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Posts Tagged ‘wisconsin’

“A Conveniently Arranged Home of Eight Rooms at Low Cost”

January 6th, 2013 Sears Homes 8 comments

The Chelsea (Modern Home #111) was first offered in the 1908 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

This spacious foursquare endured until the early 1920s, when the more modern Colonial Revivals and Tudor Revivals bumped it out of the catalogs.

As is seen by the photos below, Modern Home #111 changed a bit as the years rolled by. In my travels, I’ve found only two examples of this house. The first was in Mattoon, Illinois (Central Illinois) and Colonial Heights, Virginia (near Richmond).

And yet I see there’s also one in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Anyone in Wisconsin willing to get a photo? :)

To learn more about the Sears Homes in Wisconsin, click here.

To read more about how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

The Sears Chelsea appeared in the first Modern Homes catalog (1908).

The Sears Chelsea appeared in the first Modern Homes catalog (1908). In the floorplan for the 1908 "Chelsea," the bathroom was an optional upgrade.

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By 1916,

By 1916, the price had dropped by almost half. It was not offered as a pre-cut home until late 1917. Notice that the house now has a slightly different appearance with that center closet window (front), broader windows and more substantial woodwork around the front porch.

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By 1919

By 1919, the price was back to 1908 levels. This was probably due to some post-war inflation. In 1919, the Chelsea was offered as a pre-cut kit home.

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This testimonial (and photo) appeared on the back cover of the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog.

This testimonial (and photo) appeared on the back cover of the 1916 Sears Modern Homes catalog. The porch columns and lack of a closet window suggest it was the earlier (1908) model Chelsea.

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Accompanying testimonial.

The accompanying testimonial explains that the house was built in Ossining, NY.

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Heres a picture-perfect Chelsea in Colonial Heights, VA.

Here's a picture-perfect Chelsea in Colonial Heights, VA. The owner has done a thorough, meticulous and painstakingly perfect job of restoring this 100+ year old house to its original grandeur.

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This later-model Chelsea is in Mattoon, IL.

This later-model Chelsea is in Mattoon, IL. Lots of sidings there.

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A comparison of the Chelsea in New York (1916) and the Chelsea in Virginia (2010).

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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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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photo

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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“I Was The Petted Daughter of a Rich Man…”

November 21st, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

“Look at those prices!”

That’s probably the #1 comment I hear from people as they browse the pages of an old Sears Modern Homes catalog.

Why were Sears kit homes priced so incredibly low?

Well, they weren’t really. Like everything else in history, the prices of early 20th Century housing have to be looked at in context.

One context to consider is taxation. In 1918, only the very wealthy paid federal income tax. In fact, only 5% of Americans paid any income tax at all. If your employer paid you $15 a week, you took home $15 a week.

The other issue is inflation. Pervasive, savings-eroding inflation has not always been a way of life in America.

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the first step that moved us off the gold standard. It was a desperate attempt to re-inflate the sagging dollar. In 1933, Roosevelt issued Executive Order #6102, requiring Americans to deliver their gold to the Federal Reserve.

At the time, law required that Federal Reserve notes (aka “dollars”) had to be backed by 40% gold reserves held in the vaults at the Federal Reserve. That was our first disconnect from a true gold standard. The second came in 1971 when President Nixon permanently disconnected us from the gold standard.

After that, the Federal Reserve was free to print as much money as they felt was needed. And it was (not coincidentally) in the 1970s when inflation hit double digits.

A stable (non-inflating) economy made it far easier for people to save up their dollars over a period of years and eventually purchase a home. (Inflation rewards those who borrow and penalizes those who save.) In the early 1900s, taking on debt of any kind was considered foolhardy, dangerous and even reckless.

There was no “rush to buy” because the price of housing (and the value of dollars) was fairly stable. Young couples took their time and often spent many, many years saving up to buy a home.

The third historical context that needs to be considered is simplicity. Take a look the Sears Kismet (shown below). This house has 520 square feet with two bedrooms that measure 8′ by 9′. I’m not sure, but I think a FEMA trailer is bigger than that.

The fourth issue is building codes (a subset of simplicity, really). It was estimated that a kit home cost 30-40% less than a comparable stick-built home. The average joe could order his dream home out of the Sears Roebuck catalog, and within 90 days, his 12,000-piece kit would be delivered to the train station. Many locales did require building permits, but it was nothing like the process is today.

The building permit was - above all - a way for the city/county to make sure that no opportunity for new taxes was overlooked.

Homeowners often installed their own plumbing, electrical, heating and mechanical systems.  And these systems were simple. Fuse boxes were 30-amp service, with one outlet in each room (if that!). Plumbing consisted of a sink in the kitchen and one bathroom. Maybe. Heating systems were often “pipleless” which was a nice way of saying it was a massive space heater in a center hallways.

Houses were much smaller and simpler, and building codes were quite lax.

Still want an $800 house?  :)

Dollar for dollar, the Katrina Cottages offered by Lowes were comparable. These were very basic, very small kit homes selling for $20,000 or so (depending on model). Interestingly, they’re no longer available.

The world has changed since Sears first offered these kit homes in 1908. Most folks today would not find The Kismet suitable. And how many people have the skills to build a 12,000-piece kit? And I don’t know of any city in America where you could build a small house without a whole lot of government intrusion and/or oversight.

But I digress.

The main point is, wages in the 1910s and 1920s were a fraction of today’s incomes. According to American Carpenter and Builder Magazine (December 1912), skilled carpenters in Chicago were earning 65 cents an hour and plumbers were making 75 cents an hour.

In the early days, Ladies’ Home Journal was a magazine devoted to helping women get into a home of their own. Each issue was filled with stories from people who had overcome financial adversities and bought or built their own house on tiny incomes.

Some stories had headings such as, “How a wife did it herself,” and “Bought her own home with nine children and $800 a year income.”  These stories paint a vivid word picture of how much toil and sacrifice pre-World War I families endured to have a home of their own.

The following story appeared in the October 1903 Ladies’ Home Journal and was the winning entry for the magazine’s series, “How some families have saved for their own homes.”

It’s a wonderful story that really demonstrates the sacrifice involved in purchasing a home at the turn of the last century. The wages mentioned in this piece lend some additional insight to the dollar values of the day, and help explain the low prices of homes offered in the Sears catalogs.

We planted a garden and my husband worked it himself. He [arose] every morning at about four and worked [in the garden] until time to go to the shop - about two hours.  We’d sell the vegetables at market, keeping only a minimum for ourselves.

We could not afford to buy a sewing machine, so I rented an old-fashioned hand machine at $3 a year and had to turn the wheel with one hand and guide the work with the other.  I would sew every night (taking in work for hire) never retiring earlier than one o’clock.  I got up at five every morning.

So much work came to me that [many] nights, I would sit up until daybreak, snatch an hour’s nap, then get up to cook breakfast  My husband would get up when I retired, work his garden, split the wood, build a fire in the kitchen stove, bring in enough water for the day (we had no well) and then set the coffee pot to boil. I did the washing and ironing and made my own soap.

Three years thus rolled away. My husband’s wages went up to $8 a week but we still practiced the most rigid economy and cut off some of our necessities. Our cow had a calf and when he was one year old, we killed him and sold the meat.

To clothe my little boy, I took my husband’s cast-off clothing, turned it wrong side out and cut out the best portions, making the boy’s clothes.

At the end of seven years, my husband’s wages had increased to $9 a week. After seven years of struggle and extreme economy, toil and labor, today finds us with a comfortable home, horses and cows.

As for myself, before my marriage I never knew the value of money as I was the petted daughter of a rich man.

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In the early 1900s, Ladies Home Journal was a housing magazine for women.

In the early 1900s, Ladies' Home Journal was a housing magazine for women.

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The magazines pages were filled with articles on how to buy a nice house.

The magazine's pages were filled with articles on how to build or buy a nice house.

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In the early 1900s, houses were cheap, but so were wages.

In the early 1900s, houses were cheap, but so were wages. In 1920, these women (sorting incoming orders for Montgomery Ward) probably didn't make $1,000 a year. In 1920, the average teacher's salary was $920 a year.

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Heating systems were very primitive compared to todays modern furnaces and boilers. The pipeless furnace was hugely popular. It would be set in the crawlspace or basement near the center point of the house. The living room would be tropical, while the folks upstairs could see their breath.

Heating systems were very primitive compared to today's modern furnaces and boilers. The "pipeless furnace" was hugely popular. It would be set in the crawlspace or basement near the center point of the house. The living room would be tropical, while the folks upstairs could see their breath.

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The Kismet, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

The Kismet, as shown in the 1919 catalog.

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Could

Pretty small house. Could you raise five kids in the house? Many folks did. There was the parent's bedroom and the kids' bedroom. If you were really fancy, you might get a three-bedroom house with a girls' bedroom and a boys' bedroom.

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This Kismet in Elmhurst, Illinois is a cutie, but its pretty small.

This Kismet in Elmhurst, Illinois is a cutie, but it's pretty small. And it's had a substantial addition added onto the back of the house.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To buy your loved one the PERFECT Christmas gift, click here!

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The Sears Silverdale in Headache, Illinois

August 27th, 2012 Sears Homes 5 comments

Well, that’s what my husband calls it. In fact, it’s Hettick, Illinois, a small town in central Illinois, about 60 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri.

When I told Hubby about the find, the West Virginia filters on his hearing translated Hettick into “Headache.”

The Silverdale is an interesting house, because it looks like every early 20th Century farmhouse on every rural route in the Midwest. In my travels, I’ve probably seen dozens of them, but discounted most of them, because it’s so hard to positively identify them.

Do you have a Silverdale in your town? Please send me a photo!

Edited to add: A reader noticed that this house in Hettick, IL is actually a better match to the GVT version (#167)! I hope to add more-better photos in a couple days!

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The Silverdale as seen in the 1921 catalog.

The Silverdale as seen in the 1921 catalog.

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1916 catalog

The Silverdale also appeared in the 1916 catalog.

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The Headache House (well, Hettick, actually).

The Headache House (well, Hettick, actually).

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Another view

Another view of the Silverdale in Hettick.

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Floorplan 1921

Floorplan for the first floor.

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Second floor silverdale

Second floor of the Silverdale. Note, there's no livable space over the kitchen. Back in the day, the room over the kitchen was considered uninhabitable, due to heat and smells that wafted from the kitchen below.

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house hosue testimonial

There are more than a few Silverdales around.

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Mr. Egan and Wife seemed to be pretty happy with their Silverdale.

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Typical

Typical hinge found in Sears kit home. This was found in the Silverdale in Hettick.

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Silverdale

An old glass window (with diamond muntins) has survived the remodelings.

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To read about the Sears Homes in Carlinville, click here.

To learn more about why I was in Hettick, click here.

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A Beautiful Saratoga in Mukwonago, Wisconsin

March 8th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

My great aunt Addie has a lot of friends in Wisconsin. Even though Addie has been dead 111 years, she’s still a popular girl and Addie has more than 450 friends on Facebook.

At this website, my blogs on Addie have been viewed by more than 40,000 people.

And thanks to Addie, I’ve become friends with a woman named Heather who lives in Wisconsin. Heather reminds me of my own daughters. Heather is incredibly intelligent, well-read, sagacious, and best of all, she has a compassionate heart. Smart people are a blast, but when you find someone who’s smart and kind and wise, that’s a wonderful thing.

Heather possesses all those qualities. And she loves Sears Homes, too!

Recently, Heather found and photographed a beautiful old Sears House in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. It’s quite a house, and it’s in largely original condition.

To learn about the “Good, better, best” quality offered in the Sears Roebuck catalog, click here.

Sears Saratoga

Sears Saratoga, as seen in the 1922 catalog. Look at the price!

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Saratoga

Saratoga in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, looking much like it did when it was built more than 90 years ago. (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Saratoga house

Close-up of the line drawing in the 1922 catalog.

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Saratoga window

Detail on the Saratoga's ornate window

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Park Avenue window

And what a perfect match it is to the original picture! (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Detail on the columns

The columns are also a perfect match to the old catalog image. (Photo is copyright 2012 Heather Lukaszewski and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Column

Column as seen in the 1922 catalog.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To learn more about Aunt Addie’s exhumation, click here.

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And Then Julia Contracted Scarlet Fever…

February 23rd, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Thursday evening, after some diligent searching, I found the obituary for Julia Hawley Hoyt, Addie’s mother. The microfilm was so badly faded that the text was barely legible, but I did find it.

As I expected, Julia Hawley Hoyt never made it back to Lake Mills after November 30, 1894. She left her home in Lake Mills, Wisconsin after Thanksgiving to rush out to Denver, Colorado. Her eldest daughter (Anna Hoyt Whitmore) was sick with Scarlet Fever, as was Anna’s whole family (husband and three children, ages six, three and one).

The trek from Chicago to Denver took 26 hours. Julia would have arrived into Denver on December 1st. That was the day that little Ernie, Anna’s eldest child, died from the Scarlet Fever.

According to the obituary I found in the Lake Mills Leader Julia Hoyt contracted Scarlet Fever while she was there in Denver, and died in May, almost six months later.

Obituary

Died, at San Mateo, California, May 9th (1895), Mrs. Julia Hoyt of Lake Mills, Wisconsin at the age of 51 years. Mrs. Hoyt was born in Milford, Jefferson County in 1844 where she grew to womanhood. She was married to Mr. Homer Hoyt on October 16, 1862 at Milford.  She was the mother of three children, two daughters and one son,  Mrs. Wilbur Whitmore, Denver Colorado, Eugene B. Hoyt, and Miss Addie Hoyt of Lake Mills, all of whom survive to mourn the loss of a gentle and loving mother.


The funeral took place at San Mateo, California May 12th and the deceased was buried beside her father and sister. Mrs. Hoyt was called to Denver about last Thanksgiving time to assist her daughter in the care of her children who were sick with Scarlet Fever and during these tender ministrations contracted the disease, which at last resulted in dropsy causing her death.


As a devoted wife, a kind and loving mother, and a true neighbor, Mrs. Hoyt will long be remember, and her numerous friends will be moved with tenderest sympathy for the mourning children, who must sustain through grief and sorrow their irreparable loss.

“No more to hear her voice of love,

Nor feel her touch so kind,

waiting until the shadows move,

Revealing the beyond.”

From what I can glean, Addie was not able to attend her mothers funeral in San Mateo. That would also have been difficult. Addie last saw her mother around Thanksgiving 1895, when Julia Hoyt went to Denver to help Annas family deal with Scarlet Fever.

Addie last saw her mother around Thanksgiving 1894, when Julia Hoyt (shown here in 1888) went to Denver to help Anna's family deal with Scarlet Fever. Julia never returned to Lake Mills. While providing nursing duties to her family in Denver, she contracted Scarlet Fever which developed into "dropsy" or severe swelling, most likely occasioned by heart or kidney failure. This was a common cause of death from Scarlet Fever. Julia died May 1895, six months after her visit to Denver.

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How did beautiful young Addie end up with a troll like Enoch? Thats a good question. Losing her mother must have been tough, and in 1893, 94 and 95, there were a lot of losses for Addie. Perhaps she was so stricken with grief, she couldnt think clearly.

How did beautiful young Addie end up with a troll like Enoch? That's a good question. Losing her mother must have been tough, and in 1893, 94 and 95, there were a lot of losses for Addie. Perhaps she was so stricken with grief, she couldn't think clearly. Addie is shown here with her sister, Anna (right), who moved to Denver in 1887.

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Apap

This notice appeared in the Lake Mills Leader (newspaper) on December 6, 1894.

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Anna Hoyt Whitmore had three children, two of whom survived their bout with Scarlet Fever. Ernie did not, and he died on December 1, 1894.

Anna Hoyt Whitmore had three children, two of whom survived their bout with Scarlet Fever. "Ernie" did not, and he died on December 1, 1894.

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Ernie

Ernie's obit was published in both the "Denver Rock Mountain News" and the "Lake Mills Leader."

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Victor survived

Florence Whitmore and her baby brother "Victor" both survived Scarlet Fever in 1894. They're shown here in 1895, one year after Ernie's death.

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How did Addie

Between 1893 and 1895, Addie lost six of her closest family members to death, and her brother and sister moved out of the area. These eight losses left Addie isolated and alone and vulnerable. Nine months after the last death (her mother's passing in May 1895), Addie married Enoch. It was a mistake that would have fatal consequences. And Addie's "aloneness" in the world made it easier for Enoch to get away with murder - literally.

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“Every funeral tradition of the time was violated by this burial” (Yes, it’s really as interesting as it sounds).

To read more about little Ernie, click here.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

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The Worm Has Turned

December 26th, 2011 Sears Homes 5 comments

Wouldn’t it be nice if the City of Lake Mills would have treated you better? And not only the city, but all of Lake Mills’ past and present residents? Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone interested in this mystery would treat everyone with respect? I wish you the best of luck and pray that someday the mystery will be solved!

Someone left the above comment at my website this evening (December 26, 2011).

I thanked them for the comment, and responded with a comment of my own which said,

Ever since I first learned of Addie Hoyt Fargo, all I wanted to do was to get to the bottom of this amazing story, and figure out what happened to my great Aunt, a beautiful, intelligent, interesting 29-year-old woman.

I’m a few months older now, and a lot wiser, and I’ve learned that when people can not attack the facts, they attack the person, and it saddens me greatly that I was *attacked* (verbally), because I wanted to uncover the true facts of this old story.

When I first came into Lake Mills in September 2011, I was so impressed with the idyllic little town. I called my daughter (who lived in Appleton for many years) and told her how beautiful it was. She said, “Mom, I miss Wisconsin so much. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

And then the hate mails started coming - sometimes 2-3 per DAY. I read a few of them to my daughter and she said, “That’s not the Wisconsin I remember. I can’t believe these people are treating you like this.”

But in the last couple weeks, things have changed - for the better.

Now, I receive a steady stream of supportive comments from people asking, “Why would *anyone* send you hate mail, and protest so much and react so strongly when all you’re trying to do is solve an old murder mystery? You’re after the facts, but the opposition seems to be after YOU personally.”

In fact, I’ve had several old timers contact me and share several stories about Enoch Fargo, and none of them are good. Enoch and his contemporaries may be long dead, but stories of Enoch’s misdeeds were passed from generation to generation, and I’ve been told some chilling tales about Enoch J. Fargo.

And according to Enoch’s own granddaughter, he got away with murder in June 1901, when he killed Addie Hoyt Fargo.

Well, he almost got away with murder.

Thank you to the many kind souls who have written me and  phoned me and offered their support and encouragement, and private stories. It’s gratifying to know that there are others, like me, who have a deep, abiding hunger to find the truth about what happened to Addie Hoyt Fargo.

To learn more about Addie Hoyt Fargo, click here.

To learn more about the results of the autopsy, click here.

Enoch

Enoch J. Fargo

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Who is Addie to Me?

November 29th, 2011 Sears Homes 8 comments

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “How are you related to Addie?”

When I gave my talk in Lake Mills on September 4th, I explained that I didn’t even know I had an Aunt Addie until my father died in June 2011. While I was cleaning out his apartment, I found two photo albums in beautiful condition from the late 1890s. One photo was marked with this inscription:  Enoch and Addie Hoyt Fargo on their wedding day, 1896.

After the dust settled from my father’s funeral, I sent an email to my friend David Spriggs and asked for his help in solving this mystery. Within a few hours, he’d figured it out.

So, how am I related to Addie?

My great-great grandfather was Homer Hoyt, born in Vermont in 1841. In the early 1860s, he moved to Lake Mills, and met the woman who’d become my great-great grandmother, Julia Hawley Hoyt.  (Julia Hawley Hoyt was the daughter of a salty old sea dog, Captain Hawley.)

In my genetic history, we have an amazingly strong trait known by some as the “pack rat” trait. And while I’m personally a big fan of the anti-clutter club, I have to say, I’m very grateful that for 150 years, my family has been hanging onto these photos.

First, my favorite photo.

Captain Hezekiah Beech Hawley in 1874. According to family lore, he was a salty sea captain, and he surely does look the part. This would have been Addies grandfather!

Addie's maternal grandfather: Captain Hezekiah Beech Hawley in 1874. According to family lore, he was a salty sea captain, and he surely does look the part.

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And his wife, Teresa Hathaway Hawley (also 1874). This would have been Addies grandmother on her mothers side.

And here's a picture of the captain's wife, Teresa Hathaway Hawley (also 1874). This would have been Addie's grandmother on her mother's side.

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Homer Hoyt at age 17 (late 1850s or early 1860s)

Homer Hoyt was Addie's father, and he was my great-great grandfather. He's pictured here at age 17 (about 1858). Homer was from Vermont, but by the early 1860s, Homer had moved to Lake Mills, where he met Julia Hawley. They were married about 1864.

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Homer in 1888

Homer Hoyt in 1888. He would have been about 47 years old here. Homer died in 1894 at the age of 53. He's buried in Washington State, but has a memorial marker in the Lake Mills cemetery. Note the masonic emblem around his neck.

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Julia Hawley Hoyt in 1888.

Julia Hawley Hoyt in 1888. She was Addie's mother. Homer (pictured above) and Julia had three children: Anna, Addie and Eugene. Julia died a few months after Homer, in January 1895. Addie married Enoch 13 months after her mother's death.

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Egue

Eugene was the baby of the family and was born in 1875. He never married and never had children. He lived in Lake Mills for a time (in his adulthood), but after Addie's death, he left the area. He became an itinerant machinist and traveled around the Midwest looking for work. That's a surprise actually, because this guy doesn't look like an itinerant machinist. Eugene looks like someone who became a fancy tailor or a French chef. Nice tie.

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My great-grandmother (right) was Anna Hoyt Whitmore. Shes pictured here with her sister, Addie. Addie would have been about 15 in this photo (born 1872) and Anna would have been 21.

My great-grandmother (right) was Anna Hoyt Whitmore. She's pictured here with her sister, Addie (Ada) Hoyt. Addie (born January 22, 1872) would have been about 15 in this photo and Anna (born December 1, 1866) would have been 21. Anna lived to be 99 years old. Addie did not.

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Anna met and married a fine young gent named Wilbur Walter Whitmore and married him in the late 1880s. Theyre pictured here shortly before their marriage. Wilbur was reputedly a fine and decent fellow. He was also my great grandfather. It was Wilbur to whom Addie sent that photo album in Christmas 1900.

Anna met a fine young gent named Wilbur Walter Whitmore and married him in the late 1880s. Soon after their marriage, they moved to Denver, where they remained for the rest of their married lives. They're pictured here shortly before their marriage. Wilbur was reputedly a fine and decent fellow. He was also my great grandfather. It was Wilbur to whom Addie sent that photo album in Christmas 1900. Judging by this photo, one would have to say that Anna and Wilbur were a pair of swingers!

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Wilbur

Great-grandfather Wilbur W. Whitmore and I share a birthday: July 4th. He and Anna were married until his death in 1939. After Wilbur died, Anna moved to Santa Monica to live with her daughter (my grandmother) Florence Whitmore Fuller. He worked for the railroads and was a skilled negotiator.

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Addie

Addie in 1894, about two years before she married Enoch Fargo of Lake Mills.

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Addie married Enoch Fargo.

Addie married Enoch Fargo in 1896, and remained in Lake Mills until her death in 1901. Addie and Enoch did not have any children. Enoch had three daughters by his first wife, Mary Rutherford. Two of them survived to adulthood, and also had children.

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Ernie

My great -grandmother Anna Hoyt Whitmore had three children with Wilbur; Ernie (shown above), Victor, and Florence (my grandmother). Ernie was six years old in this photo, and he died shortly after this picture was taken. He was born in 1888 and died in 1894.

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In 12 months time, Addie mourned the loss of her little nephew (six year old Ernie, above), and then her father (1894) and then her mother (1895). And in February 1896, she married Enoch Fargo.

In June 19, 1901, Addie died under suspicious circumstances.

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Florence Whitmore was Anna's daughter, and she married a tall thin gent named Edgar Atkinson Fuller. Florence is pictured here in 1922. Florence was born in 1891.

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Baby Boys in 1919

Florence and Edgar had only two children: Thomas Hoyt Fuller (left) and Edgar A. Fuller, Junior (right). The twins were born June 13, 1919. Thomas Hoyt Fuller was named after his grandmother's side of the family. Florence's brother Victor never had children, and Ernie died at six years old. The twins were the only great-grandchildren of Homer and Julia Hawley Hoyt.

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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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Thomas Hoyt Fuller (left) and Edgar Atkinson Fuller (right) about 1943.

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The Fuller Twins in 1982.

The Fuller Twins in 1979. My father (Thomas Hoyt) is on the left.

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After Thomas Hoyt Fuller came home from the war, he married Betty Mae Brown of Berkeley (who'd served as a WAVE in WW2) and they had four children.

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Mom

Betty Mae and Tom Fuller in 1960.

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Dad

I'm pictured here with my father and three brothers, Rick, Tommy and Eddie at the Hoover Dam (1966). Notice my eldest brother Tom has a shirt made of fabric that matches my short little dress. My mother was an accomplished seamstress, and often made our clothes.

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On June 10, 2011, my father died, three days shy of his 92nd birthday.

On June 10, 2011, my father died, three days shy of his 92nd birthday. It was while I was cleaning out his apartment in an assisted living facility that I found the photos of Addie and Enoch Fargo. (Photo is courtesy of Dave Chance and can not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

My father (Thomas Hoyt Fuller), had four children, of which I am one. My Uncle Ed had two daughters, one of whom has passed on. My cousin and my three brothers and myself are the only great-great grandchildren of Homer and Julia Hoyt.

To read more about Addie, click here.

To learn about Sears Homes, 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.

Please leave a comment below.

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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.

Addie

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.

Addie

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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