Sunday, August 28, 2011

He Was My Most Recent Immigrant Ancestor

Leberecht Delang (1824-1890)
He was my father’s great grandfather.

Leberecht Delang (1824-1890)
Potter from Prussia, arrived 1857

Leberecht Delang was the last one of my ancestors to immigrate to America, arriving in New York on April 15, 1857. He brought with him his wife Beate, a daughter Marie, age 6, a son Carl, age 4, and a 4-month old baby girl, Louise. The family departed from Hamburg, Germany, aboard the ship Borussia. Leberecht, age 32, was a potter. His wife was also 32. The ship’s passenger list shows that they were passengers “between deck.”

The Steam-Ship "BORUSSIA"
Regular Packet between Hamburg and New York
This Currier & Ives lithograph comes from the Museum for the History of Hamburg.

Leberecht was born 2 March 1824 in Naumburg, Schlesiem, southwest of Leipzig. Apparently the birth was registered at Leipzig, because his 1860 Intention papers for Naturalization list the place of birth as Leipzig, Prussia.  In the 1930 census, his son Robert specifically records his father’s birthplace as Naumburg, Germany. Although there was another town of Naumburg located close to the Czech border in what is now south central Germany, the Leipzig area appears to be accurate.

In the 1880 census, Leberecht names the birthplace of his father as Saxony and his mother's as Prussia, and his own as Prussia. According to family legend, Leberecht's ancestors had lived on the border between France and the many small German states, in Alsace or Lorraine, and that the surname was French. A story that came down through the family traces back to around 1800, during the Napoleonic rearrangement of Europe's boundaries when border raids were common. The story is that the pregnant wife of a man named DeLong was kidnapped by German soldiers and taken to Germany. Her son was born in Saxony, and he married a Prussian woman. We do not know the name of this French child, only that his son, Leberecht DeLang, half French and half German, came to America and died in Iowa.

My grandfather explained to us that Leberecht's father, growing up in Prussia, spelled his name (DeLong) the German way (DeLang) which sounds very similar when pronounced by a German. When Leberecht came to America, the name was spelled DeLang but prounounced De Lahng.

Leberecht had been a potter since childhood. Upon arrival in America, he came on to southeast Iowa to work as a potter with Dennis Melcher, whom he had known in Prussia. The Melcher (Melchoir) brothers David and Dennis had built the Melcher Pottery near the edge of Des Moines County, Iowa, just east of the village of Lowell. It was on the road to the present-day Geode Park. The road bore the name Agency Road because it was originally the Indian Agency Road. One of the buildings still exists, and I have been by it many times. In the mid-1990s, it was converted to a restaurant with historic emphasis.

The Melcher Pottery in southeast Iowa

Some members of the family still have a few pieces of pottery made by Leberecht. In my possession are two small jugs (about 4" high) which were made at the Melcher Pottery where Leberecht worked but probably not by him.  

Two jugs made at the Melcher Pottery, geode rocks, and Indian arrowheads.
All are from the same location, near the county line
between Des Moines and Henry Counties in southeast Iowa.
Leberecht lived across the Skunk River from the pottery and did some farming in Lee County, Iowa, near what became the town of Denmark. Sometimes Leberecht rowed across the river to get to the pottery; in the winter he crossed on the ice. Years later, he moved across the river and lived on the property of his friend Gottfried Altmann whose daughter married Leberecht's son Robert. The 1880 census shows the young couple and Leberecht Delang all with Gottfried Altmann. Leberecht lived in a small cabin on the property.  Leberecht spoke German almost exclusively. Even his oldest two children, Mary and Charlie (Karl) spoke little English.

Leberecht's wife Beate was in poor health for several years prior to her death in 1870. She had lost a daughter Rose back in Germany, and the infant Louise who was aboard the ship upon arrival in 1857 apparently died young. My ancestor, Robert, was born in October, 1857, just a few months after the family’s arrival in America. His brother Gustav, born in 1860, died in infancy. A sister, Pauline (Lena) was born in August of 1868; from age 1, she lived with the Goody family. At about the same time, Robert, at the age of about 12 or 13, went to live with the Gottfried Altman family, and in 1879, he married Gottfried's daughter, Pauline Elizabeth Altman. 

After Beate's death in 1870, Leberecht married Tabitha Williamson, but she doesn't appear in the 1880 census. Leberecht appeared in Iowa census with a variety of spellings of his surname. He and his neighbors pronounced the name with a German twist as DAY-LONG, which led many years later to a name change spelled DeLong but still pronounced Day-long by his grandson Louis, my grandfather. Census in 1863 wrote “L. Dalong.” In 1870, it was “Earl Daylang.” In 1880, it was “Delang, L.”

Leberecht's naturalization INTENTION record reads: State of Iowa, Des Moines County: Before the undersigned, Clerk of the District Court, for said county, this day came Leberecht Delang, an alien, a free, white person, and a native of Prussia who being by me duly sworn, on his oath, declares and says: "That it is BONA FIDE his intention to become a Citizen of the United States of America, and to renounce forever, all allegiance and fidelity to any Foreign Prince, Potentate, State or Sovereignty whatever, and particularly to Frederich William 4th King of Prussia of whom he is a Subject. Sworn to and Subscribed, before me, the Clerk of said District Court, this 15th day of August 1860. [Signed both by the clerk and by Leberecht Delang.]

In early 1863 when the state census was taken, Leberecht is shown as being a "foreigner, not naturalized." In the 1870 census he is shown as a "citizen." Family records indicate that he was admitted as a citizen Oct. 9, 1863, recorded in Book B, page 467. However, I have not been able to acquire a copy of this record. My father was told that no citizenship admission papers prior to 1900 are available at the Des Moines County Clerk of the Court office. The Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Services at Omaha, NE have no naturalization records prior to 1906. Nor did I find the record at the National Archives Branch in Kansas City. In September 2006, at the Mid-Continent Library in Independence, Missouri, I found a Naturalization Index for Des Moines County, Iowa, 1849-1857. This index was created by the Des Moines County Genealogical Society and published by the Iowa Genealogical Society in 1983. It listed DELANY, LEBRECHT, B467, County Court Records; this matches our family records.

 death record was made in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa on Feb. 27, 1890, with thedate of death given as Jan. 30, 1890 for Leberecht Delang, male, age 65, potter, widower, born in Schlesiem, Ger. He had been a resident for 30 years. The place of death was Lowell, Henry Co., IA. with burial in Lee Co., IA. [Williamson Cemetery]. Cause of death was hypertrophy of Heart and the doctor was F. R. Wilson of New London, IA.

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

He Was Born In Ireland, but English and Protestant

Robert Brereton was my grandmother's grandfather.

My Ancestor, Robert Brereton (1824-1880)

Robert Brereton was born in 1824 in Tullamore in King’s County, Ireland, which at the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922 became County Offaly.  Tullamore is located on the Grand Canal which connects the Shannon River (20 miles west) to the Irish Sea at Dublin. It has been reported that the Railroad is now through the spot where the home stood where Robert Brereton was born. The Brereton farm holdings were located just outside Tullamore.

 According to a newspaper article published in 1904 about Robert’s brother, Rev. Frank Brereton, their father was Thomas Brereton and their mother was Betsy Dobson. However, others in the family have suggested the father’s name to have been Daniel or George or David or John. It is most significant to have found a legal record in which his name was listed as John. Robert and Frank had an older brother, John, who was married in 1850 before leaving Ireland. The marriage record is filed as a Civil Registration, Kilbride and Tullamore, Kings, Ireland, and includes the name of both fathers; there the groom’s father is shown to be John Brereton.

 The Breretons probably came from England to Ireland in about 1700. In Ireland, the Breretons were aloof British Protestant landlords, never intermarrying with the Irish.  John Brereton  apparently incurred some Irish enmity, and a flaw was reportedly found in his land title.  When he lost a large section of his holdings to Irish claimants in the 1800s, prior to 1850, he carried the case to the highest court of claims in England, and according to family legend, when the case was decided against him, he dropped dead in the courtroom. It is believed that the mother was already deceased. The oldest son George got what property was left. The other four sons and one daughter left Ireland and came to America. George made one visit to America in connection with the death of his son John in New Jersey, but returned to Ireland without seeing his brothers or sister because he had lost their addresses.

Before leaving Ireland, family history mentions that Robert had served for four years in the army of Queen Victoria. Records for the Royal Irish Constabulary, 1816-1921, show  Robert Brereton, age 23, born in Kings County, enlisted in 1843. Also appearing in those records were a William, age 20 who enlisted in 1843, and a George, age 21, who enlisted in 1837; both were also shown as born in Kings County.

New York Passenger Lists show that on 15 July 1850, Robt Braratan , age 25, arrived in New York on the ship St George which had departed from Liverpool, England. Robert’s brother William had made a similar voyage almost exactly two years previously. Their sister Eliza and her husband George Kinch and infant son John came in April of 1851. Their brother John and his wife were married on January 15, 1850, in Ireland, and left shortly thereafter for New Orleans; accompanying them was the youngest brother Frank. The story of their voyage was reported in detail by Frank in a newspaper article published in 1904, but the exact date is unknown. Frank became a Methodist Protestant minister and was well known in the area.

Robert Brereton was naturalized on June 18, 1859 at District Court in Mt. Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa. His residence address was given as Henry County, Iowa. His country of birth was shown as Ireland. The date and port of his arrival in U.S. was left unanswered. Witness was Judge Francis Springer. The certificate was recorded in Volume E-P.174. Index card is coded B663.

Robert spent a couple of years in Ohio, and ultimately settled in southeast Iowa, near Lowell.  There he married Margaret Jane Anderson, on 14 Feb 1858, shortly before her 18th birthday. Robert was 33. The family Bible shows their names as Robert Brereton and Margret J. Anderson. Births of the oldest children show the surname spelled Brereton, and the youngest ones as Britton.

Robert built a house of logs on the 40-acre farm he bought in Baltimore Township, Henry County, Iowa, northwest of Lowell. There, the Robert Brereton family adopted the name Britton, which is the pronunciation the neighbors gave to the name Brereton. The John Breretons kept the original name, and Rev. Frank used both for awhile, eventually using Britton. Another brother, William,  settled in Butler County, Ohio, and appears to have retained the Brereton spelling although legal records do show a variety of spellings—Briereton, Brardton, Bruraton, Braraton, Buraton, and Brereton.

--genieBev (Genealogy Beverly)

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Holidays With Abner Thornburg

Abner Edward Thornburg (1859-1921)
was my great-grandfather

Abner Thornburg, 1921

Abner Thornburg died when my mother was a young girl, but the stories she told me about him helped me feel like I knew him at least a little bit. And he left behind a wife and children whom I knew and loved. Mother told me,  “I was only six years old at the time of Grandpa's death.  I think of him as a tall thin but large boned man. He always wore a hat and around home, he wore tan pants held up with wide suspenders. He loved his children and grandchildren very much, and he loved to have us come for the day. When we left, he would stand and wave as long as we could see him. Grandpa was very pleased that people often told him he looked like pictures of Abe Lincoln.”

Like the president, Abner was born in a log cabin; it was built by his father at New Garden in Lee County, Iowa. Abner was the second child and only son of Havila Thornburg and Athalinda Bond.  His sister Lucinda was eleven years older than Abner.

A 1911 photo of Abner and Alpha with their family.

Mother recalled for me one Christmas at Abner and Alpha’s house when they lived on a small farm near Augusta, Iowa. “For dinner, they had one table set for the grownups and one for the kids, with Aunt Mildred in charge of the kids' table. After dinner, Aunt Mildred took us into the big bedroom and entertained us while the women washed the dishes. The men were playing Rook in the living room. After the dishes were done, Grandpa and Uncle Lloyd went to the barn to see about the horses. Grandpa soon came back but Uncle Lloyd didn't make it back until Santa had come and gone. Santa (Lloyd) brought us kids all a sock made of cheesecloth filled with candy and nuts. I was so upset that Uncle Lloyd wasn't back in time to see Santa. Santa passed out the gifts that Grandma had made and that Grandpa had for all of us, and also the gifts that were for Grandma and Grandpa from members of the family. The only thing I remember about their gifts was the knife Papa had got for Grandpa. I had watched him wrap it, so watched as Grandpa opened it. Papa had taken sheets from Ward's catalog and wrapped and tied it and kept rewrapping it and ended up putting it all in a corset box. It was a box about 18 x 4 x 2 1/2". Well it took Grandpa a long time to get it all unwrapped and was lots of remarks and guesses before he got it all unwrapped, but he was so proud and said he was glad he didn't lose it in all that paper."

Year after year, the family tried unsuccessfully to play an April Fool joke on Abner. When at last they were successful, they were sorry because they realized they had taken unfair advantage. As a matter of fact, it was the only time he was ever known to lose his temper. He was down in the cellar sprouting potatoes so he had no reason to doubt them when Alpha and the children came calling, "Come, come! The house is on fire!" When he heard this he was so distressed and panicked, came running, then realized it was an April Fool joke, but by this time his feelings were so aroused and his usual emotional control was lost. For years thereafter, the family recalled "the time Grandpa lost his temper."

Six of the seven living children posed with their parents.
About 1920, Lowell, Henry County, Iowa

Mother also told me about her grandfather’s death. “Easter was early in 1921. Grandpa trimmed the trees and bushes, raked the yard, and made some garden on Saturday before Palm Sunday. Burton and I had the whooping cough that winter so the first time I remember going to that house was Palm Sunday. But since we were both coughing, we did not go to Sunday School. Grandpa gave us each a shiny new penny for Sunday School for when we would go on Easter Sunday. That afternoon several of the men from Lowell and around went down in the Park to play croquet. Papa played, but Burton and Grandpa sat on a bench and watched. It was a beautiful day in late March.

“That week Grandpa took cold and other complications (lungs, kidneys). Papa went every day. Easter Sunday when Burton and I woke, Mama told us Grandpa had died during the night. It had also snowed that night, and when Papa had scooped the snow from sidewalks, I could not see over the top when I went out to the woodshed where the Easter Bunny had left our Easter eggs. I did not go to the funeral. Burton and I stayed with neighbors. The folks did take Burton and I down the day before the funeral. Grandpa's body was not in the casket, but the undertaker had dressed him and--as they said in those days--had him laid out. I remember how nice he looked in his good suit, and the undertaker (Countryman was his name) had picked a small red rose off Grandma's miniature rose houseplant and pinned it on his coat. I knew how much Grandpa had enjoyed the rose and how he had taken Mama in and showed her the buds on Sunday when we were there.”

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

He Was the Village Blacksmith

John D. Watton (1837-1913)
He was my mother’s great grandfather.

John D. Watton
Came to Iowa from Pennsylvania

John D. Watton was young and single when he left Pennsylvania in 1858 to come to southeast Iowa. He left behind coal-mining, an occupation that did not appeal to him. His step-father, Charles A. Callighan, was a miner, but not wanting to risk the frequent mining accidents and poor health conditions.  John hoped to find work of a different type. Instead of mining, he chose to apprentice as a blacksmith, first in Pennsylvania, then for a man by the name of Johnson in southeastern Iowa, perhaps in New London. Soon after, he went to the village of Lowell in Baltimore Township, Henry County, Iowa, where he started their first blacksmith shop.

John Watton took pride in his work.

In a pioneer village, the blacksmith was often looked upon as the most important person in town. Farmers relied on the blacksmith to repair their farm equipment and make horseshoes. John's carpenter plane was passed down through the family and is now in my possession. It is about 10 inches long, encased in a block of wood. We have used it, and it works quite well.

Here, a blacksmith is forging a horsehoe on the anvil.
Image courtesy of GenealogyInTime™ magazine

John D. Watton, son of David Watton and Sarah Davis, was born in Pittsburg, Allegheney County, Pennsylvania , in 1837,  shortly after the death of his father, David Watton. Ill with consumption, David Watton died at sea while attempting to return to England where his brother was a doctor. John’s middle initial D may have represented his father David or perhaps his mother’s maiden name, Davis.

 In about 1846, John’s mother remarried. She and her second husband, Charles Callighan (Calighan, Calihan), remained in Pennsylvania. John at age 13 was in their home in the 1850 census, the location being Moon, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, Charles served for three years in the First Pennsylvania Veteran Battalion Volunteer Cavalry. After the war, Charles and Sarah also moved to Henry County, Iowa, and appear in the 1870 census there.

 John and his young wife Minerva Jane are shown in the 1850 federal census and in subsequent census, in Baltimore Twp., Henry County, Iowa. Their 1850 listing is brief but informative:           
John D. Watton, age 22, blacksmith,
Personal Property $100, b PA
Minerva, age 16, b Iowa

Their marriage as recorded in the Tryer Family Bible reads: "John D. Watton and Minerva J. Tryer was married March the 28th 1860."

Both John and his wife played an active role in the Lowell community during its peak years. Jennie operated the small hotel down the street from their home. John was enthusiastic about having a newspaper and became its editor and proprietor, naming it the Lowell Advance. His editorial notes for Thursday, March 13, 1873, were passed down through the family. John was a Methodist but the only church in Lowell was a Baptist church; Jennie and John attended regularly, and John led the singing there. Years later, I too would go there for church and Sunday School when visiting my grandparents.

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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She Looked for the Good in People

Minerva Jane “Jennie” Tryer (1845-1934)
Wife of John D. Watton
She was my mother’s great grandmother.

Jennie Tryer Watton is holding
a birthday cake baked for her by my mother.

A story about Jennie Watton was shared by my Aunt Marna: Jennie had a reputation for looking for the good in people: "There's never anybody so bad but what there's a little bit of good in them." On one occasion, her daughters Ella and Alpha, pressed her to find some good in a particular man. Jennie had to think for quite a long time, and finally said, "Well, he is a good firefighter." In discussing this story with my mother, she recalls that when similar situations would arise, someone in the family might insert the comment, "Well, he is a good firefighter," and everyone knew the significance of the remark and would try to think of something good to say about the individual.

Jennie’s parents, John Faucett Tryer and his wife Rebecca Walker were married in Indiana in 1838 but settled in Iowa soon after, appearing in the 1840 Iowa Territorial Census, living in New London in Henry County. They had six children, but only Jennie and a younger sister Eve Ellen survived past infancy.  In the TRYER Family Bible of which I have photocopied pages, Jennie’s birth is shown as: "Manurva Jane Tryer, born June 27th 1845."

Jennie was almost 10 when her mother died in September of 1854; Eve Ellen was 4 years and 2 months. Their baby brother died that same year, in December. Their father remarried the following May. During the interim, their aunt Jane Walker Leas cared for the surviving children.

In 1856, John Tryer moved south of New London to Lowell with his second wife, Harriet Furry, and his daughters Jennie and Eve Ellen.That same year, a son was born to John and Harriet, followed by seven or eight more children. For a time, John and Harriet ran a hotel in Lowell (where the Waltz store was located when I was a child). This was the same hotel that Jennie and her husband ran later. 

At the home of my uncle, Burton Thornburg, I examined Jennie's New Testament in which is recorded: Minerva Jane Tryer married March 28th, 1860. The New Testament was dated 1853 and was given to her by Lydia Jane Briggs on February 3, 1858.

Jennie was still a teenager
when she married John Watton in 1860.

One of my favorite stories about Jennie centers two words -- “potatoes” and “firewood.” It seems that John, preoccupied by the demands of his blacksmithing work, forgot his wife’s repeated reminders that firewood was needed for the cookstove. Jennie solved the problem. One morning she went about the usual preparations for the noon meal, peeling the potatoes and placing them in a pan of water on the stove along with whatever meat was planned. But with no firewood, the stove was cold, and the meal uncooked. When John came in for dinner, she served up the meal. He looked down at it, said nothing, got up from the table and returned to work. But by mid-afternoon, a teenage boy appeared at the house and split firewood for the household. In recalling this story with Mother, she commented that Jennie had saved back some cooked food that she gave the children.

 Jennie and John Watton had six children, born between 1862 and 1879. All lived into adulthood and remained in southeast Iowa. Jennie's father and stepmother moved to Medford, Oregon, in 1887. Jennie's sister Eve Ellen and her husband had moved there in 1873.

Jennie had a special interest in trains. She was 88 and feeble when her family took her to see the new Zephyr streamliner train pass speedily through New London and Danville. Present with her were two of her daughters, a son-in-law, a granddaughter (my grandmother) and a great-granddaughter (my mother).  Because there were 4 generations standing in a row to see this event, someone photographed them, but they never got to see the photo. The reason they took her to watch the train pass through was that she had also been present as a young girl in 1856 or 1857 to see the first train west of the Mississippi from out of Burlington. 

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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She Liked Doing Things for Her Family

Sarah Alpha Watton (1862-1950)
Wife of Abner Edward Thornburg
She was my great-grandmother.

Alpha Thornburg
Lowell, Iowa -- about 1930

Although I shared my great grandmother Alpha Thornburg with her many descendants, my times with her always seemed so special. She would give me her undivided attention. Her obituary clipping reminds me that she had 4 living children, 40 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren.

As a small child, I spent many happy times visiting Great Grandmother Thornburg. She lived across the road from her son, my grandfather Charlie Thornburg.

Abner purchased this home in Lowell, Iowa, in 1920.
Abner died the next year, but Alpha remained there the rest of her life.

Probably what I remember best was her collection of buttons. She taught me how to sew on a button and gave me the opportunity to choose my favorites and sew them on to a bright piece of blue construction paper. Then she gave me a card on to which she had sewed buttons belonging to several of my female ancestors. Because she did this and labeled them, I was able thirty years later to arrange them in a shadowbox which has a place of honor in our family room. That project started my quest to learn and share my family’s history.

In my adulthood when I asked my mother to tell me more about her grandmother, she responded, “Grandma was a very special person to all her children and grandchildren. She loved her family and must have been a very loving mother to her children when they were very small.”

Sarah Alpha Thornburg (1862-1950)
was known by her middle name.

Alpha was a daughter of John Watton and Jennie Tryer. During her childhood, the Watton family moved from Lowell in Henry County to the Pilot Grove area in Lee County for a couple of years. During that time they became acquainted with the Thornburg family. On January 26, 1882, she married Abner Edward Thornburg. They had 8 children, 7 of whom lived well into adulthood.

Alpha lived her entire life in southeast Iowa and rarely left her community. She always had a garden; she canned peas and beans and made pear honey and apple butter from trees on her lot. She liked flowers, especially pansies, and she was very proud of her fern bed just outside her kitchen door. She loved to embroider, crochet, and make quilts, doing beautiful work. She also made braided rugs. During the summer months she would work as she sat on her porch; as people walked by, they would be greeted by her, and if they had time, they would often stop to talk. She knew all the latest news. She belonged to the Lowell Get-together Club and would always take part in the two-hour plays the Club performed at Lowell Hall to earn money for charity. Alpha loved entertaining her club members when her turn came. Everyone enjoyed the home-made buns with canned beef, ground and pickles added for filling, a Jello salad of home-canned fruit, then at least two kinds of cookies.

Grandma Thornburg was an excellent cook. She always kept cookies in a stone jar in the pantry and she always kept a white cake on hand, often enjoying a slice at breakfast. Every winter she would get a quarter of beef and can most of it, but she always smoked and dried some of it, a process of several days hanging over the cook stove. When it was ready to use, she would make dried beef gravy that all the grandchildren loved on mashed potatoes or her home-made buns.

Alpha loved to read and often sat up reading to finish a book until after midnight, of course by kerosine lamp for light. She did get electricity the last few years of her life—not more than 10 years.

Alpha loved birds and always had a tray on the shelf by her window to feed them. One son gave her cracked corn, and in the fall, she saved weed seeds and then of course bread crumbs to feed them. Before living in Lowell, she lived at Croton, and her letters always told of birds at her feeder. She talked about one particular cardinal, and when someone asked how she knew him, she responded that birds were just like people, and that not all people looked alike and neither did all redbirds look or act alike. During he last few years of her life, someone gave her a pair of parakeets. She would talk to them, and they would chirp in answer; she enjoyed them very much.

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
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