Dr. Oatway, Your Slip is Showing!

Dr. Oatway misrepresented the facts on Addie’s death certificate. Or he misrepresented the facts to the state board of health. Either of which tell us, Dr. Oatway filed a false report – with someone.

In 1876, Wisconsin (and many other states) created a “State Board of Health” that compiled facts and stats on communicable diseases. “Health Officers” were appointed (and paid) by the state, and it was their job to help track, record and monitor the prevalence and severity of the dreaded scourges of the day such as diphtheria, small pox, consumption, cholera and typhoid.

Each year, these health officers filed a report with the state, wherein they answered several specific questions. Two of the most interesting questions they were asked were, “Are the laws regarding birth certificates and burial permits enforced in your community?” and “What’s the incidence of communicable disease in your community?”

As mentioned in a prior blog, I was fascinated to see that it wasn’t death certificates the state was interested in, but burial permits. More on that here.

God bless the great state of Wisconsin, which not only preserved these reports, but has put them online. And thanks to Mark Hardin, for finding these reports.  Full text here.

The report referenced in this blog covers the time period during which Addie Hoyt Fargo allegedly died of diphtheria (“Nineteenth Report of the State Board of Health to Wisconsin” for 1901/1902).

And the health officer that filed the report for Lake Mills was our Dr. Oatway. The same Dr. Oatway that attended to Addie as she lay dying from diphtheria. The same Dr. Oatway that filled out her death certificate, and certified it as true, and falsified the burial permit number. The same Dr. Oatway that allegedly falsified this death certificate and later admitted, “No one was fooled.”

In the report he filed with the state of Wisconsin, Oatway stated, “the law requiring the report of dangerous contagious diseases is observed with regard to small pox, diphtheria and scarlet fever only.”

Reporting as the health officer, he mentions the deaths from a number of diseases but he says nothing about any cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills, or deaths from diphtheria in Lake Mills.

But wait, why did he sign (and certify) on Addie’s death certificate that she died of diphtheria?

That’s a pretty big inconsistency. Did he lie on the death certificate, or did he lie when he filed his report with the state?  Because Oatway DID lie, and the question is WHERE?

As my brother Ed would say, “This certainly puts another wheel on the wagon…”

And it gets even better. Further on in the report, Oatway says that “the laws requiring the issuing of burial permits are observed.”

Oh really?

Then why isn’t there a burial permit for Addie? Why did he lie on the death certificate and say there was a burial permit, when there was not? Why did he lie to the state? How many lies did this man tell?

Did Addie die of diphtheria? According to the report he filed with the state of Wisconsin, she did not.

More happy news can be found on page 15 of this report, which states that the deceased victims of diphtheria and other communicable diseases were to be placed in “sturdy coffins.” When Addie’s disinterment day arrives, that could be a real blessing.

To read more about Addie, click here.


This snippet appeared in the 1902 "Report of the State Board of Health" for Wisconsin and covered the the time period during which Addie Hoyt allegedly died of diphtheria. How did Oatway forget about Addie's horrible diphtheric death?


This statement, taken from the above text and penned by Oatway, says that if there was a case of diphtheria in his town (Lake Mills), it *would* be reported.


Unless you're paid off by Enoch Fargo to falsify a death certificate...

Addies death certificate, allegedly falsified by Dr. Oatway.

Under the date (June 1901), Addie's death certificate reads, "Burial Permit #32." State law demanded accuracy in reporting of birth certificates and burial permits. He would be required to lie again when he submitted his written report to the state of Wisconsin.


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

To read more about Addie’s death, click here.

* * *


  1. Ginger Ambrose

    Has anyone thought of hand analysis re: the death certificate? I wonder if Dr. Oatway possibly wrote differently if he was falsifying a legal document. Just a thought….

  2. faux beams

    All those craftsmen style homes have so much charm. The faux beams in the Sears ad are so appropriate for that style/time period. Wonderful old photos.