Was Aunt Addie Shot in the Head? (Part VII)

Where did Dr. Oatway live in the early 1900s?

There’s a reason that this is so very important.

First, a brief synopsis.

According to local lore and two published reports, my Aunt (Addie Hoyt Fargo) didn’t really die of diphtheria, as is stated in her death certificate. The beautiful 29-year-old woman died from a gunshot wound to the head, delivered by her ever-loving husband, Enoch Fargo.

Her 51-year-old husband (Enoch Fargo) had fallen in love with Maddie Hoyt (no relation to Addie), and wanted to marry Maddie.

Addie had to go.

Allegedly, Dr. William H. Oatway (Enoch’s personal physician and the attending physician at Addie’s death) openly stated years later, “No one was fooled” by his alleged falsification of Addie’s death certificate (showing diphtheria as the cause of death). Folks knew Enoch had killed his young wife as she lay sleeping in her bed.

Addie’s cause of death was listed as diphtheria, providing Enoch with the excuse he needed to get Addie into the ground immediately. If you examine this “diphtheria theory” for seven or eight seconds, you’ll see it’s rife with plot holes and non sequiturs. More on that here.

So, according to the long-lived legends of Lake Mills, poor Addie was shot in the head by Enoch, and the death certificate was falsified by Oatway. Addie’s obituary says that she was “feeling unwell” late Tuesday morning (June 18th) and about 16 hours later (2:00 am on the 19th), this otherwise healthy 29-year-old was dead.

More amazingly, she was in the ground by 10:00 a.m., and there was no visitation. Think for a moment about the logistics of that. This means someone had to dig a grave in the dark of night. More on that here.

Seven months later, Enoch and Maddie were joined in matrimonial bliss.  (An interesting aside: At the end of their marriage, the two lovebirds lived 3,000 miles apart, with Enoch in Florida and Maddie in California. Talk about a safe distance!)

So why is Dr. Oatway’s residence in the early 1900s so important?

If this legend is true, if Oatway was indeed coerced to falsify Addie’s death certificate (a truly grievous offense), then it’s possible that rich old Enoch offered Oatway significant pecuniary incentives. In other words, he paid him off.

In the late 1890s, Oatway was living in a second floor apartment above a storefront in Lake Mills. Pretty modest circumstances, for sure. As of the 1905 State Census (four years after Addie’s mysterious death), Oatway was living six doors away from Enoch Fargo. Unfortunately, that state census does not say where, and despite some serious searching, I’ve not been able to find an address for Oatway in the early 1900s.

If Oatway went from living in a second floor apartment to a Mulberry Street Mansion in the Fall of 1901, that would be a compelling bit of evidence. And when did he move? Was it immediately after Addie’s death? That is also important. And did he have a mortgage on his fine new residence five doors down from Fargo, or did he pay cash? Who owned the house prior to Oatway? Was it a Fargo?

When working on a 110-year-old murder mystery, such questions are of vital importance.

If anyone knows the answers to these compelling questions, or even knows how to find these answers, please leave a comment below. In a few days, I’m supposed to show up in Lake Mills and give a talk, and I need a little help from my friends!

To read Part VI, click here.

To read Part V, click here.

To read Part IV, click here.

To read Part III, click here.

To read Part II, click here.

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 in 1896 at the time of their wedding. Addie was 22 years younger than Enoch. He allegedly murdered Addie so that he could marry Maddie Hoyt (no relation).


Addie Hoyt Fargo in 1896. She would have been a mere 24 years old in this photo.


Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Addie's death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway. The lower portion shows that the death certificate was certified on June 19, 1901.


On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there.  Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, hed up and move to Waukesha.

On October 2, 1913, the Waukesha Freeman (newspaper) reported that Dr. Oatway was moving from Lake Mills to Waukesha to open a new office there. Interesting that, years after establishing a successful practice in Lake Mills, he'd up and move to Waukesha.



Addie's obituary as it appeared in the local paper, soon after her death.


This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

I bet Addie was "very much shocked" too. This obituary attempted to explain her fast death from a slow disease process.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, in the bedroom where she was allegedly shot by her husband, Enoch Fargo.

Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.

And heres Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for.

And here's Maddie, the woman Enoch was (allegedly) willing to kill for. Contrary to local lore, she was not related to the Hoyts of Lake Mills in anyway. Maddie Louise Harbeck Hoyt Fargo was born seven years before her mother (Marie Harbeck) married Henry Hoyt. In 1880, Maddie (then seven years old) was living with her grandparents in Lake Mills. Her grandmother was Elizabeth Fargo Harbeck.

To read more about Addie and Annie Hoyt, click here.

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  1. Debbie

    Have you checked land records? Newspapers? 1910 census? Where was the “good” (cough, cough) doctor living when he died and when did he die? Any obits for him? Was there a will? If he owned his home at the time of death, there should be something about it in the will. Are you going to ask Addie questions when you visit her former home? (I watch alot of those tv shows, and they do ask the ghosts questions and try to get answers from them.)

  2. Sears Homes

    Hi Debbie,

    I’ve got an obit for him (thanks to a friend in Waukesha) and some other information, but I still need to know where he lived in the early 1900s. He does not appear in the 1910 census, which is pretty frustrating.

    In 1913, he moved to Waukesha (which is also a bit of a surprise), so I’m not as interested in that house, as I am in the house he moved to (prior to 1905) there in Lake Mills!


  3. Debbie

    Ok . . . . Have you checked property records? That would be at the Jefferson County courthouse, Register of Deeds. Wisconsin has an Area Research Network. It’s called something like that. It’s like Illinois and IRAD. In your case, the one you want is at the University of WI in Whitewater.

  4. Debbie

    I’m back. Area Research Center is what it’s called. And they do have some deeds, among other records.


    I have not researched here, but I have done genealogy research, so could probably answer some questions. However, the people at the center should be knowledgeable about their Jefferson County holdings and what specific records might help you. I think it’s worth taking a look. I know our IRADs are goldmines and I bet this is too! Good luck!

  5. Debbie

    P.S. Have you done a line by line search of the 1910 census? I know, it’s a pain, but I have done it with my own research with positive results! If you are using an index, those are transcriptions, made by humans and they contain errors. The census records themselves can contain errors also, like misspelled names! This is one reason why it can be difficult to find someone in the census. Or, he simply could have been missed.

  6. Sears Homes

    Hi Debbie, Please keep these cards and letters coming! Seriously, I am grateful for any and all ideas about how to do this research, but I’m really out of my league here.

  7. Gloria Bauer Ishida

    You mention Maddie (maybe Mattie) being in California in the 1920 census; the only one that fits is “Mattie” b Wisconsin, as her parents were, age 36, librarian. This ame Mattie is 1910, is with Enoch and his 3rd. wife in Mills Lake, librarian. She is the daughter of Enoch and his first wife.

  8. Holly

    I’ve been reading your blog with great interest since it was featured in Dick Eastman’s genealogy blog last week, and have really been enjoying the way you are presenting your findings — and especially that you are not revising previous blog posts, so a reader can see you move from possibilities to proofs. One question I have about Oatway is what was the evidence for his deathbed confession?

    I know that it was mentioned in the book about haunted houses, but where did the author come across it? (Always bearing in mind that the author had a book to sell and the story works better with a deathbed confession.) If you have a chance to research a bit more about Oatway’s later life, see if his obituary appears in a local paper and possibly any further clues from that.

    By the time he died, obituaries weren’t going to be quite as graphic as Addie’s, but surely if he’d made the confession, he had to confess it *to* someone. What did they do with that knowledge? Was it in the paper? Did the person who heard his confession tell the relevant authorities? Was there a later investigation or at least had they added a note on the file that the doctor had confessed but since everyone involved was now dead, they weren’t going to investigate?

    Food for thought: what’s the evidence of a deathbed confession beyond the book? Keep up the good work!