Doctor Oatway must have been in quite a hurry when he filled out Addie’s death certificate, for he made a number of mistakes on the form.
1) Addie’s name. Oatway wrote “Adelina,” which he apparently assumed was Addie’s given name. It was not. Her real name was Ada, and on her own marriage certificate (dated February 1895), Addie gave her legal name as “Addie.” You’d think Oatway would have asked the bereaved husband about the recently deceased’s real name, but apparently Enoch was busy doing other things at the time.
2) Addie’s birth date. For Addie’s birth date, Oatway put down 1872. That’s just sloppy. Addie’s birth date was January 22, 1872. Why didn’t Oatway ask Enoch or one of the girls about Addie’s birthday? One would have to guess that Enoch wasn’t very good at remembering Addie’s birthday.
3) Addie’s age. Okay, so he got the year right (1872), but how did he come up with 29 years and 1 month as her age? It was probably just a wild guess. Oatway apparently reasoned that no one was going to examine this document too closely. There’s a line on the form for years, months and days. He left the “days” blank, and took a stab at the “months.”
4) Mother and Father’s name. Oatway listed them as “Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt.” That’s rather pathetic. Couldn’t he ask Enoch about this one? I guess not. Apparently Enoch was busy doing other things.
5) Mother and Father’s birthplace. Oatway listed both parents as being from Wisconsin. Ding, ding, ding, wrong answer for Father! Homer was from Vermont.
6) Birthplace of deceased: Wisconsin. Given the extra long line at this entry, I think the preparers of this form are asking for a CITY or county, not just the state. But I suspect Oatway was in quite a state himself, and this was the best he could do. Addie was born in Milford. At least Oatway got it right on the obituary.
7) Cemetary? Okay, this isn’t a true mistake but it’s an interesting aside. Oatway misspelled “cemetery.” He spelled it, cemetary. You’d think that in his line of work, he had probably spelled out that word a few times in past years. Was it stress? Or was he just a lousy speller?
8 ) Burial permit. He said Addie’s burial permit had been obtained, and it was burial permit #32. This was not true. There was no burial permit for Addie. Burial permit #32 belonged to Alinda Hornickle, who died March 1902. The burial permit was a state document, and Dr. Oatway was a county official, falsifying a state record. Now that’s bad. And yet later, when he filed his report to the State Board of Health, he said there were no deaths from diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901. To learn more about why this is so important, click here.
9) Funeral director: Given the tremendous haste with which Addie was allegedly buried (and the fact that she wasn’t even buried to a proper depth), it’s not likely that a funeral director had any involvement in this. Had he been involved, he would have been at risk for incurring the wrath of state officials for participating in a “wee hours” burial with no burial permit. As mentioned elsewhere, the burial permit was a state record, and to be a party to this chicanery could have caused the funeral director to lose his license.
10) Cause of death: Diphtheria. This is the principle reason that this death certificate is such a farce. Oatway said that Addie died when the diphtheric membrane broke off in her throat and strangled her. According to the CDC, it takes 2-3 days for that membrane to form. There are entire blogs written about why this is such a farce, but in short, when children perished from the growth of this diphtheria membrane, they typically died 4-5 days after onset of the disease. According to Oatway’s own report, Addie died 16 hours after a slight sore throat began. To read the full story as to why this is such nonsense, click here, here or here.
How did Oatway ever end up as County Health Officer?
And I’d love to know the precise circumstances under which this was written. Was he sitting on the top step at the Fargo Mansion, bearing down on his knee as he tried to calm his nerves and scribble out something in a hurry?
To learn more about Addie, click here.
Addie was born into wealth and privilege, and it's mighty hard to understand how this beautiful, smart, vivacious woman ended up dead at 29, buried in a shallow grave. And you can see here, she was a snappy dresser by the age of two.
This is my favorite Addie photo. It really bespeaks her station in life, and it shows her elegance and poise. Given the pose struck here, one wonders if she was a model.
But it all ended tragically when she ended up dead at 29. As mentioned above, this death certificate is rife with errors. Look at the name: Adalina? Where'd he come up with that?
Note the "name of mother" and "name of father," and also Addie's age (line 7). She was born on January 22, 1872, and her age would have been 29 years, four months and 27 days.
Burial permit #32 belonged to Alinda Hornickle who died March 26, 1902 at 3:00 am. This is very damning evidence that Oatway did falsify this document. Addie's burial permit should have been number 22 (based on the date of her death).
This report (shown above) appeared in the "Report of the State Board of Health" for Wisconsin and covered the the time period during which Addie Hoyt allegedly died of diphtheria. You'll note, there's no mention of any deaths (or even cases) of diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901.
This statement, taken from the above text and penned by Oatway, says that if there was a case of diphtheria in his town (Lake Mills), it *would* be reported.
Unless you're paid off to falsify a death certificate...
Stats on diphtheria deaths, as seen in the 1899-1900 "Report of the State Board of Health." In smaller towns, the mortality rate from diphtheria was much less than the statewide average of 13%, and was closer to 9%. In Milwaukee (Wisconsin's largest town with 280,000 residents), the mortality rate was closer to 16.75%.
To learn more about Addie, click here.
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