George H Babb, in a letter in the Observer, says of the natural scenery of the town:
"There are in some localities bold rocks cropping out from the points of hills, that have pillars of rock on them that rise to a height of twelve or fifteen feet above the level of the hill; upon which, if you take your stand, gives you a view of the surrounding county, which is delightfully picturesque.
"There is a locality known as the big rocks, on section 16, which is very singular. The ground rises gradually from the north for about thirty rods, when it abruptly breaks and forms a perpendicular wall of about 100 feet in height, then runs to the south in a gentle slope, forming quite a valley. There are, in the southern part of the town, several caves of considerable size, one of which has been explored to the distance of a third of a mile; and all are beautifully hung with stalactites, and have the floors covered with rising stalagmites of all sizes."
Early in the spring of 1853 the first attempt was made at settlement within the confines of this town, by E B Tenney and William Ogden, who came from Grant county. Mr. Ogden settled on the south half of the southeast quarter of section 18, where he still lives. Mr. Tenney located on the southwest quarter of section 18, where he lived until after the war, then went to Kansas.
William Wood, an eastern man, also came in 1853, and entered 120 acres of land on section 30. He remained a resident of the town until the time of his death. His widow still occupies the place.
Lyman Mathews came to Sylvan in 1853 from Kinsman, Ohio, and located on section 27. A number of years later he sold his place and went to Richwood. Later, he removed to Albert Lea, Minn., and he now lives in Minneapolis.
In April, 1854, Silas Benjamin, a native of New Hampshire, came, and entered eighty acres of land on section 20. He only remained a few years when he removed to Rock county. He now lives in New York State.
Asahel Savage came during the same year, and entered 120 acres of land on section 19, where he still resides.
Mathias Merrill, a native of Ohio, came here in 1854, and entered land on section 14, where he lived until the time of his death. He was a Disciple preacher and held the first services for the people of that denomination in the town.
His sons, Thomas and William, came at the same time, and settled on section 24. They lived there for some years.
Jacob C Chandler, came a little later in the same year, and entered eighty acres of land on sections 19 and 20. Mr. Chandler is now a resident of Grant Co., Wis.
Aaron Shepard came here from Ohio, in 1854, and settled the 160 acres on sections 2 and 3, which he still makes his home.
John Guess, also came from Ohio, during the same year and entered an eighty acre tract of land on section 11. In 1857 he went to Ohio. When the war broke out, he enlisted and died in the service.
Isaac White, another pioneer of 1854, came from Ohio, and entered eighty acres on section 24. He lived in the town until his death.
Harvey Bacon, a Vermonter, came at about the same time, and entered eighty acres of land on section 19. He lived there a number of years and finally removed to Sauk county, where he died.
Hezekiah Slayback, came from Indiana, with his large family, in 1854, and entered 160 acres of land on sections 32 and 33. About 1872, he removed to Kansas, and has since died there.
Jacob Glick came in 1855, and entered eighty acres of land on section 33, which is still his home.
Oliver Guess came in 1854, and entered eighty acres of land on section 11, where he still resides.
George Aldrich came here from Keene, NH, in 1855, and located on section 29. He was a man of fine attainments, and a school teacher; and for a number of years was identified with educational matters in this vicinity, as a teacher. He remained several years, when he sold out his place and returned to New Hampshire, where he is now engaged in the insurance business.
Joseph McDaniel came here in the fall of 1855, and settled on section 11, where he lived until the time of his death. His widow married again and is still a resident of the town.
George Hillberry, came from the southern part of Ohio, with his large family, in 1856, and settled upon a farm a short distance south of Sylvan Corner's. He remained there for some years, and finally removed to the southern portion of the county, where he died, in 1879. His family are still residents of the county.
George H Babb came in the spring of 1856, and selected 160 acres of land on section 14. Mr. Babb still lives on the old homestead.
Nathaniel Grim came during the same year and purchased 120 acres of land on section 21, where he now resides.
James Twaddle came from the northern part of Ohio in 1857, and located on section 15, where he still resides.
George Ohaver came from Indiana in 1856 and settled in the southern part of the town, upon a farm now owned by Patrick Frowley. He remained here a number of years, then removed to the town of Eagle.
Emanuel Taylor came here from Indiana in 1856 and located on section 17. He lived in the town until a few years ago.
In June, 1857, Ephraim Williams came with his family from New Lexington, Ohio. Mr. Williams first came to Sylvan in 1853 and entered about 320 acres of land on sections 22 and 28. He then returned to Ohio, and in the summer of 1857 again started for the far west, accompanied by his family, with ox teams. They were unfortunate on the way, one of the children being run over by the wagon near Chicago and some of the oxen took sick and died. The trip consumed six weeks. When they arrived in Sylvan they lived under the wagons until a log cabin, 12x14 feet in size, was erected on section 28. Mr. Williams remained upon this place for about fifteen years, when he moved about three miles east, and purchased the mill property now owned by Oliver Guess. He ran the mill about four years, when he sold the property and removed to Vernon county, where he was killed in an accident with a team. One of his daughters, Mrs. Henry Mathews, still lives in the town.
In September, 1857, Fred Mathews, a native of Pennsylvania, came from the town of Forest and settled on section 20, where he at once put up a dwelling house. In December of the same year he was married to Hattie E, a daughter of Ephraim Williams, and they settled on section 20. They remained there until 1873, when they removed to Richland Center, where they still live.
Simon Laffer came to the town at an early day and located upon a farm half a mile west of Sylvan corners.
The first house in the town was erected by E B Tenney, in 1853, on section 18.
The first school house in the town was erected on section 18 in 1855.
The first school in Sylvan was taught in 1855 by Olive Mathews, now a resident of Minnesota.
One of the first sermons in the town was preached by Rev. Paine in 1856, at the school house on section 18.
The first child born was Jacob G, a son of Asahel and Mary Savage, born in 1856.
The first marriage in the town was that of Fred Mathews to Hattie E Williams, which took place Dec. 17, 1857. The couple lived in Sylvan until 1873, when they removed to Richland Center, where they still reside.
The first death in the town was that of an infant daughter of Hezekiah and Hannah Slayback, which occurred in 1855.
In 1855 O. Guess built a saw-mill on Eagle creek (Mill creek), which was indebted for its motive power to what is called a flutter-wheel. This mill supplied, to a large extent, the early pioneers with the requisite lumber for building purposes. It has long since been rebuilt and enlarged, and the old wheel replaced by an improved one, and the old-fashioned sash saw by a rotary.
In the same year a Mr. Nixon opened a general store at what was, that early, called Sylvan Corners. This store has since passed through the hands of several parties. Stephen Henthorn and son bought the store in 1864. The son, William, has been sole proprietor since the death of the father. He keeps a general stock of goods.
In the winter of 1856-7 William Hicks opened a store in a little log building.
Sylvan Lodge 164, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized in 1862, George Krouskop acting as DDGWM. The first officers of the institution were: O H Mallette, N G; Jacob Sandmire, VG; J H Hutton, secretary; William Hall, treasurer. The lodge organized with ten members, and held meetings in the hall of the Methodist church, which had been erected the same year.
The first school taught in the town, as well as the first school house erected, has already been given. In 1883 there were nine schools in successful operation in the town, each district having a fair, and some an extra good school building, the total value of which was $3650. The school population of the town was 442.
There are two cemeteries in this town, located respectively on sections 14 and 36.
There are in Sylvan three hewn log church buildings of the Methodist, and one frame building of the Disciples.
The Disciples or Christian Church was organized in 1858 by Rev. A Williams, Mathias Merrill and Rev. George H Babb. The first sermon was preached by Abram Williams at the residence of Mathias Merrill. The first elders were Mathais Merrill and John Higgenbotham. Among the first preachers were: Revs. George H Babb, Daniel Gray and A Williams. The present membership of the Church is about forty. Rev. W S Kidd is the present minister.
For many years the territory now comprising the town of Sylvan was an integral part of the town of Richwood, and later of Forest. It was detached from the latter in 1854. The first election was held was held on the 7th of April, 1855, at the residence of William Ogden. The following were the first officers elected: Supervisors, Horace Cook, chairman, Oliver Guess and William H Stewart; clerk, Lyman Mathews; treasurer, William Ogden; assessor, Asahel Savage. The number of votes polled was thirty-two.
The following is a list of the present officers of the town, elected in the spring of 1883: Supervisors, George Henthorn, chairman, J H Haggerty and Benjamin Starkey; clerk, N Higginbotham; treasurer, Calvin Hall; assessor, Thomas Cranson; justices, Joseph Rawson, Joseph G Ewers and J N Porter.
In 1873 a town hall was erected on section 15. It is a neat frame building and cost $250.
The Sylvan postoffice was established in 1856, with Asahel Savage as postmaster; but it was over a year after the establishment of the office before any mail was received. The first postmaster to handle any mail was D E Clingensmith. The office is now located at Sylvan Corners and William Henthorn is postmaster. The office is on the mail route from Muscoda to Viroqua; mail being received tri-weekly.
William Ogden, the first settler of the town of Sylvan, was born in Onandaga Co., NY, in 1822. In 1830 his parents moved to Niagara count and there lived until 1837. In that year he enlisted in the regular army of the United States, remaining in the service until 1841, when he was discharged and returned to the State of New York. Soon after he went to Genesee Co., Mich., where he remained until 1848, then moved to Rock Co., Wis., and there engaged in farming until 1852, thence to Grant county, living there one year, and then coming to the town of Sylvan April 27, 1853. He entered 160 acres on sections 18 and 19, his present home. He has increased his farm to 187 acres. He was married in 1842 to Minerva F Lyon. They had three children, two now living --- Marian and Marettie. Mrs. Ogden died in 1863, and Mr. Ogden was married again the same year, to Abigail Briggs, who is a native of Orleans Co., NY. Eight children have been born to them --- William, Lewis, Naomi, Sheridan, Mary E, Charlotte, Helen and Malvina. Marettie is now married to Josando Miller and Marian to Jane McKitrick. Mr. Ogden was a member of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. He enlisted in 1861, and was discharged the following year, re-enlisted in 1865, in the 46th Wisconsin, company H, and was discharged the same year. Politically he is a republican and is a member of the Baptist Church.
Oliver Guess, one of the pioneer settlers of the town of Sylvan, was born in Columbiana Co., Ohio, in 1825, where he resided until the year 1854, when he moved to the town of Sylvan, in the second year of its settlement, and entered 160 acres of land on section 11, range 2 west, which he now owns. Mr. Guess was married in 1846 to Henrietta Adams, by whom he had four children --- Albert W, John K, Betsy A and George H. Mrs. Guess died in 1857. Mr. Guess again married, that same year, Nancy J Totten, by whom he had seven children --- Margaret J, Henrietta, Oliver, Franklin, Elmer, Flora M and William D. His second wife died in 1877, and he was again married that year to Mrs. Rachel McDonald. Albert W. is now married to Miss S E Lawton; Betsy is married to Albert Carpenter; George to Lucinda Summers; and Henrietta to John McDaniels. Mr. Guess was a member of the 20th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, having enlisted in the year 1862, and was discharged the year following on account of sickness. He afterward re-enlisted in the 46th Wisconsin Volunteers, and served until close of the war. He was a member of the board of supervisors of the town for six years, and a justice of the peace about eight years. Mr. Guess was originally a whig, and drifted into the republican party upon its organization, but in 1862 made a change and now adheres to the principles of the democratic party.
Levi Millison, a son of George and Anna Millison, was born in Mercer Co., Penn., March 4, 1852, and came to Wisconsin with his parents in 1855, settling in the town of Sylvan, Richland county, where the year following, his father died. The family were left in very limited circumstances, and the older children were obliged to get employment where best they could, to gain a livelihood. Levi being only four years old, went to live with Chauncey Lawton, their closest neighbor. He remained with Mr. Lawton until 1861, when he started out for himself. He was employed by farmers and lumber men in Richland and Vernon counties for several years, and in the mean time tried engineering a while; could do any kind of work or anything that he ever tried. During this time he had acquired a fair education by going to school and working mornings and evenings for his board. In 1880 he engaged in the mercantile trade at Bowen's mills, Richland county, continuing in trade there until March, 1883, when he removed to Star, Vernon county, where he is now engaged in trade. He keeps a good stock of dry goods, groceries, clothing, etc. In 1872 he was married to Mary Emma, daughter of Jacob and Anna Dosch, early settlers of Richland county. Four children have blessed this union --- Ida, Nora, Eddie and Harry.
John Ewers, one of the early settlers of Sylvan, was born in the year 1823, in Knox Co., Ohio, and resided there only one year when his parents moved to Belmont county. After living there twenty-one years, they became dissatisfied and moved to Washington county, where they remained until 1855. In that year Mr. Ewers moved to Richland Co., Wis., and settled in the town of Marshall, and entered eighty acres of land on section 36, in the town of Sylvan, on which he now resides. He also owns a half interest in a flouring mill, situated on section 31, with two run of buhrs and a capacity of 100 bushels per day. Mr. Ewers was married in 1845 to Mary Thomas, by whom he had four children --- Orlando, Almira, N. L. and Asa. Mrs. Ewers died in 1855 and in 1860 Mr. Ewers married Marietta Barnes. They have three children --- Romeo, Orlen and Mary. Orlando is now married to Julia McKy; Almira to John McKy; and N. L. to Rebecca Briggs. Mr. Ewers has been assessor of the towns of Marshall and Sylvan, each one year, and justice of the peace eight years. N. L. Ewers was town clerk of Sylvan in 1878.
Samuel Groves, one of the prominent farmers of the town of Sylvan, was born in Jefferson Co., Ohio, in 1828, where he resided until 1855, then moved to the town of Sylvan, and entered 200 acres of land on section 11, where he now lives. He now owns 160 acres. Mr. Groves was married in 1849 to Mary Blackledge. They have seven children --- Peter, Martha E, Violet C, Rachel E, Victorene A, Samuel and William. Mrs. Groves died in 1878, and Mr. Groves married Mary Dovoe. Peter is now married to Miss Saudmire; Martha to John Twadell; Violet to Russell Brown; Rachel to Joshua Buraker; Victorene to William Baxter; and William to Barbary Sabin. Mr. Grove enlisted in 1863 in the 20th Wisconsin Infantry, and was discharged in 1864 on account of disability.
George H Babb was born in 1815 in Clinton Co., Ohio, where he resided until the year 1840. He then moved to Delaware Co., Ind., where he engaged in farming and millwrighting, and remained there until 1856. He came to Richland county in that year, and settled in the town of Sylvan. He entered 160 acres of land on section 14, which he has since increased to 183 1/2 acres, where he now lives. Mr. Babb was married in Delaware Co., Ind., in 1841, to Elizabeth Jordan, who was born in Wayne county in 1823. They have eight children --- Nancy J, Timothy S, Margaret A, William H, Elisha C, John H, James D and Ida B. Nancy J. is now the wife of David Smith; William H. is married to Laura Drake. Mr. Babb was one of the county commissioners, for three years; chairman of the town board, five years; assessor, one year; justice of the peace, one year; census taker in 1880. Besides farming, he has been a minister of the gospel for the past thirty years in the Christian Church. Timothy S, his son, was a member of the 14th Army Corps. He enlisted in 1864 in company F, 3d regiment, Wisconsin Veterans, and was discharged in 1865. Mr. Babb was formerly a democrat, but has been identified with the republican party since its organization.
N. Higginbotham, the present town clerk of Sylvan, was born in Delaware Co., Ind., in 1848. When he was two years old his parents moved to Illinois, where they resided until 1855, when they came to Sylvan and located on section 13, where his father entered land, forty acres in Sylvan, and 160 on section 18, of the town of Marshall. Mr. Higganbotham now owns 239 acres of land on sections 13 and 14. He was married in 1868 to Deborah Waller, who was born in Monroe Co., Ohio, in 1847, and came to Sylvan in 1863 with her parents. They have seven children --- Francis O, George W, Daisy A, Lilly O, Ada, Sarah J and Clyde. Mr. Higganbotham has held the office of town clerk for two years.
Nathaniel Grim is one of the pioneer settlers of Sylvan town, as well as one of its successful farmers. He now owns 240 acres of land, 160 acres on section 21, forty on section 20, and forty on section 17. He now lives on section 21. His farm is one of the finest in the town. Mr. Grim was born in Jefferson Co., Ohio, Sept. 6, 1826, where he lived until 1832. His parents moved in that year to Harrison county, where they lived until 1842, and then removed to Monroe county and engaged in farming until 1851. The subject of this sketch then went to Elkhart Co., Ind., and in 1852 returned to Monroe Co., Ohio, and remained there until 1856. In that year he moved to the town of Sylvan and bought a farm of 120 acres on section 21. He was married in 1850 to Sarah Allen, who was born in 1829, in Monroe Co., Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Grim have eight children --- Emma, John W, Philip, Margaret A, Mary L, Horatio S, Oscar F and Charles H. Emma is now the wife of A W Savage. John is married to Alice Mayfield; Philip to Mary Rowson; Margaret is the wife of John I Shilts; and Mary of William Probert. Mr. Grim was a member of the 11th Wisconsin Infantry, entering the service in 1865, and was honorably discharged the same year. He has been chairman of the town board three years, and a member of the side board four years, and school clerk for twenty years. He came by railroad to Freeport, Ill., thence by team of his father-in-law. When he arrived he camped out one week, during which time he had built a snug log cabin, into which they moved. There they lived about eight years, then moved into a hewn log house, which was some considerable improvement on the old one, where he lived until 1872, when he erected a large frame house, in which he now resides. Like all farms in this section, this was covered with a heavy growth of large timber, which he commenced clearing at once upon his arrival, and continued to clear until he has now about 100 acres of good land under cultivation. This part of the country now presents an appearance of thrift and enterprise, which state of affairs is due to the industry and energy of such men as Mr. Grim during those early days, and all honor is due those men and women who thus contributed toward the development of this county. Politically Mr. Grim has always adhered to the principles of the democratic party. Mr. Grim is not a member of any Church, but believes that honesty and integrity is the sort of religion calculated to meet the wants of humanity, and he is an exponent of these characteristics, having a reputation for fair dealing among all men.
David Smith, one of the best farmers and a representative man in the town of Sylvan, was born in Jefferson Co., Ohio, where he resided until 1856, when his mother who was a widow moved to Wisconsin, Richland county, town of Sylvan, purchased 120 acres of land and gave it to David, her only son and sole support. In 1862 Mr. Smith was married to Nancy J Babb, a daughter of George H and Emily Babb, who are now their near neighbors. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have six children --- Elizabeth C, Ulysses G, Anna I, Mary L, Nellie J and George M. Mr. and Mrs. Smith by industry and economy have added to the original farm, until they now have 218 acres of land, finely improved, with good farm buildings, and everything desirable for a comfortable home, and have in a remarkable degree the confidence and esteem of their neighbors, and the entire community. Mr. Smith's father, Jacob, died in 1843. His mother died in the town of Sylvan in September, 1883. She was born Nov. 6, 1800, in Ohio. Mr. Smith is not a politician, but exercises the right of suffrage intelligently, and adheres to the principles of the republican party. He belongs to the Church organization called Disciples.
James Watt, one of Sylvan's most prominent farmers, was born in the year 1839 in Jefferson Co., Ohio, where he received an academic education. After he had finished his schooling he engaged in teaching for some years, and then engaged in farming until 1861, when he moved to the town of Sylvan and purchased a farm of eighty acres of land on section 14, which farm he has increased to 240 acres. Mr. Watt was united in marriage in 1865 to Alma Brown, who was born in Grant Co., Wis., in 1845. Mr. and Mrs. Watt have nine children --- James A, Franklin, Clara, Wilber F, Jennie, Agnes, Edna and Edith twins, and Carl W. Mr. Watt was a member of the 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, having enlisted in 1861, and was discharged in 1864. Mr. Watt was clerk of the town for eleven years.
William Henthorn, one of Sylvan's most prosperous men, was born in Monroe Co., Ohio, in 1837 and where he resided until 1864. He came to Sylvan in that year with his parents. His father bought 280 acres of land on section 17, where William now resides, and he now owns 799 acres, situated on sections 16, 17, 20 and 21. He is also engaged in the mercantile trade at Sylvan Corners, carrying a general stock of merchandise, valued at about $2500. He also owns a one-third interest in a portable steam saw-mill, situated on section 17. Mr. Henthorn was married in 1863 to Louisa B Woodford, who was born in 1845. They have five children living --- Clement A, Clara M, Loren L, William E and Jasper O. Charles H died in 1872, and Cora E in 1879. Mr. Henthorn enlisted in the United States service in 1865, and was discharged that same year. Besides being extensively engaged in farming and mercantile trade, he is the owner of some of the best blooded cattle of the county, having two Shorthorned heifers, two years old, weighing over 1400 pounds each, and which cost him $270; also the fine Shorthorned bull "Masterpiece, 46,577" bred by H Y Attrill, Goderich, Ontario, Canada, which cost him $100 when a year old; also a Southdown ram "Lexington 449," which cost $60 when a year old; two Southdown ewes "Miss Bundy 317" and "Belle of Sylvan 450" which he values at $50 each. Mr. Henthorn was assessor of the town for one year, and has been postmaster at Sylvan since 1866.
Calvin Hall was born in Monroe Co., Ohio, in 1842, where he lived until 1866. In that year he came to Sylvan and purchased eighty acres of land, in section 16, where he now lives. He has purchased more land, and his farm now contains 160 acres. He was married in 1865 to Mary E Barrett, who was born in Monroe Co., Ohio. They are the parents of six children --- Albert F, Adelbert A, James S, Emma M, Flora M and William O. Mr. Hall enlisted in 1861 in the 36th Ohio regiment, and was discharged in 1865. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Curn's Town, W. Va., enduring the terrible hardships of rebel prison life for eight long months. Mr. Hall is the present town treasurer.
William Heal was born in Washington township, Delaware Co., Ind., Feb. 19, 1832, where he resided on a farm until the death of his father in 1847. He then went to Jefferson township, Grant Co., Ind., and lived with his brother-in-law, Joel Littler, on a farm, till the latter's death in 1853. He engaged in farming until 1856 and then commenced to learn the joiner's trade with his brother, James McDeed Heal, which occupation he followed until May, 1861. He enlisted at this date, in company H, 12th regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry, under Capt. Thomas Doane. He was discharged at Washington City, in May, 1862, and returned to Wisconsin. In the spring of 1864 he returned to Indiana, and in 1867 came once more to Wisconsin, and bought eighty acres of land on section 7, town of Sylvan, Richland county, which farm he has increased to 177 acres. He settled on this farm July 4, 1867, where he still resided in 1884. He has improved the farm and built a saw-mill. He erected the first town house in Richland county. On the 14th of January, 1884, his house burned, with almost its entire contents. The house was rebuilt the same week, with the assistance of neighbors, who heartily responded with cheerful and substantial aid. Mr. Heal was married, in 1856, to Martha Ann Nottingham, of Delaware Co., Ind., by whom he had one child, who died in infancy. Mrs. Heal died in 1857, near Muncie, Ind. Mr. Heal again married in Grant Co., Ind., in 1863, to Margaret E Reeder, by whom he had two children --- John F, and one child that died in infancy. His second wife departed this life in 1865, in Jefferson township, Ind. Mr. Heal married again in Richland Co., Wis., in 1868, to Mary E Burt, by whom he has seven children, four now living --- Harriet Alice, Effie Norene, George Eugene and William Ernest.
Thomas Harn, one of the prominent business men and pioneers of the town of Sylvan, was born in Tyler Co., Va., in 1820. He lived there ten years and then his parents moved to Monroe Co., Ohio, where he obtained a common school education, and learned the moulder's trade, at which he worked for three years. He was then obliged to abandon it on account of his eyes. He then followed boating, on the Mississippi river, first in the capacity of cook, then watchman, next as second mate, and finally as mate, until 1844, when he returned to Monroe Co., Ohio, and engaged in farming, which he continued till 1861, when he enlisted in the service of the 2d Virginia Cavalry, and was honorably discharged in 1864. In 1865 he moved to Washington county, and remained three years. In 1868 he moved to Wisconsin, town of Sylvan, and purchased eighty acres of land on section 4, on which he now resides. Mr. Harn was united in marriage with Catharine Dougherty, who was born in Monroe Co., Ohio, in 1821. They are the parents of four children living and three dead --- Margaret, now the wife of James Lathram; John D, now married to Susan Bender; Rebecca, now the wife of Eugene Vincent; and Stephen, now living at home. Mr. Harn was a member of the 2d Virginia Cavalry, having enlisted in 1861. He was wounded three times, at Charleston, at Wytheville and at Loop Creek, West Virginia. He has been chairman of the town board, two years, and is now engaged in farming.
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