“The second of Enoch’s three daughters, Mertie, went to the neighbor’s to see what had been discarded when the [neighbor’s] house was fumigated after an illness in that family. She played with a doll, contracted the disease, and she [Mertie] too, died.”
So writes Mary Wilson in her book, “The History of Lake Mills” (published 1983).
Myrtle (“Mertie”) died in 1887 and was buried in the family plot at Rock Lake Cemetery.
And then14 years later (in 1901), Addie (wife #2) allegedly died of diphtheria.
Despite the fact that Addie’s attending physician was also the county health officer, and despite the fact that the physician publicly proclaimed it to be the most fast-acting and virulent case he’d ever seen, and despite the fact that the Fargo Mansion was the social hub of Lake Mills, and despite the fact that Enoch Fargo’s business employed 86 people (risking their exposure as well), and despite the fact that it was his own wife that died (which must have exposed him to a multitude of Addie’s germs), despite the fact that Enoch’s own daughter died when contagion laws were not followed with adequate haste, and despite the fact that the State Board of Health has stringent laws on this matter, the Fargo Mansion was apparently not quarantined or even fumigated.
It boggles the mind.
And yet, it fits nicely with the story if you realize that Addie probably did not die of diphtheria. Which was in accord with what Oatway reported to the State Board of Health a few months later. (Oatway’s report to the State Board of Health in 1901 stated that there were no cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901.)
If the Fargo Mansion had been quarantined, it surely would have made the Lake Mills Leader. And if they’d quarantined the house, wouldn’t Enoch have been required to remain at home, confined within the four walls of his 7,500 square foot manse?
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