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Addie: Someone’s Beloved Little Girl

October 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

Often people ask me why I care about pursuing this old Addie story. After all, she’s been dead 110 years, and everyone who knew her is dead. What’s the point?

My oft-repeated response is this: “Addie was someone’s beloved little girl.

Recently, I found new photos of Addie, and these are photos of her childhood. They touched my heart, and I hope they’ll touch yours.

In June 2010, my father moved from his 2,000-square foot home to a 400-square foot assisted living facility. During that move, we found an old photo album with a red velveteen cover. I glanced through the pages, but I had no idea who these people were, and the photos dated back to the mid and late 1800s. There was no information on the pictures, so there were no clues.

I didn’t know what to do with the old album, so I put it into the growing pile of “things to save and store somewhere.”

After my father was moved into his new apartment at the facility, my brother Tom asked that I ship a few items out to him, because he has a really big basement at his home in Illinois. I was delighted to have a place to send all this “old family stuff that probably should not be thrown out.” The red velveteen photo album was shipped to my brother, Tom.

In October, I visited Tom and his wife, and I asked to see that red photo album. I was hoping against hope that maybe there were more pictures of Addie and her family in this old photo album. After all, I’d had no idea that there was an Addie Hoyt Fargo until after my father died (June 10, 2011), and I discovered two photo albums devoted to Addie and her life in Lake Mills. Learn more about that discovery here.

He found the photo album on a Saturday night and by Sunday morning (about 5:00 am), I was laying on the floor of their spare bedroom, studying the photos. There were several photos of Addie - I thought - but the photos lacked any written clues. Using a sharp knife, I removed these photos from their sleeves, and their on the backs of each photo, I found incredibly detailed descriptions of the people and their relationship to Anna Hoyt Whitmore (who wrote the descriptions). Finding absolute evidence of  her handwriting was also important. Read why it matters here.

And it was also interesting to discover that Addie was apparently from a very wealthy family. The clothes and professional photography make that very clear!

Below are those photos.

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Early Sunday morning, I took a sharp knife and performed a "photo-ectomy" on the old photo album that we'd found at my father's house in 2010. It had been shipped to my brother's house in Illinois. Slicing and dicing that old album was a good decision, as there was much information contained on the back of these photos, written in my great-grandmother's hand. Finding absolute evidence of her handwriting was also a good discovery.

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Often, people ask me why I care about pursuing this old story of an alleged murder. I often tell them the same thing: Addie was someone's beloved little girl. Here is photographic proof of my oft-repeated sentiment. She was someone's precious, and much beloved child. Does time lessen the importance of righting a wrong? I don't think it does.

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Note the incredible clothing. Addie was a snazzy dresser by the age of two!

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Addie. No age is given, but I'd guestimate that she's about 9 or 10 in this photo.

Addie was born in 1872, so this photo was about 1882.

Addie was born in 1872, so this photo was about 1882.

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Addie about 10 years old. Professional photograph taken in Lake Mills.

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Addie at about 14. This photograph was done by "E. M. Ray" in Lake Mills.

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Close-up of Addie about 1886.

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My favorite photo: Addie and Anna, dated 1887. Addie would have been 15 years old here. Anna would have been 21 years old. Addie looks so petite.

Close-up of the two sisters.

Close-up of the two sisters.

Addie as a debutante?

Addie as a debutante?

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Look at the star on her forehead. Also notice the detail on the outfit.

Was Addie from an extremely wealthy family? Id say YES.

Was Addie from an *extremely* wealthy family? I'd say YES. Remember, this was in the 1880s.

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Close-up of Addie, dressed in some pretty fine clothes.

Of all the photos, this was one that tugged at my heart-strings the most. It shows that it was taken in Lake Mills, which is curious, because Anna (mother of the boy shown here), was living in Denver at the time. Apparently, they went back east for a visit to Lake Mills, and had this photo done. This was Ernie Eugene Whitmore, and he would have been Addies nephew. He died in 1894, the same year that Addies father died.

Of all the photos, this was one that tugged at my heart-strings the most. It shows that it was taken in Lake Mills, which is curious, because Anna (mother of the boy shown here), was living in Denver at the time. Apparently, they went back east for a visit to Lake Mills, and had this photo done. This was Ernie Eugene Whitmore, and he would have been Addie's nephew. He died in 1894, the same year that Addie's father died.

This inscription on the back - written in Addies hand - was what brought a tear to my eye.

This inscription on the back - written in Addie's hand - was what brought a tear to my eye. It says, "Auntie's Sweetheart. June 6, 1893, Lake Mills, Wis."

There are many more photos, but I do not have time to post them now.

Check back later for more.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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When an Old Person Dies…

October 28th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

There’s a saying that when an old person dies, it’s like a library burning down. In other words, it’s a significant loss of historical information and stories and records and experiences that can never be restored.

I’d have to say there’s one exception to that rule: When that “old person” has taken the time to write a book, and record and preserve all the historical information and stories and records and experiences.

These days, I get asked a lot of questions about Addie Hoyt Fargo, my great Aunt. And often, I preface my response with, “I’m so grateful to Mary Wilson, who took the time to write a book about Lake Mills, and share what she knew about Addie’s death.”

As a fellow author and historian, I really am grateful that Mary Wilson left us a 700-page book detailing so many elements of Lake Mill’s history,  because it preserved a written record of Addie’s death that would have otherwise been lost to the ages. It was because of Mrs. Wilson’s book that I started digging into this story. Reading her book cover to cover is akin to sitting down and hearing the stories of someone who was born and raised in Lake Mills, and spent nine decades here, because - that’s just what Mary did.

It is a book full of gems.

So what does Mary tell us about Addie? Simply, that Addie was shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

In The History of Lake Mills (published in 1983), Mary Wilson writes, “A number of persons who knew [Enoch Fargo] will tell the same story - he shot Addie.”

Enoch had three daughters by his first wife, Mary Rutherford Fargo. The eldest daughter was named Elsie Fargo (McCammon). Elsie McCammon’s daughter was Mary Wilson, who authored The History of Lake Mills. In this book, it’s Enoch’s own granddaughter describing what happened to Addie Hoyt Fargo.

Mrs. Wilson also writes about Dr. William Oatway, the physician who was allegedly complicit in this crime, and reports that Oatway stated years later, “No one was fooled” by his alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death).

That book was an incredible resource in my research, and gave me the foundation on which to start building a case. And in the ensuing four months, I’ve discovered a multitude of documents and resources that point to the fact that Mary Wilson’s accounting of this crime in Lake Mills is probably accurate.

It’s a tough book to find, and I paid almost $50 for my copy, which is a true testament to this book’s enduring value and appeal.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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My favorite photo of all.

An amazing glimpse into another time, this photo shows Addie in her bedroom at the Fargo Mansion Inn in Lake Mills.

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There's a sweetness and naivete on this young woman's face that is wholly compelling. She was just a girl - 24 years old - and full of hope and dreams and ideas. Perhaps she'd planned on having a whole passel of children or maybe she was looking forward to being a socialite, carrying the torch for whatever causes that filled her heart with passion. She's so young and sincere-looking in this photo. So untarnished by the world. And five years later, she'd be dead, murdered (allegedly) by the man that had promised to love her for the rest of his life.

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Addie Hoyt - in 1896 (wedding day) and 1901 (shortly before her death). This photo presents an argument that Addie was sickly at the end of her life. Given the jagged and receding hairline (on the right), one has to wonder if she was suffering from arsenic poisoning. There's also a swollen lip and other distortions around her nose. Perhaps she fell down a flight of stairs and landed on her face. I understand that Victorian-era women were very prone to such accidents. She sent this photo to her brother-in-law Wilbur Whitmore, living in Denver at the time.

Contrast

This shows the remarkable difference in the hairline.

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Comparison of Addie's lips, showing the swelling and misalignment (on the latter photo on right).

To keep reading about Addie, click here.

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