This blog was originally written June 26, 2011. Since then, I’ve traveled to Lake Mills twice and I’ve learned a lot.
To answer the question, the results of Addie’s autopsy were inconclusive, but based on other evidence that’s been discovered, Addie apparently was murdered at the age of 29. Seven months after her death, her husband (Enoch Fargo) had remarried the young woman who’d been living in the Fargo Mansion. To learn more about this, click here.
My adventure into this Addie Hoyt story began with an ending: My father’s.
Friday morning at 2:35 am, after sitting at his bedside for some time, my father breathed his last. In the solemn quietude of that darkened room, I walked over to my husband, sleeping on the nearby couch, and tried to wake him gently.
“I think he’s passed,” I whispered.
My husband sprang up, dashed into the bedroom and felt for a pulse.
“We should call the nurse,” he said.
It was Friday, June 10, 2011.
Three days later, I was back at the assisted living facility, cleaning it out. I was supposed to meet someone there who’d take on the task of getting everything out of the tiny apartment. He was instructed to remove every item and take it to Goodwill or to the trash.
Mr. Clean-up Guy was two hours late.
While I waited for him to show up, I grabbed the super-sized black trash bags I’d brought and started sorting through the massive pile of stuff. I came upon two books of old photo albums. I flipped open one of them and saw a horse wearing a doily.
“What is this?” I thought to myself.
I didn’t know if he’d found it on a trash pile somewhere or had purchased it somewhere – or worse – maybe it belonged to his second wife’s family. I assumed the latter, and threw the 100-year-old photo albums right into the trash. I was overwhelmed and tired.
A few minutes went by and I got to thinking about those two albums. The historian in me couldn’t stand it. I retrieved them from their dark resting place.
And then after looking through the photo albums a second time, I threw them out again.
And then I cried.
Why was nothing going right? Where was Mr. Clean-up guy? Why couldn’t God give me a break? I’d just learned that I was going to be the one delivering the eulogy at my father’s funeral. I was the one organizing the funeral. I was the one who’d sat with him those last two weeks, helping him make the transition from this world to the next. And now I was the one who was cleaning this debris-laden apartment. I felt very alone. And I didn’t have the emotional energy to deal with my father’s crazy collection of paperwork, ephemera and photo albums.
I cried some more. And then I called a friend, Lisa Gould, and asked for her help.
“I’m melting,” I told her. “I’m losing it. Please come sit with me and hold my hand.”
Lisa appeared at the door within 15 minutes and gave me one of the greatest hugs of all time and said, “It’s okay, Honey. You’re not alone.”
She stayed there with me for three hours. I’d like to say she helped me clean out the place but that’s not true. Lisa did all the cleaning while I sat on the couch and fought the temptation to curl up in a corner in the fetal position and make soft whimpering noises.
In the end, I tossed those photo albums into a maroon pillow case. I had not come prepared to take anything home, so those pillow cases were the best I could do. And later that evening when I arrived home, that maroon pillow case got tossed on the floor of my hallway until I had the emotional energy to deal with it.
My father’s funeral was Monday, June 20th. Once that was behind me, I felt ready to push on with life.
My daughter came to my home on Tuesday (the 21st) for a visit. I handed her the photo albums and said, “I have no idea who these people are, but these photos are pretty interesting. She took one of the albums home to show her significant other, Chris.
“He likes looking at old pictures like this,” she told me.
“You might as well take it,” I told her. “I was just going to throw them out. In fact I still don’t know what on earth I’m going to do with them.”
On Friday, June 24th, I scanned a few photos from the album and sent them to my friend and neighbor David Spriggs and asked, “How do I find out who these people are?”
There was one lone clue on the back of the first photo. It said,
Addie Hoyt and Enoch
On their wedding day
My grandmother was born in Lead, South Dakota in 1891, so I assumed that “Fargo” was the location.
David wrote back a few hours later and said, “Fargo is not the location. It’s the last name. Your aunt lived in a small city in Wisconsin…”
And that’s how this adventure began.
To read more about Addie’s death, click here.
To read the latest on Addie’s death, click here.
To read about the results of the autopsy, click here.
To learn about Sears Homes, click here.
To read more about Addie, click here.
* * *
A friend in Lake Mills sent me the link to the Sears site, because she knows I’m a history and architecture buff. I was sad to read that Addie died so young. But even before I learned of all the suspicions surrounding that, I thought it was an odd death because I’d thought of diphtheria as a killer of children and the elderly.
After reading everything else Addie-related here, I looked up diphtheria. For someone of Addie’s age, the mortality rate was only between 5 and 10%! Moreover, diphtheria has a short incubation period, then rapid onset that peaks quickly, so any prolonged “mystery illness” would have been unrelated. I didn’t see any mention in the obits about a diphtheria epidemic going on concurrently, and if there wasn’t, how would she have gotten it, since the Fargos hardly lived in squalid, third world circumstances. I’m wondering if anyone ever tried to exhume the body to prove or disprove the rumors.
I wish I knew more about cousin Martha. If Addie was 29, Martha would have been 28. A woman 28 and unmarried in that era didn’t have a lot of options, other than office work, and these people seem too upper class for that. She might have been quite jealous of Addie and eager — or desperate — to take her place. Perhaps it was she who gave Addie a not-so-gentle shove into eternity.
If EJ was already having an affair with Martha, what would his motive be for something as high-risk as killing Addie? There were lots of what were referred to as “odd women” — i.e., spinsters (“odd” as in odds and evens, not peculiar) — in that era, and it was seen as something of a masculine duty to take on a wife’s unmarried sister or close female relative.
Lots of men in the Victorian era (including Freud and Dickens) had their wives’ sisters living with them. No one batted an eye, so the arrangement could have gone on indefinitely on whatever terms it was. If, however, Martha killed Addie, EJ would probably have pressured the doctor to falsify the death certificate in order to avoid scandal and be left with at least one wife.
Another consideration with Martha — arsenic would have been more of a woman’s method than a man’s. Men don’t have the patience for it. And a wealthy man like EJ buying it would have raised eyebrows, whereas women, even well-off ones, would buy it to control kitchen rodents.