Addie’s Death Certificate *WAS* Falsified…

We now have compelling evidence that Doctor Oatway did falsify Addie’s death certificate.

Why would he do that? What was his motive?

According to two published accounts and local lore, William H. Oatway was bribed by Enoch Fargo to falsify Addie’s death certificate. It seems that 29-year-old Addie didn’t die from diphtheria, but was killed by her husband, Enoch Fargo.  Enoch needed Addie out of the way, so he could marry his new love, Martha Harbeck Hoyt (no relation to Addie).

Oatway was summoned to the Fargo Mansion at the time of Addie’s death (June 19, 1901, Wednesday morning at 2:00) and agreed to list her cause of death of diphtheria, giving old Enoch just the excuse he needed to bury her immediately.

Less than eight hours later, Addie Hoyt Fargo’s 29-year-old body was “laid to rest” at Rock Lake Cemetery in Lake Mills.

Logistically, this is an amazing feat. To read more about why this is nearly impossible, click here.

Physically speaking, it’s very unlikely that Addie – a 29-year-old woman in the prime of her life – died of diphtheria (which had a mortality rate of 5% in the early 1900s). And according to her obituary, she died of diphtheria within 16 hours of her first sniffle. Now *that’s* rare. Read more about that here.

Why would 52-year-old Enoch kill his young wife? He was in love with another woman (whom he later wed). Ready more about that here.

This is a complicated story. Today’s piece focuses on the falsified death certificate.

And that falsified death certificate is the smoking gun, which provides compelling evidence that Addie was murdered.

Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.

Enoch married Addie Hoyt Fargo in February 1896. He was 46 and she was 24. Shortly before her death (at the age of 29), her health deteriorated dramatically. Frankly, I suspect it may have been arsenic poisoning. You can read about that here.

In addition, it appears that Enoch may have been an abusive husband, as these photos show (click here to see photos).

So how do we know that Oatway falsified the death certificate?

On the death certificate, Oatway states that a burial permit has been obtained, and it’s “burial permit #32.”

Thanks to Robin Untz and Bill Hartwig in Lake Mills, we were able to check burial permits for that time period (early 1900s). The burial permits are chronological. Addie’s burial permit should have been #22 (date of death – June 19, 1901), but it was not to be found between May 1901 and July 1901. In fact, within the many pages of this meticulously maintained ledger book (shown to us by Bill Hartwig, current sexton for Rock Lake Cemetery), there was no burial certificate for Addie.

You read that right.

No burial certificate.

This wasn’t some pauper’s grave or an unknown soul.  This was the wife of one of the community’s wealthiest men. In fact, even if she had been a pauper, there would have been a burial permit. (See photo below.)

Looking at Addie’s death certificate, it’s obvious that Oatway filled it out in great haste. For “mother’s name” and “father’s name,” he wrote, “Mrs. Hoyt” and “Mr. Hoyt.” Addie’s age is also erroneous on this death certificate (see below).

In his mad rush to complete this death certificate, he probably guessed at what burial certificate was coming up next. Perhaps he remembered the old lady he’d attended to last month who’d died of consumption, and wasn’t her burial permit #29?

Oatway guessed wrong.

In fact, I’m not sure how he could have even filled out this line in the form. Most likely, it was the province of the undertaker to obtain a burial permit, and it was his duty to fill in this information. In fact, the burial permits we saw were issued – with a lone exception – were issued one day after the “day of death.” And that makes sense. Dead on May 1st, burial permit is obtained on May 2nd.

But there was no time for that the undertaker to get a burial permit for Addie. She was dead, and she had to be buried immediately, and if anyone saw her lifeless form, they’d know instantly that she’d been the victim of a violent murder. So Oatway had to work fast.

Besides, who’d ever know that there was no burial permit?

As Robin sat with me in Bill Hartwig’s office in Lake Mills on Friday, September 2, she had the presence of mind to ask, “What if this was a family plot? Would a burial permit be needed?”

Bill explained, “This isn’t about the real estate. This is about opening up a grave and preparing it for a burial.”

Robin also had the wisdom to go through the 110-year-old ledger and make sure no pages were missing. Each numbered page was right where it was supposed to be.

This newest revelation raises even more questions. Is Addie in the grave that bears her name? Or is it an empty tomb? I suspect it’s an empty tomb, for many reasons. For one, Enoch may have realized that if the family (now living in Denver) showed up and asked about Addie, they may ask to have her body exhumed. If there was a bullet in her skull, it’d be hard to pass that off as an especially violent case of diphtheria. Conversely, if he disposed of her body in a more sinister way, and there was an exhumation, Enoch could claim that grave robbers had visited the cemetery and – knowing Addie was the wife of a wealthy man – had stolen her corpse.

Next, it’s my hope to press forward and meet the legal requirements to have Addie‘s body exhumed. If her body is not in that grave, then we’ll know – once and for all – that Enoch did indeed murder my great aunt, Addie Hoyt Fargo. If her body is in that grave, we’ll transport her remains to a medical examiner, who’ll test for arsenic, and also do forensic tests to determine how Addie died.

If you’d like to help with this project, please leave a comment below. If you have any information to share, please leave a comment.

To see a video of a talk I gave last weekend in Lake Mills, click here.

Take a moment and study the photos below. They substantiate the facts that are stated above.


Is Addie in the grave that bears her name?

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.

Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Note the date (near the bottom), and directly underneath the date is the burial permit number. In fact, burial permit #32 was issued to Alinda G. Hornikle, who died on March 26, 1902 at 3:00 am. Alinda G. Hornikle was 24 years old.


Close-up of the parental info. Why didnt Oatway bother to contact Homer Hoyt, who was still living in the small town of Lake Mills, and get this information?

Close-up of the parental info. "Mr. Hoyt" was not born in Wisconsin, but Vermont. Was it really too much trouble for Oatway to ask Enoch about the first names of Addie's parents?



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.


Addie, about 1899.

Addie, about 1899.


This burial permit (#21) is dated May 1st, and the death occurred the day before - April 30th.


Addie's should have been permit #22 (judging by the date). But "John Smith" died on June 26th, and this burial permit was dated June 27th. Addie died on June 19, 1901.


As mentioned above, burial permits were required for every grave that was opened. This burial permit was for a stillborn baby (unnamed). As Bill told us, a burial permit was required for every grave - no exceptions. This was the only permit I saw that had the same permit date and death date. In the case of an unnamed, stillborn child, the logistics involved in burial were very different.

Did you notice the name of the cemetery secretary?

Robert Fargo.

Uncle Bob to Enoch J. Fargo.

In my mind, this makes an even stronger case for obtaining a proper burial permit and keeping everything good and legal. Enoch didn’t even have to wait for office hours to get a burial permit for Addie. He needed only to call his Uncle, and I’m sure Uncle Bob wouldn’t have taken care of it for him.

Even that was too much trouble for Enoch.


Enoch J. Fargo: By all accounts, he was a megalomaniac and a narcissist. Just the type that probably thought he could get away with murder.

Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) in 1910, at the age of 44, pictured beside Addie Hoyt Fargo (right) in 1896, at the age of 24.  Anna lived to be 99 years old. Its likely that Addie would have also lived a long life.

Anna Hoyt Whitmore (left) in 1910, at the age of 44, pictured beside Addie Hoyt Fargo (right) in 1896, at the age of 24. Anna lived to be 99 years old. It's likely that Addie would have also lived a long life. Anna moved to Denver in the 1880s. In early 20th Century America, Denver was a long way from Lake Mills. Notes written in Anna's own hand suggest that - as late as 1904 - she did not know that her baby sister was dead.

And perhaps

And perhaps most chilling of all is this photo of Addie - before and after Enoch. These two photos were taken five years apart. On the left, she was 24 years old. On the right, she was barely 29. Addie's life with Enoch was a hard life. Notice the swollen lip, skewed nose and puffy eyes. In addition, her hairline has receded significantly. She hardly looks like the same woman.


The Fargo Mansion - sometime around the late 1890s.

If you’d like to help with this project, please leave a comment below. If you have any information to share, please leave a comment.

To read more about Addie, click here.

*   *   *


  1. Anna

    From the obituary in Part VIII, Dr Oatway’s birthplace should be Carleton Place. It’s about 30 miles from Ottawa.

    Did you find where he was living in – 1900? Stone Buildings, Lake Mills
    Year: 1900; Census Place: Lake Mills, Jefferson, Wisconsin; Roll: T623_ 1793; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 146 Line 82.

    and send a photo of your new bathroom here:

  2. Dan Walker

    Wish I could help you. I have a genealogical murder mystery as well. My great grandfather’s sister Nellie Haskett married Frank Kniffen in Lincoln, Nebraska and eventually they made their way to Detroit. In 1910 he was murdered. A trial was started and they had charged Nellie, but she was never convicted. Frank had been hit with an axe. The night the murder occurred there was freshly fallen snow and with the axe in a shed behind the house. There were tracks to the shed but they were smaller than Nellie’s. Frank flirted with women constantly but women weren’t supposed to complain about that then. The tracks to the shed were the size of the oldest daughter Pearl who was 12 at the time. Could she have murdered her father? We don’t know. The death certificate is unusual in that it says cause of death “murder by wife while insane”. This isn’t a cause of death in normal terms.

  3. Amy

    Fascinating story, thank you for sharing and continued luck in the hunt. Reading through the past blogs and losing track of what is still left to find.
    If still wanting to know more about Dr. Oatway – would consider tax rolls, maybe he suddenly shows up with property if he was in an apartment before and a house after Addie’s death for example.

    Also wondering with a wealthy family – there had to be servants, who were they, maybe stories passed down through their descendants.
    By the way – what happened to the first wife before Addie? Was she also a victim of his?

  4. Sharman

    I have been following your story with great interest lately. Dr. Oatway was my grandfather’s 1st cousin. I am very interested in genealogy and murder mysteries.

    In the 1910 census his name was registered incorrectly as William Calway. I found that census rather difficult to decipher so not sure if he lived on College St. or Lake St. He also lived at 615 W. Madison St. in Lake Mills and owned Norwood Stock Farm. He sold all his personal property on this farm in 1913.

    I am wondering what success you had with your visit to Lake Mills? Waiting for your next blog!

  5. Carol

    We are the Fort Atkinson, WI Paranormal Society. I have been intrigued by you blog and wonder if the owners would be open to an investigation. Maybe Addie has some stories to tell.