died from diphtheria in 15 hours. It took several *days* for the diphtheritic membrane to form, and it was the formation of the membrane (and obstruction of the airway) that killed children.

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When diphtheria was present in a community, the news spread far and wide.

When diphtheria was present in a community, the news spread far and wide, and not surprisingly, it was found in batches. In all my reading, I've yet to find a report of a single isolated case of diphtheria. As mentioned elsewhere, in 1901, the mortality rate for an adult with diphtheria was 9.1%. Almost 90% of the people who contracted diphtheria (more than six and less than 40 years old) survived it. This snippet appeared October 1896.

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Addie and Annie, about 1887. Addie was 15 years old, and her life was half over.

Addie and Annie, about 1887. Addie was 15 years old here, and her life was half over.

To read more about Addie, click here.

To read more about what Elsie Fargo told her daughter, click here.

To learn more about Victorian-era funeral customs, click here.

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“The Law Requiring the Report of Dangerous Disease is Observed.” Kinda. Sorta.

October 12th, 2011 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thanks (again) to Mark Hardin, I have now read parts of the “Nineteenth Report of the State Board to Health to Wisconsin” for 1901/1902, which covers the time period during which Addie Hoyt Fargo allegedly died of diphtheria. This report was for the state of Wisconsin, and has a listing of all reports from all health officers in Wisconsin cities, towns, villages and townships. Full text here.

Doctor Oatway was the county health officer at the time. The same Dr. Oatway that attended to Addie as she lay dying from diphtheria.

In this report, he states that there were no deaths from diphtheria in the city in 1901. But wait, how can that be? Addie contracted diphtheria. She died of diphtheria. The death certificate states that, and Oatway certified that the death certificate was true, but this report contradicts the death certificate.

What the heck?

So Addie allegedly died of diphtheria, but Oatway didn’t report her diphtheria or subsequent death to the state (in his report below)? Maybe if there’d been a requirement that murder victims be reported to the state of Wisconsin, he would have remembered to report Addie under that column.

No time for a loquacious blog today, so please read the text  in full, and please leave comments below.

As my beloved brother Ed would say, “This certainly puts another wheel on the wagon…”

Page 15 of this report states that the deceased victims of diphtheria and other communicable diseases were to be placed in “sturdy coffins.” When Addie’s disinterment day arrives, that could be a real blessing.

And the best part, is the last line of this report:  Oatway says that “the laws requiring the issuing of…burial permits are observed.”

Wow, wow, wow.

Guess he’d rather lie to the state than end up in jail?

S

An interesting read. Read the entire article to get an idea of how much he lied. So, does this mean that he FORGOT about Addie, one of Lake Mills' most prominent citizens? Or did his conscience win the day, and refused to state publicly that she died from a disease process?

Please leave comments below. I always learn so much from other people’s ideas and intelligent insights.

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