Dr. Oatway, Why *Were* You in Such a Hurry?

Doctor Oatway must have been in quite a hurry when he filled out Addie’s death certificate, for he made a number of mistakes on the form.

1)  Addie’s name. Oatway wrote “Adelina,” which he apparently assumed was Addie’s given name. It was not. Her real name was Ada, and on her own marriage certificate (dated February 1895), Addie gave her legal name as “Addie.” You’d think Oatway would have asked the bereaved husband about the recently deceased’s real name, but apparently Enoch was busy doing other things at the time.

2)  Addie’s birth date. For Addie’s birth date, Oatway put down 1872. That’s just sloppy. Addie’s birth date was January 22, 1872. Why didn’t Oatway ask Enoch or one of the girls about Addie’s birthday? One would have to guess that Enoch wasn’t very good at remembering Addie’s birthday.

3)  Addie’s age. Okay, so he got the year right (1872), but how did he come up with 29 years and 1 month as her age? It was probably just a wild guess. Oatway apparently reasoned that no one was going to examine this document too closely. There’s a line on the form for years, months and days. He left the “days” blank, and took a stab at the “months.”

4)  Mother and Father’s name. Oatway listed them as “Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt.” That’s rather pathetic. Couldn’t he ask Enoch about this one? I guess not. Apparently Enoch was busy doing other things.

5) Mother and Father’s birthplace. Oatway listed both parents as being from Wisconsin. Ding, ding, ding, wrong answer for Father! Homer was from Vermont.

6)  Birthplace of deceased: Wisconsin. Given the extra long line at this entry, I think the preparers of this form are asking for a CITY or county, not just the state. But I suspect Oatway was in quite a state himself, and this was the best he could do. Addie was born in Milford. At least Oatway got it right on the obituary.

7)  Cemetary? Okay, this isn’t a true mistake but it’s an interesting aside. Oatway misspelled “cemetery.” He spelled it, cemetary. You’d think that in his line of work, he had probably spelled out that word a few times in past years. Was it stress? Or was he just a lousy speller?

8 )  Burial permit. He said Addie’s burial permit had been obtained, and it was burial permit #32. This was not true. There was no burial permit for Addie. Burial permit #32 belonged to Alinda Hornickle, who died March 1902. The burial permit was a state document, and Dr. Oatway was a county official, falsifying a state record. Now that’s bad. And yet later, when he filed his report to the State Board of Health, he said there were no deaths from diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901. To learn more about why this is so important, click here.

9) Funeral director: Given the tremendous haste with which Addie was allegedly buried (and the fact that she wasn’t even buried to a proper depth), it’s not likely that a funeral director had any involvement in this. Had he been involved, he would have been at risk for incurring the wrath of state officials for participating in a “wee hours”  burial with no burial permit. As mentioned elsewhere, the burial permit was a state record, and to be a party to this chicanery could have caused the funeral director to lose his license.

10)  Cause of death: Diphtheria. This is the principle reason that this death certificate is such a farce. Oatway said that Addie died when the diphtheric membrane broke off in her throat and strangled her. According to the CDC, it takes 2-3 days for that membrane to form. There are entire blogs written about why this is such a farce, but in short, when children perished from the growth of this diphtheria membrane, they typically died 4-5 days after onset of the disease. According to Oatway’s own report, Addie died 16 hours after a slight sore throat began. To read the full story as to why this is such nonsense, click here, here or here.

How did Oatway ever end up as County Health Officer?

And I’d love to know the precise circumstances under which this was written. Was he sitting on the top step at the Fargo Mansion, bearing down on his knee as he tried to calm his nerves and scribble out something in a hurry?

To learn more about Addie, click here.

Addie was born into wealth and privilege, and its mighty hard to understand how this beautiful, smart, vivacious woman ended up dead at 29, buried in a shallow grave.

Addie was born into wealth and privilege, and it's mighty hard to understand how this beautiful, smart, vivacious woman ended up dead at 29, buried in a shallow grave. And you can see here, she was a snappy dresser by the age of two.


This is my favorite Addie photo. It really bespeaks her station in life.

This is my favorite Addie photo. It really bespeaks her station in life, and it shows her elegance and poise. Given the pose struck here, one wonders if she was a model.


But it all ended tragically when she ended up dead at 29.

But it all ended tragically when she ended up dead at 29. As mentioned above, this death certificate is rife with errors. Look at the name: Adalina? Where'd he come up with that?



Note the "name of mother" and "name of father," and also Addie's age (line 7). She was born on January 22, 1872, and her age would have been 29 years, four months and 27 days.



Burial permit #32 belonged to Alinda Hornickle who died March 26, 1902 at 3:00 am. This is very damning evidence that Oatway did falsify this document. Addie's burial permit should have been number 22 (based on the date of her death).



This report (shown above) appeared in the "Report of the State Board of Health" for Wisconsin and covered the the time period during which Addie Hoyt allegedly died of diphtheria. You'll note, there's no mention of any deaths (or even cases) of diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901.



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 to falsify a death certificate...



Stats on diphtheria deaths, as seen in the 1899-1900 "Report of the State Board of Health." In smaller towns, the mortality rate from diphtheria was much less than the statewide average of 13%, and was closer to 9%. In Milwaukee (Wisconsin's largest town with 280,000 residents), the mortality rate was closer to 16.75%.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

Please leave a comment below!

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  1. Mandie Brewer

    I can only imagine the chaos at the moment he was trying to write it. Was Enoch trying to rush him through it? Were the girls there? Did Enoch tell him just to put anything down while he tried to clean up after himself? Did he do such a poor job intentionally with the hope that someone would notice? Did Enoch even care enough to know Addie’s real name or any information about her parents? Where was wife number three in all of this, was she providing the information?

    And looking at the “name of father” line it almost appears that the “Mr” was added after Hoyt was written based on the placement of the words compared to the “name of mother” line after it. It also looks like he started to write something else and went over the top of it with the first line of the H. He was clearly in a bit of a rush.

    Are there other death certificates written by Dr. Oatway around the same time that Addie’s could be compared to? It would be interesting to see the difference between one written in a less stressful situation vs. when he wrote Addie’s.

  2. Sandra

    A friend of mine had sent me a blog post a while back (where you weren’t allowed to comment) about some of these things. Basically the individual supported the diphtheria theory (despite it not being reported and the time it takes), why it could be explained, why her parent’s names, given name and date of birth aren’t listed, etc. While it may be considered circumstantial, it does imply that something was up that evening or early morning. While we’ll never know for certain, maybe soon we’ll have the truth regarding her death.

    Rose’s reply: I read that same blog, and I’m deeply indebted to the fellow who wrote it. Had it not been for him, I would never have had to “dig deeper” which led me right to that State Health Report that Oatway filed in 1901, where Oatway said there were no cases of diphtheria in Lake Mills in 1901! That was a real find!

    Think of it! He says on Addie’s death certificate that she died of diphtheria, and then says in the obit that it was the most horrific, fast-acting, virulent, awful strain he’d even seen, and then four months later, he FORGOT about it when he filed his report to the state?

    Wow, that’s a powerful piece of evidence, and I never would have found it had it not been for that blog!

    That blog writer also made some comments about the burial permits, and I found out, he was wrong about that, too. 🙂 I just haven’t had time to post what I learned. In essence, he claims that he found two people buried at the Lake Mills cemetery around the time of Addie’s death (he used “find a grave”) and those two people (Carrie Joslin and Mary Sonderman) also did not have burial permits. (I had burial permits for May 1st [permit #21] and June 27th [permit #22]).

    When I was in Lake Mills earlier this month, I visited those graves and I learned that ONE of those two people he mentions (Carrie Joslin) was a transcription error, and that the “death date” info at “find a grave” was in error. She died well before 1901.

    The other woman who died around the time of Addie was Mary Sonderman, and she died the evening of June 20th, and she is buried at Lake Mills, but she died while she was a patient at an insane asylum in Oshkosh, and I suspect that an autopsy was required. Between the autopsy and the transport back to Lake Mills, that would create a delay of several days, and that might explain why there’s no burial permit for her in the time period that we’re talking about (May 1st to June 27th).

    But yes, I read that blog too, and I wish that fellow would communicate with me. I’ve sent him several notes but have not heard back. Because of him, I’ve had to do some extra homework, which lead to SEVERAL wonderful discoveries!!!

  3. Heather Lukaszewski

    I agree with Mandie, it would be interesting to see his level of detail on an “average” death certificate. It’s also curious why he went to the trouble of a death certificate, and not a burial permit, which was required by state law. You would think the burial certificate would be what he could lose his position over.

  4. Bev Pinkerman

    I have been following this story since the beginning and have read the death certificate before. I agree with Rose about all the inconsistencies in it. No getting around this simple truth: Oatway lied either in the death certificate or to the State Board of Health. Either way, it tells us he is willing to lie.

    I too have previously thought that he may have made the death certificate so full of holes as if to cry out for somebody to question it. This is one of the most important documents people have as a record of their time on earth, he knows that, and it seems he wasn’t given the time or the information to fill it out with the respect it deserved.

    I have not read other death certificates of the time but something struck me today. The place of death was listed as “her home”, not “home” or “at home”. Was he saying this should not have happened to a woman in her own home and hoping the feeble attempts at a coverup would be noticed?

    Rose’s reply: Bev, that is EXACTLY it – the death certificate is one of the most important documents we have as a record of our time on earth, and Oatway did not treat Addie’s “last record” with any respect.

    And I noticed tonight – for the first time – the comment about “her home” being the place of death. That is an interesting commentary, isn’t it? I get the feeling that Oatway was racked with guilt AS he was doing this, and left behind this incredible trail, so that the truth would be revealed.

  5. Rachel

    I am curious, have you read other death certificates from the same time? I also question if Oatway even filled it out, it’s hard to believe a man that educated making that many errors! Has the handwriting been compared with others he wrote? I don’t suppose it’s possible that it was forged is it? There are just so many errors. Maybe Oatway didn’t know what to put down because he was in such a hurry and half asleep since it was such an odd hour.

  6. Steve W Oatway

    Dr. William Henry Oatway was my Grand Uncle (my Grand Father’s brother), and I remember a story about him confessing on his deathbed that he falsified Addie Hoyt’s Death Certificate to protect the reputation of the rich and powerful Enoch Fargo.
    (There a few descendants of William H Oatway who are my 2nd cousins but I’ve never met. My 3rd Cousin Sharman has written to you, and she is a main Oatway Genealogist like me. We are a small family, and I know cousins all over the world.)