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Christmas at the Fargo Mansion

December 12th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

It’s been about a year since I last stayed at the Fargo Mansion Inn in Lake Mills, Wisconsin but the many fond memories of that visit still remain. Many folks in that small, picturesque village showed me so many kindnesses. And two of the kindest, most sincere people I met during that trip were Tom Boycks and Barry Luce, owners of the Fargo Mansion Inn.

Were it not for these two, the 7,500-square foot Queen Anne mansion would have been reduced to several tons of construction debris at the county landfill. It was slated for demolition when they stepped in and bought it, sans heat, plumbing and electricity.

It’s been 25 years since those two saved this house, and today, it’s hard to imagine what Lake Mills would look like without this most impressive manse.

Since purchasing the solid-brick, 112-year-old house, Barry and Tom have poured their heart and soul (and a lot of money) into a thoughtful and thorough restoration. Visiting this house should be high on your “bucket list.” To make a reservation, click here.

The Fargo Mansion first came into my life in Summer 2011, shortly after my father’s death. Amongst his things, I found two old photo albums. One of the albums had an inscription: “Merry Christmas, Wilbur.”

Wilbur was my great-grandfather, but who was Addie Hoyt Fargo? Well, that’s a long story. To learn more about Addie Hoyt, click here.

To see pictures of Addie’s House, all dressed up for Christmas, scroll down!  (Thanks to Jan Vanderheiden for the photos!)

To read about Addie’s special Christmas present to Wilbur in 1900, click here.

To reserve a room at the Fargo Mansion (and see more gorgeous photos), click here.

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Addies house as it appeared in 1896, soon after a major remodeling.

Addie's house as it appeared in 1896, soon after a major remodeling.

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This beautiful house underwent a major remodeling in 1895 and 1896. Today, its a nationally known B&B. Addie would be proud!

This beautiful house underwent a major remodeling in 1895 and 1896. Today, it's a nationally known B&B. Addie would be proud! (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Inside, Tom and Barry have done a beautiful job of decorating the house for the holidays.

Inside, Tom and Barry have done a beautiful job of decorating the house for the holidays. (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Addie also did a fine job of decorating, back in 1896.

Addie also did a fine job of decorating, back in 1896. This photo faces the same corner as the contemporary photo shown above. Sadly, that newel post light ("Our Lady of the Naked Light") disappeared in the intervening decades.

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Tom and Barry love this old house, and it really shows.

Tom and Barry love this old house, and it really shows. (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Addie loved her house, too.

Addie loved her house, too. In the background, you can see that massive staircase and reception hall. Look at the fretwork and heavy curtains over the doorways.

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I love the vintage toys at the base of the tree. This tree sits at the base of the staircase. (Photos are copyright 2011 Jan Vanderheiden and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Notice the magnolia leaves on the Electrolier!

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When my father died in June 2011, I found this photo album buried in an old nightstand. Apparently Addie gave this to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore for a Christmas gift.

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Heres a picture of Addie with her older sister, Anna. Anna (born 1866) married Wilbur and moved to Denver. Wilbur and Annas families were both from Lake Mills and theyre my great-grandparents.

Here's a picture of Addie with her older sister, Anna. Anna (born 1866) married Wilbur and moved to Denver. Wilbur and Anna's families were both from Lake Mills and they're my great-grandparents.

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Wilbur and Anna about the time of their engagement (late 1880s).

Wilbur and Anna about the time of their engagement (late 1880s).

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To learn more about the Hoyts, click here.

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Addie Has Left Lake Mills - UPDATED!

November 4th, 2011 Sears Homes 25 comments

As of Thursday (November 3rd) at 11:45 am, Addie Hoyt Fargo is no longer in Lake Mills. (Update: Read the autopsy results here!)

Her skeletal remains were removed from the grave that bears her name and transported to Milwaukee, for a state-of-the-art, top-notch autopsy by Milwaukee Medical Examiner, Dr. Brian Peterson and Dr. Fred Anapol, Professor of Anthropology at University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

November 3rd was Addie’s exhumation day. To read more about why this exhumation was performed, click here.

At 7:15 am, I arrived at the gravesite. At 7:30, Minister McBride met me there, and we “gathered together” at Addie’s gravesite and asked for God’s blessings on the exhumation.

In all my travels, I don’t know when I’ve met a more Christly individual than  Bill McBride. Lake Mills is richly blessed to have such a spiritual warrior in their midst.

And  I think many of us present at the exhumation felt that Christly presence at this holy event. I know I did.

At 8:00 a.m., David Olsen (Olsen Funeral Home, Jefferson) arrived to assist the family (that’d be me). David Olsen is one of the heroes in this story, and without him, Addie’s exhumation would never have happened. I can’t say enough good things about this incredible man. He volunteered his services and gave countless hours of his time to make this come together.

His motive: He said it was the “right thing to do.”

Attorney Kurt Anderson arrived about 8:45 am. Like Dave Olsen, he was also a hero in this story. Without Kurt, there would not have been an exhumation. He spent countless hours working to get the court order and dealt with other legal issues.

Tom Boycks arrived about 9:00 am, and as soon as I laid eyes him, he gave me a big, warm smile. I was so happy to see him there. Innkeepers Tom Boycks and Barry Luce were another pair of angelic helpers in this story. I could talk for days about their many kindnesses. And don’t get me started on their gorgeous mansion. During my prolonged stay in Lake Mills, they treated me like a member of  their own family, and permitted me to stay at their home.

Dr. Brian Peterson and Dr. Fred Anapol arrived at the cemetery about 9:40 am. (The exhumation was scheduled to start at 10:00 am.) These two men were the consummate professionals. As I watched them work, at times on their knees in the damp grave, I felt that Addie was smiling from above, pleased that all the right people had stepped into my life at exactly the right time, to unearth the truth. God, His Angels and maybe Addie herself didn’t just send me helpers; She sent me the “best of the best.”

As expected, skeletal remains were found in Addie’s grave, and the bones were mostly intact.

Yesterday, as the exhumation progressed, there were a few surprises.

First, a fact:  I learned that coffins were typically buried at a depth of about 6-8 feet deep in Wisconsin.

Addie’s remains were found at 34″ (as measured by the medical examiner).

If she were in an 18″ high coffin, the top of the coffin would have been 16″ below the top of the soil. That’s an extremely shallow grave and a disturbing bit of evidence. (She was buried June 19, 1901. The ground would not have been frozen.)

This, coupled with the fact that there’s no burial permit for Addie is suspicious, and it suggests that it was not a professional grave digger who dug the grave.

Addie was wearing dress shoes, black leather with a tight lace on the front, and a small heel.

I’m still wrapping my mind around this. She died at 2:00 am from diphtheria. According to the obit, the disease was so fast-acting and so awful that she died in 16 hours, and was hastily buried and in the ground by 10:00 am. That’s eight hours later. If you were in bed, dying from diphtheria, would you be wearing your dress shoes? And if you died of a communicable disease and you were in the ground eight hours later, do you think someone would take the time to put on your high-top lace-up shoes? Probably not. They knew there’d be no viewing. Why was she wearing shoes? I’m still thinking about this.

Inside the grave were countless pieces of broken window glass, and it’s possible that the container in which Addie was buried had a glass top, but that doesn’t make sense either, because of the thickness of window glass. It was so thin that the first shovel full of dirt would have cracked the too-thin glass.

Update:  We’re now fairly confident that this coffin had a small viewing window on the top.  These were known as “safety coffins,” because they provided a means for viewing the deceased without the threat of contagion. Was it a “display coffin”? Was it the only thing in stock at 4:00 am at the local funeral home? Enoch knew there’d be no viewing. Why did he use such a coffin?

Second update!  Unfortunately, due in large part to the extremely shallow grave (she was buried at 34″, above the frost line), and the length of time (110 years),  and some missing pieces (much of her skull was missing), the autopsy was inconclusive. To read more about the autopsy results, click here..

To read more about Addie, click here.

To read about the inconsistencies in Addie’s obituary, click here.

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The city required this "fence" at the site.

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Addie's grave is now empty.

Addies foot stone still remains at her empty tomb.

Addie's head stone in Lake Mills is now a cenotaph.

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Annie and Addie: The Hoyt Sisters From Lake Mills

July 16th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

The young woman’s face in the old photo looked hauntingly familiar, but who was she?

It all started June 13, 2011, when I cleaned out the apartment at my late father’s assisted living facility and found a book of old photos. The most significant clue was this lone sentence on the back of a wedding photo: “Enoch and Addie Hoyt Fargo on their wedding day, 1896.”

Thanks to David Spriggs (a local historian and kind soul), I learned that Enoch  and Addie lived in Lake Mills, WI, and that Addie was my great, great Aunt.

Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch and she was his second wife. She was 24 at the time of her marriage to Enoch, and only four years older than Enoch’s eldest daughter (Elsie Fargo). This was Addie’s first marriage and it would be her last. According to two published accounts, her ever-loving husband Enoch slipped into Addie’s bedroom about 2:00 am on June 19, 1901, and put a bullet in her brain while she lay sleeping. Addie was only 29 years old when her life was taken.

The story is that Enoch had fallen in love with Martha (”Maddie”) Louise Hoyt (no relation to Addie Hoyt).

Seven months after young Addie died, Enoch married his third wife, Martha (in February 1902). It caused quite a scandal at the time. A proper period of mourning in the Victorian era was a minimum of twelve months. Remarriage during the period of mourning was unthinkable.

Maddie (wife #3) died in 1964, having outlived Enoch by 40 years. Enoch died in 1921 in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Maddie was living in California at the time of Enoch’s death. If I were married to Enoch, I also would have put 3,000 miles between me and the hubby.

My grandfather (who passed on in 1989) was a real fan of both history and genealogy, and yet no one in the Fuller clan had heard about Aunt Addie, prior to the discovery of this photo album. My 92-year-old Uncle Ed (my father’s twin brother), doesn’t remember hearing about Aunt Addie, either.

Anna Hoyt was my great-grandmother, and Anna and Addie were sistersAnna Hoyt ended up marrying Wilbur W. Whitmore and landed in Denver, Colorado. This photo album that I found amongst my father’s treasured possessions was inscribed, “A Merry Christmas, to Wilbur, from Addie.” (To see photos of Anna and Wilbur, click here.)

Anna and Addie had a baby brother, Eugene B. Hoyt (1874-1950) that never married. Anna died four months shy of her 100th birthday (1866-1966). It would seem that dear Aunt Addie died about 70 years before her time.

The Fuller clan (of which I am one) are Addie Hoyt Fargo’s closest (and perhaps only) living relatives.

Many thanks to David Spriggs (Norfolk) and Bruce A. Samoore, Volunteer Historical Researcher (Wisconsin) for discovering much of the genealogical information.

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

Enoch Fargo and his bride, Addie Hoyt Fargo on their wedding day in February 1896. Addie was only 24 years old, and he was 46. This was her first marriage, his second. He had two daughters, the oldest of which was four years younger than Addie. Enoch allegedly shot Addie five years after their wedding day. Addie Hoyt Fargo was my great-great Aunt.

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When I first started looking at these photos, I thought that Addie had it all. Here she was, a beautiful young woman married to an older wealthy gent. He moved her into the family home, a Victorian manse built in 1881. Hers was a life of wealth, privilege, comfort and opulence - for a time.

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Addie was a beautiful young woman (age 24 in this photo). Her new husband was 46 at the time of their marriage.

My favorite photo of all.

This is one of my favorite photos, showing Addie sitting in her bedroom. Sadly, this is the very room where she was supposedly shot in her sleep.

Addie Hoyt Enoch was my grandmothers sister. Heres a picture of Annie Hoyt Whitmore from 1910. Annie, born in 1866, would have been 44 years old in this photo. This picture hangs in my formal dining room.

Addie Hoyt Fargo and Anna Hoyt Whitmore were sisters, and Anna Hoyt Whitmore was my great-grandmother. Here's a picture of Anna Hoyt Whitmore from 1910. Anna, born in 1866, would have been 44 years old in this photo. Annie lived to be 99 years old, dying four months shy of her 100th birthday. This picture hangs in my formal dining room.

Close-up of Anna Hoyt (sister of Addie)

Close-up of Anna Hoyt (sister of Addie)

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Anna (left) was 44 in this photo. Addie (right) was 24 in this photo.

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Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Addie's sister) had three children, and this is one of them (Ernie Eugene Whitmore). Ernie (born 1888) would have been Addie's nephew, and she was 16 when he was born. This photograph was taken a few weeks before his death. He was six years old. In 1894, Anna Hoyt Whitmore buried her six-year-old son, and seven years later, her baby sister died at the age of 29.

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This photo - from 1922 - shows Wilbur and Anna Hoyt Whitmore taking their twin grandsons out for a ride. My father is sitting with Wilbur and my Uncle Ed is sitting with his maternal grandmother, Anna Hoyt Whitmore (Addie's sister).

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Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) holds Edgar A. Fuller (Junior) and Wilbur holds Thomas (my father). This picture is about 1921. At this time, Anna Hoyt Whitmore was still living in Denver. It's incredible to think that Anna Hoyt Whitmore lived another 45 years after this photo was taken. After her husband Wilbur died in 1939, Anna moved to California.

The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in with her new husband, Enoch Fargo.  Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

The Fargo Mansion in 1896, soon after my Great, Great Aunt Addie moved in with her new husband, Enoch Fargo. Enoch was 22 years older than Addie.

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Fargo Mansion in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This photo is courtesy of Brice Anderson (copyright 2011) and can not be reproduced or used without written permission.

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Addie in 1896 (left) and in 1901 (right), shortly before she died. She was 29 years old in the photo on the right. Five years with Enoch had taken its toll on dear Addie.

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Addie, the papers dutifully recorded, died within 24 hours of her "sickness."

sElise Fargo (Mccammon) at the Fargo Mansion sometime in the late 1890s. Elsie was one of three daughters born to Mary Rutherford Fargo (Wife #1) and Enoch Fargo. Elsie was the eldest, and it was Elsies daughter (Mary Mccammon Wilson) who wrote The History of Lake Mills. Its in that book that Mary Wilson states plainly, [Enoch] shot Addie! (p 341).

Elise Fargo (Mccammon) at the Fargo Mansion sometime in the late 1890s. Elsie was one of three daughters born to Mary Rutherford Fargo (Wife #1) and Enoch Fargo. Elsie was the eldest, and it was Elsie's daughter (Mary Mccammon Wilson) who wrote "The History of Lake Mills." It's in that book that Mary Wilson states plainly, "Enoch shot Addie!" (p. 275).

Maddie.

Here's Enoch's third wife, "Maddie." Published accounts state that Enoch killed Addie in her sleep so that he could marry his true love, Maddie Hoyt (shown here). The legend is that Maddie was a cousin to Addie, but this doesn't appear to be correct. Genealogical research shows that Maddie Louise Hoyt (given name "Martha") was *no* blood relation to Addie Hoyt. Maddie's mother was Marie Harbeck, who married Henry Hoyt in 1880. Maddie was born in 1873, and was listed in the 1890 census as the step-child of Henry Hoyt. Incredibly, Maddie's grandmother (Elizabeth "Betsy" Harbeck) was also a Fargo. Maddie died in 1964.

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

To learn about the kit homes in Lake Mills, click here.

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