A Note From the Teacher

In 2001, writer Susan Rayfield interviewed me about Brunswick’s Open Space and Recreation Task Force work to locate and catalogue the town’s cemeteries. Her articles appeared in both the Portland Press Herald and the Kennebec Journal and featured photos of Hartwell Little Yard. Not long after, I received a letter in the mail from my 4th and 5th grade teacher, Doris Parsons.

Hartwell Little Yard articles2001
17 March

Dear Barbara,

    I was most interested to read the article about your work and interest in the old cemeteries.
    My grandparents are buried in the River Road cemetery. Charles Frederick Owen, & Josephine – as well as his second wife.
    My mother and her four sisters as well were graduates of Brunswick High (Hawthorne School) – my mother in the class of 1892.
    My Aunt Annie lived in Auburn, fretted for years over the condition of the cemetery.
    The Boy Scouts did a great job in their clean up project.
    Keep up the good work.

Sincerely,

Doris Parsons

Letters from Doris ParsonsI wrote back in my best Longfellow School penmanship and she sent another note with a few more facts about her grandparents.

 April 18

Dear Barbara,

        Thank you very much for your interesting note.
        I enclose only a few facts of my grandparents who are buried there but if I can give       you any more help or information, please let me know.

God bless ~
Doris

  • My grandparents on my mother’s side – Frederick & Josephine Owen
  • Frederick was one of 9 boys, all raised in the Owen Homestead on River Road – two of the other children were Philip & Howard.
  • Frederick died in 1907, at the age of 67.
  • He married Josephine Isabel Alexander, who died at age 33, having given birth to 6 children Mary, Annie, Minnie, Mabel (my mother), Hannah & Frank (5 days old when she died.)
  • Frederick married again and raised 5 more children. The only one I ever knew was Howard – his children, Harold, C. Frederick, Robert & Florence.

Philip Owen in Hartwell LittleMrs. Parson’s grandparents Charles Frederick (1838-1907) and Josephine (Alexander) Owen (1845-1879) are not the only members of her immediate family buried in Hartwell Little Yard. So are her great-grandparents, Jeremiah (1792- 1867) and Hannah Badger Owen (1798-1891), whose farm was side-by-side with that of son Charles Frederick, just south of the cemetery. Other Owens there include her great-uncles William S. (1820-1854) and Philip (1817-1910). Philip, in fact, lived some years with his much younger brother Charles Frederick. Philip, a painter, died in 1910 at age 92 and his may have been the last burial in Hartwell Little Yard.

Next Blog in two weeks: The Diary of Betsey Alexander

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com (Census & Death Records)
  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • Cumberland County Registry of Deeds, 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine (also see https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx)
  • The Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine. Desmarais, Barbara A., http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mebrucem/index.html, 2014
  • Letters from Doris Parsons
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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Who Were Hartwell-Little?

And what was their yard?

If you hang a right onto River Rd. at the Pleasant St. intersection and proceed just over a mile and a half, you’ll arrive at a good-sized older cemetery fronted by a wooden post-and-rail fence. Above the open center gate is a sign proclaiming this to be “Hartwell-Little Yard Cemetery [sic].”

Hartwell Little signAbout 15 years ago the cemetery was vastly overgrown, prompting a local Boy Scout troop to remove brush and downed branches, mow the graveyard, right and clean the stones, paint the fence, and build the signage.

So, who were Hartwell-Little and what kind of yard did they operate?

Farm Across from Hartwell Little YardIt turns out yard is a shortened version of graveyard and Hartwell Little (1837-1929) was a farmer from Whitefield who purchased the farm surrounding the cemetery in 1866. He lived there with his first wife Lovesta (King) (1838-1905), and later his second wife, Naomi (Edgar) (1855-1919). Little was a farmer who also served as Brunswick’s state legislator in 1874. None of the three is buried in this cemetery, however. Little and Lovesta are buried in Whitefield; Naomi is buried in Post Falls, Vermont.

There is at least one member of the Little family in this graveyard; Little and Lovesta’s granddaughter, Mabel Melissa (1896-1900), daughter of their son Charles, is buried there in an unmarked grave.

Older records at Pejepscot Historical Society list additional names for the cemetery: Dunlap-Owen Cemetery, Toothaker Yard, and River Road Cemetery. Though Little doesn’t appear on any gravestone in the cemetery, the names Dunlap, Toothaker, and Owen do. And, just as Little was an owner of the property, so were John Dunlap, John Toothaker, Roger Toothaker, and John Owen II. But none of them has a headstone there, either.

Stone Monument Hatwell Little YardThe only previous owner of the land abutting the cemetery whose name was actually engraved on a monument is Solomon Stone (1791-1850) from New Brunswick, Canada, who bought the property from John Owen in 1836. He, his wife Abagail [sic] (Brockway) (1794-1834), and their daughters Alice (1832-1850) and Abigail A. (1820-1851), wife of Capt. George W. McManus. Also buried in Hartwell Little Yard is the Stone’s granddaughter, Alice McManus (1851-1851) who died at 6 months of age, 3 months after her mother.

Next blog in two weeks: A Note From the Teacher

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com
  • Helene Bisson
  • Brunswick Cemeteries, Brunswick, Maine, Adams Cemetery, etc., Cheetham, Donald, and Mark Cheetham, Richmond, Maine, 2004
  • http://www.findagrave.com
  • Kennebec Journal, March 10, 2001
  • Pejepscot Historical Society
  • Portland Press Herald, March 8, 2001
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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You’ve Got Questions; We’ve Got Answers

Brunswick’s African American History

This week I’m answering two questions I’m asked whenever I share Brunswick’s 18th and 19th century African American history.

How did African Americans get to Brunswick?

The first African Americans who arrived in Brunswick in the 1700s were slaves, usually of ministers, merchants, and military officers. For instance, Capt. Benjamin Larrabee, commander of Fort George, held a slave named Pompey who served in the local militia in Brunswick and received the same wages as the other soldiers.

After the Revolutionary War, slavery was deemed illegal in Massachusetts and Maine. Entire families of “servants for life” came to Maine. These included the Lydia Freeman family who would settle in Bowdoin and Brunswick. Lydia’s son, John, and Leah Griffen, both of Brunswick, registered their marriage intentions March 24, 1781.

In the First Census of the United States, taken in 1790, Brunswick counted 1357 free whites and 38 “other free persons.” The “other” category would have included both Native Americans and African Americans.

Mahitable and Pamelia HeustonFully one quarter of early 19th century mariners were African American. Some of these sailors settled in Brunswick after arriving in the port city of Bath or nearby Wiscasset. Such was the case of Francis Heuston, who continued to work aboard coasting ships while also becoming a successful farmer in East Brunswick.

Many Maine families in the shipping industry had both business and familial connections with plantation owners in the south, which brings us to another way African Americans found their way to Brunswick – escaping enslavement. In 1850, Heuston and his wife Mahitable were instrumental in one such escape, harboring Clara Battease who fled her southern owners

So where are these African Americans now?

The 19th century African American population of Brunswick peaked around 1850, at about 50 out of a total population of 4977. Some families moved to other states where jobs were more plentiful, particularly after the Civil War, but others remained. Lydia Freeman’s descendants live in Brunswick today, the 10th generation to do so.

The African roots of some of Brunswick’s residents have faded from view. Though both Massachusetts and Maine had various laws prohibiting the marriage of blacks and whites, the marriages occurred regularly. Intermarriage is evident for one local African American family whose race was recorded as black in the earliest census in which they appeared, then evolved to mulatto, and finally to white.

To learn more about Maine’s rich African American history from colonial days to the present, read Maine’s Invisible Black History.

Next blog in two weeks: Who Were Hartwell-Little?

Notes:

Sources:

  • Vital Records of Brunswick, Maine 1740-1860 and The Forsaith Book. Compiled by Joseph Crook Anderson II, CG, FASG. Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2004
  • 1790 Alphabetical Census for Brunswick. Transcribed by Judy Husman, Curtis Memorial Library
  • Maine Memory Network: Peopling Maine 
  • Town of Brunswick 1724-1910. CD, Picton Press, Rockland, ME, 2005
  • Maine’s Visible Black History. Price, H. H., and Gerald E. Talbot, Gardiner: Tilbury House, 2006
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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The Forgotten Patriot

Luke Nickerson (1743-1829) married Hagar Cousins in Harpswell, Maine, in 1772. Three years later, the colonies were in an uproar, declaring civil war against England. On January 15, 1777, Nickerson enlisted in Reed’s Company, one of six men from Harpswell to do so.

That autumn, Private Nickerson was wounded in the thigh by a musket ball at the surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga, N.Y. He continued to fight, despite his wound. Later taken prisoner, possibly at the Battle of Rhode Island in August of 1778, he was one of the first cartel of British prisoners returned from Rhode Island in January, 1779. That February he was confirmed to be at Cherry Valley, N.Y. He mustered out at the end of his three-year enlistment, in January of 1780.

SAR Flag Holder

Nickerson returned home to Hagar. It seems that they continued with life as usual, possibly having children. By 1818, when he applied for a war veteran’s pension he and Hagar were living in a log house in Brunswick, Maine. The application tells us their household consisted of the Nickersons and an eight-year-old boy, possibly a grandson. Nickerson, then about 74, was a laborer, unable to work consistently due to age and the lingering effects of the musket ball wound. Hagar, 66, had rheumatism but was able to work some. Their only asset was one cow; they did not own the land on which they lived. Nickerson was granted the pension.

Luke Nickerson was just one of many Maine men who fought in the Revolutionary War. What makes his story particularly compelling is that he was also one of the many African American soldiers and sailors who fought later in the war, despite British offers of freedom to any slave who fled to Nova Scotia and joined with the Loyalists. If the British won the war, Patriots would not gain their freedom. Even more compelling is that Nickerson enlisted at the beginning of 1777, a full year before Massachusetts, of which Maine was a part, made it legal to recruit African Americans to military service.Luke Nickerson headstone applicationHe died on May 4, 1829. Tradition has it that he was buried where he died, on an embankment overlooking Bunganuc Brook. His grave was marked by a simple fieldstone and Nickerson was seemingly forgotten.

Luke Nickerson Headstone

This was not the case, however. He appeared on the Brunswick Town Clerk’s veteran cards and farmers who owned the Bunganuc Brook property over the years knew exactly who was buried at the edge of their farm. In 1930, a full century after Nickerson died, the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution applied to the U.S. War Department to have a veteran’s headstone placed on the site, where it still resides. The current property owners take great pride in seeing that Nickerson’s gravesite is respected and that he is remembered.

Next blog in two weeks: You’ve Got Questions; We’ve Got Answers

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com U.S. War Department Application for Headstone
  • Black Courage 1775-1783. Greene, Robert Elwell, 1984
  • Veterans Records. Brunswick Town Clerk’s Office
  • Vital Records: Harpswell, Maine; Marriage Records: Book 1. copied by Chadbourne, Ida N., North Baldwin, Maine, 1904
  • An Alphabetical Index of Revolutionary Pensioners Living in Maine. compiled by Flagg, Charles Alcott, Reprint from Sprague’s Journal of Maine History, Dover, Maine 1920
  • Interview with former area resident Robert Galloupe
  • Growstown Cemetery Records. copied by Harmon, Mrs. Fred, 1938    
  • Revolutionary War Graves Register CD, © 1993-2000. National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
  • New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Maine Estate Schedules  from Revolutionary War Pensions [continued], vol 142, 1988
  • Harpswell in the American Revolution. Thomas, Miriam Stover, 1976
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus, MD and Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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Killed in Defense of His Daughter

If you’ve ever been to New Meadows Cemetery on Purinton Rd. you’ve probably seen the red granite marker engraved “KILLED IN DEFENCE OF HIS DAU.” and wondered what exactly happened to Joseph Crockett. If you’re like me, you might have gone so far as to look in Brunswick or Bath newspapers for a 1910 obituary and come up empty handed.

Joseph Crockett

Now, thanks to a newspaper article posted on the website DrBronsonTours.com, we know that by 1910 the Crockett family had moved from Maine to Florida. We also know how Joseph Crockett died:

St. Augustine Record
June 12, 1910
One is Brained; Two are Shot
Tragic Result of Affray in North End of County.
Jos. Crockett Shoots Daughter and Son-in-Law and is Killed in Self-Defense.

Brained with an axe by his son-in-law, Charles Tappin, in whom but a moment before he had buried two bullets from a pistol, Joseph Crockett is dead, his son-in-law is seriously and perhaps fatally wounded and his daughter is suffering from two bullet wounds. The tragic affray occurred in the Switzerland neighborhood in the northern end of the county late Saturday afternoon. The killing of Crockett was in self-defense.

News of the crime was received in St. Augustine yesterday and Coroner Mackey and Deputy Sheriff Joe Apler hurried to the scene and spent the day there on the case. A coroner’s jury with Gregg Carrera as foremen was summoned by Judge Mackey and an inquest was held over the remains of Crockett and the entire tragedy was thoroughly investigated. The jury, without hearing Tappin at all brought in a verdict that Crockett came to his death by the use of an axe or some other blunt instrument in the hands of Tappin but in self-defense. Accordingly Tappin was not held for the killing. The jury was not secured from the immediate neighborhood but was drawn from some miles distant in order that there might be no possible chance of prejudice.

From the evidence that was submitted it appears that there has long been bad feeling between Crockett and his son-in-law. This has existed ever since Tappin married Crockett’s daughter about two years ago, Crockett endeavoring at that time to have the marriage annulled.

Crockett is understood to have received a letter from his daughter on Saturday but the contents of this were not made known. That afternoon he engaged F. E. Pacetti to drive him over the long distance to Switzerland. He acted a little strange all of the time but did nothing to especially arouse any suspicions in the mind of Mr. Pacetti.

When they reached the outside of the Tappin home Crockett left Mr. Pacetti and the team and disappeared around an old house that stands in front of the home. But a few moments later Mr. Pacetti heard five shots fired in rapid succession and followed by a woman’s scream. The tragedy had been enacted by the time he reached the spot.

From the evidence it appears that Tappin’s children came into the house and told him that they had seen a man skulking about outside. He went out and looked under the house but saw no one, but as he turned to reenter the house he came face to face with Crockett standing in the doorway with a pistol in his hand. He immediately opened fire and one shot struck the younger man over the heart, but glanced up slightly while another struck him on the head through not in such a way as to inflict a mortal wound. Mrs. Tappin was standing by her husband and two of the bullets grazed her, one on her arm and another on the neck. Both are only flesh wounds.

Tappin, though desperately wounded, closed with his assailant and in the mix-up succeeded in wrenching his pistol from him and striking him over the head. They then reeled over near the wood pile and Tappin dropped the pistol and secured the axe and crushed in the entire right temple of Crockett’s skull. Death must have been instantaneous.

Tappin is well known and respected throughout the northern end of the county. He is a hard-working and industrious farmer and is held in high esteem by his neighbors. Crockett has for some time been employed as a street cleaner in St. Augustine.

-end of St. Augustine Record article-

What was in the letter the former Emily Crockett wrote to her father? Why did he try to have her marriage to Charles annulled? Census information provides clues but no answers:

In 1900, Charles Tappin was a married man from Barbados. He worked in the kitchen of a hotel in Portland, Maine. He lived with other workers in the hotel, without his wife. Joseph and Georgia Crockett and their 5 children lived in Brunswick, Maine, where Crockett was a farm laborer. One of the children was an 8-year-old daughter whose name may have been Amny or Nancy.

In 1910, Tappin and the Crockett family all lived in Florida. Tappin was a 38-year-old farmer, married to 18-year-old Nancy. The marriage was the second for Tappin and the first for Nancy. There were three children in the household, two girls ages 7 and 9, and an infant named Charles. The Crocketts had only 2 children at home. Crockett was a laborer for the city of St. Augustine.

In 1920, the Tappins were still together. The 2 older girls had left home, but 4 younger siblings remained. Mrs. Tappin’s first name was Emily, but she and her parents were born in Maine. Perhaps she chose to use her middle name after the death of her father. One of her brothers was married with a family of his own and living in Florida. Though her mother, Georgia, lived until 1965, she didn’t appear as Georgia Emma Crockett in the 1920, -30, 0r -40 censuses available on-line.

We don’t know if Crockett objected to the 20-year age difference between Charles and Nancy/Emily. We don’t if Crockett was upset by the way Charles treated her. We don’t even know what happened to Georgia Crockett after her husband was killed. We only know that someone believed Joseph Crockett died trying to protect his daughter.

Next Blog in two weeks: The Forgotten Patriot

Sources:

 

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Father and Son Reunion

For more than 23 years, Roland Rush Sr. and his son Roland Jr. worked together at their company, Roland Rush Trucking. They were also neighbors, living on adjoining streets. They shared a name, a business, and a neighborhood, but they didn’t share a religion. Roland Jr. was Catholic; his father was not.

Roland Jr

When Roland Jr. died in 1986 at age 50, he was buried in St. John’s Cemetery.

Roland Sr and Jr

Though religious differences meant Roland Sr. couldn’t be buried near his son in St. John’s Cemetery, he did find a way to remain close. After his son’s death he bought a plot in Varney Cemetery on the other side of the chain link fence between the two cemeteries. He was buried there in 1998 when he died at age 85.

The first photo of the back-to-back headstones above shows Roland Sr.’s pink granite marker peaking out at the righthand edge of Roland Jr.’s larger and darker stone. The second photo shows the reverse perspective, with the son’s stone behind the father’s.

Father and son, reunited.

Varney Cemetery Tour: Join me Sunday, June 22nd, 2014, at 1 p.m. for a Pejepscot Historical Society History Walking Tour. I’ll share stories of the families who lived and worked in this area and are buried in Varney Cemetery, including The Unvarnished Truth About the Varney Sisters, The Family Man, and The Land of the Freemans — The Land of the Brave.

The tour is free for PHS members, $5 for non-members. Limited to 20 participants. FMI: http://pejepscothistorical.org/events. To register: (207)729-6606.

Next Blog in two weeks: Killed in Defense of His Daughter.

Sources:

  • Robert Ormsby interview, 2014
  • Times Record, April 3, 1986
  • Times Record, Aug. 2, 1998
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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In 1891 workers uncovered the earliest organized cemetery in Brunswick. The Brunswick Telegraph reported:

In moving the old boarding house that has stood so long on Mill Hill and digging for the foundation for the new Cabot mill, on Tuesday the workmen uncovered a few human bones, surrounded by what was evidently a rough coffin as pieces of mostly decomposed wood were found around them. Not all the bones of the human skeleton were found but what were there, were in an excellent state of preservation. There was nothing remarkable about them either in size or disposition. It is supposed that they were the bones of a soldier of Fort George who was buried just without the walls of the fort. The bones were deposited with the Pejepscot Historical Society.

Femur from Ancient Burying Ground, Courtesy of Pejepscot Historical Society

Femur from Ancient Burying Ground, Courtesy of Pejepscot Historical Society

The bones unearthed were an ulna from the lower arm and femur or thigh bone. But whose bones have been tucked away on a shelf at the historical society for almost 125 years? In 1930 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a commemorative plaque on a boulder outside an entrance to Fort Andross, listing the names of three men interred in our Ancient Burying Ground. They were Robert Dunning (c1704-1724), his brother Andrew, Jr. (c1700-1724), and Capt. Benjamin Larrabee (1697-1748).

Fort George Plaque

Andrew Dunning Sr. (1664-1736), his wife Sarah (Bond) (c 1665-bef.1736), and their five young adult sons immigrated to Brunswick, settling at Maquoit between 1717 and 1722.

In the summer of 1722, Native Americans burned down the wooden houses in Brunswick’s village center. Many settlers fled the town after these attacks or moved behind the stone walls of Fort George, but not the Dunning family. They remained and built a garrison at their farm at Maquoit.

But they couldn’t conduct daily life within the confines of their wooden garrison or the stone fort. They had to catch or grow food and secure supplies. The Androscoggin River was central to the lives of the settlers and Natives alike, as a source of fish to eat and as an avenue of transportation. The brothers Robert and Andrew Jr. were crossing the river at a place then called Mason’s rock when Native Americans attacked and killed them. The brothers were buried in the graveyard just outside the fort.

Androscoggin River NOAA 13293 e

Just a few years later, in 1727, Capt. Benjamin Larrabee and Mary Elithorpe (1705-aft.1749) married in Boston. The Pejepscot Proprietors had hired Larrabee to be their agent and to command Fort George.

Fort George from The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell

Fort George from The History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell

And the fort is where the Larrabees, my 6th great grandparents, began married life, living in a “narrow house” within the fort walls where Mary gave birth to most of their nine children. After a decade there, the family settled in the New Meadows area where Larrabee continued his leadership role as one of Brunswick’s original selectmen. He was buried in the graveyard attached to the fort he had commanded.

Both the fort and its graveyard were used up until the late 1730s. The fort was eventually dismantled and the site covered with new buildings. By the time construction began on the new Cabot Mill, all traces of the fort and the Ancient Burying Ground had disappeared. Though the Dunning brothers and Capt. Larrabee were the most well-known of those buried there, we don’t know for certain that the bones unearthed in 1891 were from one of them. Other men and women must have been buried there, too. Since Capt. Larrabee, Andrew Dunning Sr., and others held slaves, it’s also possible the bones belong to one of the so-called “servants” and not a European colonist.

Modern science might help us learn more about the bones. Many of us in the Brunswick area are descended from these early colonists so our DNA might be useful in identifying the bones. The most practical route could be Y-DNA studies of men directly descended from the earliest male settlers whose surnames are listed under “Notes” below. Perhaps someday a historian will conduct such a study and we’ll have another name to add to the boulder outside Fort Andross.

Next blog in two weeks: Father and Son Reunion

Notes:

  • Ancient Burying Ground is a legal term meaning a private cemetery established before 1880. In Brunswick the term is usually associated with the graveyard outside of Fort George.
  • Early Brunswick Settlers 1717-1728: Beverly, Clough, Cochran, Cowell, Dunning, Eaton, Fleming, Fuller, Gardner, Gyles, Giveen, Haines, Hamilton, Hansard, Larrabee, Low, Malcolm, Mason, McFarland, McKenny, Miles, Mitchell, Norton, Savage, Smith, Stanwood, Stevenson, Stinson, Thompson, Thornton, Tregoweth, Trescott, Watts, White, Woodside.
  • Mason’s Rock is not listed on current maps of the Androscoggin River, nor on the older maps I have located so far.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.com, various records
  • Brunswick Telegraph, April 30, 1891, page 3
  • They Changed Their Sky: The Irish in Maine. Michael C. Connolly, Editor, University of Maine Press; 1st Edition, 2004
  • History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harpswell, Maine. Wheeler, George Augustus Wheeler, MD. And Henry Warren Wheeler, Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, Boston, Mass., 1878
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