What The Medical Examiner Told Me About Addie…

Addie was exhumed on November 3, 2011, and taken to Milwaukee for an autopsy. To read why this was done, click here. To read the latest, click here.

Two weeks after the exhumation, I talked with the medical examiner by phone, and he gave me a full report.

Perhaps the most important thing that needs to be known is that the autopsy results were inconclusive.


Based on the email and the comments received, a lot of people are very fuzzy on what that means.

It means this:  The autopsy did not prove that Addie was murdered (due to both the lack of skeletal remains and their poor condition), and it did not prove that she was not murdered.

Let me share something else the medical examiner told me in that conversation on November 17th at 10:28 in the morning. He said, and I quote, “We didn’t have a lot of [Addie’s] skull.”

While her lower jaw was found, with several teeth still in place, her upper jaw and teeth were not found. Nor was her face (the skull bones underlying her face). Nor were a few other pieces and parts.

That’s one of the reasons that the results were inconclusive. You can’t make a definitive finding when there’s a lack of physical evidence.

That’s the first important point, and here’s the second. In Mary Wilson’s book (The History of Lake Mills), she writes, “A number of persons who knew Mr. Fargo will tell the same story – he shot Addie!” (page 274).

Mary Wilson doesn’t say, Enoch shot Addie in the head. She says, Enoch shot Addie.

I asked the medical examiner, if there’d be any evidence now – 110 years later – of a gunshot wound to the chest, and he said no.

Further, he said that “most of Addie’s ribs were broken,” (that’s another direct quote), and it’s likely that the breaks happened post-mortem, but it’s impossible to know for sure. Her remains were in very poor condition, and that made it difficult to test for much of anything.

Poor Addie, buried in that shallow grave – above the frost line – was not far from returning to dust.

“It hard to make sense of whether or not there was foul play,” he told me.

And he added, forensic science “is like a camera. The further away you get from the subject, the harder it is to see.”

And 1901 is a long, long way from 2011.

He added, “That’s the problem with these contemporary criminal dramas like CSI. They create unrealistically high expectations.”

In conclusion, Addie’s autopsy was inconclusive.

Again, that simply means that the autopsy did not prove that Addie was murdered (due to both the lack of skeletal remains and their poor condition), and it did not prove that she was not murdered.

Several people have sent thoughtful emails saying that they’re sorry I wasn’t able to get “closure,” and while I appreciate their kindness, the fact is, I’m glad I did this. Finding her buried in a shallow grave, coupled with the discovery that she was wearing dress shoes was enough for me to know – I did the right thing.

Further, I’ve also received many notes from people who knew Mary Wilson personally, and they affirm that she was a trustworthy source, and that she would not have fabricated such a fantastic story.

Did Enoch murder Addie? Mary Wilson certainly thought so.

The autopsy was inconclusive, but based on the amazing paper trail that Oatway left behind, it is clear that Addie Hoyt did not die of diphtheria, which begs the question, what happened to Addie, that those present at her death felt they had to fabricate the story of diphtheria. What were they trying to cover up? And there is also the fact that Enoch remarried seven months after Addie died, and in fact, he married the woman that had been living in the Fargo Mansion when Addie died.

To learn more about Addie, click here.

You can find Addie on Facebook. Search for Addie Hoyt Fargo in Lake Mills.

To learn about Addie and Annie (her sister), click here.

Addie in 1894, two years before she married Enoch.

Addie in 1894, two years before she married Enoch.


Addie (left) was 15 when this photo was taken (in 1887), and her life was already half over. She was 29 years old when she was killed. On the right is Addie's sister, Anna Hoyt (my great-grandmother). Anna (right) was 21 and was already married to Wilbur Whitmore and living in Denver, Colorado.


Addies foot stone still remains at her empty tomb.

Addie's head stone in Lake Mills is now a cenotaph. Her remains are now in Norfolk with me, and the rest of her family. No more shallow graves for Addie.


Some of the nasty notes I get from anonymous nuts purport to tell me that this is not a shallow grave.  Given that the frost line is 3-4 feet, and given that the traditional burial depth is 6-8 feet, Id have to say that this picture is worth a whole lot of words.

Some of the nasty notes I get from anonymous trolls try to tell me that this is not a shallow grave. Given that the frost line in Wisconsin is 3-4 feet, and given that the traditional burial depth is 6-8 feet, I'd have to say that this picture is worth a whole lot of words.


Turns out, we didnt need those ladders and buckets and ropes to excavate the grave. It was knee-deep in places.

Turns out, we didn't need those ladders and buckets and ropes to excavate the grave. It was about knee-deep in places. This was alarming. Assuming a coffin height of 18", the top of Addie's coffin was only about 16" below the grass.


And there is now enough circumstantial evidence that one thing is clear; Diphtheria was not the cause of death.

Enoch was so arrogant he didn't even worry about getting caught in his lies. Despite strongly worded state laws, the Fargo Mansion was never quarantined or fumigated, following the "tragic loss" of Addie to diphtheria. You'd think that he'd at least follow the law, to create the appearance of diphtheria, especially since he'd lost his nine-year-old daughter (Myrtle) in 1887, when quarantine laws were not followed expeditiously. Myrtle (born 1878) contracted Typhoid (and died from it) when she got into a neighbor's burn pile and played with an infected doll. She was nine years old.


Addie, shortly before her death.

Addie, shortly before her death.


Addie in 1895, and in 1901. Life with Enoch was very, very hard.

Addie in 1896, and five years later, 1901. Life with Enoch was very, very hard.

Was she beaten? Its certainly possible. Look at her lip and her nose and her right eye.

Was she beaten? It's certainly possible. Look at her swollen lip and her nose and her right eye.

*   *   *


  1. David Spriggs

    Rose, you and I discussed several times prior to the exhumation that the autopsy results might well be inconclusive. I was not surprised that this was the case. Indeed, it would have been miraculous for a definitive cause of death to have been determined after all this time.

    I know that you gave a great deal of thought to the decision to go forward with the exhumation, even in the face of the uncertainty of the results. However, there were mounting incongruities in the evidence, and each new inexplicable discovery added to the possibility that Addie did not die of diphtheria or of natural causes.

    Those who opposed the exhumation based their opposition on the notion that your suspicions just couldn’t be true. Yet, they offered no counter evidence or plausible explanations of all of the incongruities, which led you to the decision.

    An individual piece of evidence could – in isolation – be explained away with a plausible (albeit improbable story). But creating a scenario that explains all the evidence in this manner would require an extraordinarily improbable sequence of events.

    So, one could quantize the issue in order to determine the mathematical probabilities that your version is correct and the mathematical probabilities that your opponents are correct.

    In the end, it was a question of probabilities which determined your decision to exhume. Had you not done so, no amount of incriminating evidence found later could have proved definitively that Addie died violently. It had to be done as an investment in the ultimate determination of the truth.

    And, is not “the truth” what we all want to be known?

  2. Bev Pinkerman

    On another website someone made a comment about the last picture saying Addie had her arms around Enoch in it. Really? That is not what I see at all. They are two people posing for two completely different pictures. He looks as serious and aloof as he does in any other picture and she is looking imploringly into the lens.

    The evidence may be “inconclusive” as far as the autopsy goes, but they are conclusive as to the fact that Addie did not die from diphtheria, leading one to believe that foul play was involved. The actual cause of death was covered up, and it seems very likely that her husband – Enoch Fargo – had a hand in it.

  3. Liz Woolever

    Rosemary, you are an extraordinary woman and I commend all your hard work in trying to find answers the truth to Addie’s death. There is no doubt in my mind that she did not die from diphtheria; the forensic evidence might not prove or disprove it, but the conflicting paper trail and shallow grave are proof enough for me to believe there was something being hidden regarding her death. I know some people have ridiculed and threatened you during this mission, but I’m certain the numbers that are behind you outnumber the bullies by tenfold or more.

    As part of Addie’s family it must be difficult not knowing definitively how exactly she died and although many of us “townies” are interested and captivated I’m certain this consuming your life. I can only imagine the number of hours your invested not to mention the money, but if it were one of my family members I doubt I could rest if I hadn’t pursued every possible lead.

    I hope you continue to find more clues and evidence as to what happened to sweet Addie and I pray for the poor souls that harass you to for one moment step away from their hatred and try to imagine if one of their own family member had a mystery surrounding their death how would they feel about the truth being sought.

  4. Debbie

    That is indeed a shallow grave. No way is that a 6 ft deep hole!

  5. pebbleintx

    Mary Wilson knew about Addie’s death years before she documented her findings in her book. Mary never said Addie was shot in the head, she said Enoch shot Addie. The current investigation of Addie’s was body was INCONCLUSIVE; it did NOT say she died of natural causes. In fact between Mary’s information (gleaned from her own mother, Elsie Fargo McCammon), and Rosemary’s research, the old story that Addie died from natural causes will never hold water. If Addie came back from the dead and told people herself that Enoch shot her there would still be the nay-sayers. The facts are what they are and no matter how much people try to protect Enoch, the new information that’s been found certainly creates a lot of doubt about Enoch’s innocence and his role as the “bereaved husband.”

    Rose’s reply: That’s what I’ve heard from several other sources, too. Through the years (well before her book was in print), Mary never strayed from her story that Enoch shot Addie. The naysayers all refuse to answer me this one question: Was Mary Wilson a liar? That’s a yes or no question. Why won’t they address that ONE simple question? Because they know that Mary Wilson did not fabricate this story.

  6. Sears Homes

    Debbie, it was pretty shocking to find Addie buried so close to the surface. They must have dug just deep enough so some topsoil would cover the top of her coffin. If you figure that the coffin was 18″ tall (a guesstimate), there was only 16″ of dirt on top of that coffin.

    I’ve posted a lot here about what I’ve found and what I’ve learned and the documents I’ve uncovered, but that doesn’t touch on the emotional side of all this. When I think of Enoch J. Fargo putting my aunt in a shallow grave like that, well, it’s just very disturbing.

    He pried her wedding bands and rings off her fingers before he buried her, too, which was not in accord with the Victorian customs of the day.


  7. Mandie Brewer

    With the absence of Addie’s face, and no slug or bullet in the grave, I wonder if she was indeed shot in the head, just not from right in front. If he was standing in front of her when she was shot then yes there would be some sort of exit wound to the back of her head or the slug would have been found.

    BUT if she was shot from the side the bullet may have passed though, taking her facial bones with it. That would explain the lack of a bullet in the grave and the absence of her face. She may have been turning to walk away from him at the moment he *allegedly* drew a weapon and fired. Picture the impact area being at or just below the cheekbone, it would explain what was or was not found when she was exhumed.

    Either way I have never heard of a fast acting ninja like form of diphtheria that was bone eating as well.

    The autopsy may have not answered how she died, but we do know how she did not die. And no matter how you look at it, something went wrong that took Addie’s life. If it was something that was “natural” so many lies would not have been needed, and she would have received a proper burial, with the legal paperwork to go along with it.

  8. David Spriggs

    @Mandie Brewer
    Many of you know that am certainly not one of the naysayers. At the same time, I have tried to discourage too much speculation based on meager evidence. So, I must address the “missing face” aspect of the story.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I was not present at the exhumation, but I received a detailed and near-real-time description as the events unfolded. The back hoe began the excavation in the expectation that the coffin was located at the customary depth of six feet. When it turned up bones at less than 34″*of depth mark, it was shut down, and the experts continued the exhumation.

    During the removal, I was told that the grave digger went to the truck, which held the soil removed by the back hoe, and located a significant piece of Addie’s skull. To my knowledge, a thorough examination of the soil in the truck did not take place, and as was explained to me, the dump truck then literally dumped all that soil right back into the grave in one grand whoosh. I believe that it is entirely possible that the missing facial bone fragments (and perhaps even a bullet) were scooped up by the back hoe, placed in the truck, and returned to the grave site.

    I have never been a fan of the “Enoch Shot Addie” theory, notwithstanding the Elsie Fargo McCammon and Mary McCammon Wilson statements. A gunshot is too loud and too messy and requires too much clean up. I favor strangulation or asphyxiation. Quiet, effective, and leaves little evidence. Enoch (or someone) was surely strong enough to overpower the diminutive Addie. However, from the time of death onward, the evidence is compelling that Enoch and Dr. Oatway conspired to falsify the Death Certificate order to cover up Addie’s true cause of death.

    Rose’s Note: * The medical examiner arrived after the skull had been scooped up (inadvertently) by the back hoe and placed in the dump truck. When they arrived, the first thing they did was measure the depth of the grave, and found it to be at 34″. In fact, strictly speaking, the first pieces of remains (which ended up in the dump truck) were found at *LESS* than 34″.

  9. Rita W

    I was hoping that you would receive a more definitive answer than this. Seems as if the mystery is destined to remain a mystery. If it had happened 25 40 years ago, you might have been able to see if her room showed traces of blood spatter which would have occurred if she had indeed been shot. It is assumed that after 110 years, the wood floors have been sanded several times and that the walls have been painted repeatedly through the years. Regardless, Addie is at peace and I’m sure she is pleased that a relative cared deeply enough to investigate her death. Hope you can now find the strength to let this go and remember her as she was in life.

  10. Sears Homes

    @Rita W
    If he hadn’t tossed her in a shallow grave, we’d know more, too. Due to the extremely shallow grave, she got tossed around. For heaven’s sake, she wasn’t even buried below the frost line. Did Enoch murder Addie? Mary Wilson says he did, and she should know, but we do know that Enoch put her body in a shallow grave. That tells us a lot about Enoch.

  11. Susan Waggoner

    I too am glad you did this, and brought Addie’s story to the attention of so many. With so many people mulling over the facts, it’s certainly left a clearer picture in my mind of what may have happened. For me, the shallowness of the grave is quite significant. Why? It wasn’t wintertime, when frozen ground might have been an impediment. And these Wisconsonites — they would have been well familiar with the concept of above and below the frost line, and known all the ravages and decay that the normal weather cycle would bring. At the very least, a massive show of disrespect, but with the rest of the story, one more eyebrow-raising detail. If Addie HAD died of diphtheria, wouldn’t they have gone out of their way to bury her deeper to avoid the possibility of contagion?

  12. Sears Homes

    Susan, you’re right. In the early 1900s, it was recommended that “in case of contagious disease” the deceased be buried “extra deep” (beyond the six foot mark). I wish I could cite that, but I’ll have to look that up later on this weekend.

    The shallow grave is a very damning bit of evidence.

  13. Warren Gray

    It must be a great comfort to desecrate your great, great aunt’s grave hoping to prove that she was murdered rather than dying of natural causes. I am not a great detective nor a writer but what you are doing is obvious.

    All of your links lead back to your Sears stuff, even with no facts you have created free advertising for your books written and unwritten. Looking for motive; follow the money.

  14. Sears Homes

    @Warren Gray
    “Follow the money” is right. I have followed about $5,000 as it has left my bank account. But that’s okay, because Addie was my family, and this is what family does. We spend our resources – money, time and energy – to right a wrong.

    As to the rest of your comments, I have one word for you.


  15. Laurie Jaggers Roehl

    Warren, you are not welcome here if your only interest is in throwing out inane comments that none of us are interested in. So, pack up your sh*tty attitude and take it where someone wants to listen to it.

  16. Linda Derse

    Why is it that CERTAIN people here are missing a important fact here? How is it that no one else in the household ever got sick? Addie was the only one that died of a highly communicable disease? And there were no reports of ANY illness among any one else in the household?? Something is dreadfully wrong with that.

    Rose’s reply: I think you mean PERSON (singular) not PEOPLE (plural).

  17. Dave

    @Linda Derse
    @LINDA: I have addressed this issue at least once in other Addie-Blogs. Such as the blog titled, “They didn’t *act* like it was diphtheria.”

    I think that we can safely discard the idea that the COD was diphtheria.

    No piece of physical evidence to date has supported the “diphtheria” story. Indeed, much of the evidence has contradicted it.

    Any evidence supporting diphtheria has evolved solely from the Certificate of Death, which has been roundly discredited.

    As has been stated previously, any one anomaly in the story, when considered in isolation, might be explained away. However, the sheer number of anomalies that have been uncovered stretch credulity.

    In light of the available evidence and, admittedly, some logical inferences, I can think of no plausible explanation for Addie’s death which does not involve “foul play” … perhaps not murder, but at least manslaughter.

    Had this same event occurred in the home of a Lake Mills shopkeeper with all the same evidence, one must believe that the shopkeeper would have some serious splainin’ to do. It seems that Enoch got a pass, probably due to his prominence, influence, and economic power in Lake Mills … dare I say, “he was too big to fail”.

  18. Jan Vanderheiden

    After hearing the mysterious story about Enoch’s murdered wife when moving to Lake Mills and now seeing Addie’s case just explode with information, I wish there was a site where all of it could be listed and added to. Some items I’ve only caught once, and wish they were discussed more fully.

    For example, what about Addie’s skull and clavicle being found down by her feet? A few people thought it’s not possible for the ground movement to cause such drastic re-arranging. So, does that mean Addie was possibly placed in the coffin doubled over? Is it possible to even CLOSE a coffin if a body is arranged in such a way? Is it possible that Addie wasn’t even in a coffin then? I know you said that some metal pieces were found, but that whole scenario, whatever it’s implications are, reeks of great disrespect and is greatly disturbing.

    Also, in one of the newspaper articles, a source was quoted as saying that Addie had inherited a million dollars before she married Enoch. Is this true? If it is, she seems even more like a victim with the sham marriage she found herself in. That beautiful young lady could very easily have settled herself in with a charming, lovely husband and enjoyed a wonderful life. I know Enoch was supposedly society, upstanding and all that, but come on. Addie and Enoch did NOT look right together. Their wedding photo looks kind of creepy – she looks like his gentle, LITTLE DAUGHTER!

    And, really? Enoch’s first marriage was of the shot gun type? And I’m sorry, but the third marriage is sounding pretty questionable, too. WHAT WAS IT WITH THIS GUY? If he was someone supposedly from a prominent, upright family, he sure was full of something different, and whatever that something was, it wasn’t wise or good! It would seem he didn’t have any respect for women.

    I do hope that you go on, Rose. Lucky for Addie that not only did you take the photo album out of the trash, but you took her story to your heart and are proving to be a stalwart protector.

  19. Mark Hardin

    @Warren Gray
    A mystery is a mystery, Warren Gray. Most folks that are here at this website find that searching for the facts about a mysterious death just as intriguing as hunting down the facts about the origins of their houses. Facts now show that the record of this young woman’s death were not correct and if you were keeping up you would have known…but I forgot…you’re not a great detective, so you must have missed that.

    Maybe I should demand a refund on that book I bought.


  20. Peggy Konkol

    I grew up in Jefferson County, and I found this story to be very intriguing. The first question that ran through my mind was, how do you know that it was ADDIE’s remains that were found at 34″? Did the excavation go beyond the 34″ to see if there was a coffin buried at the standard 6′ depth?

  21. Sears Homes

    Hi Peggy,

    It’s a long story, but the short version is, the remains they found were female, about 5’0″ tall, and very, very petite. This matches Addie very well. We also found remnants of two black leather boots, so the “period” was right (late 1890s/early 1900s).

    They went down deeper than 34″, but the majority of her remains were found at that first level.