Race and Slavery Petitions Project

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PAR Number 20184410

State: Alabama Year: 1844
Location: Lawrence Location Type: County

Abstract: The petitioner, Isaac Owen, claims that a judgment for $208.77 levied against Andrew J. Walton "cannot be made out of him by law" due to Walton's insolvency. However, Owen charges that Walton, "in right of his wife is entitled to a distributive share of the estate of James M. Bowling," which will provide one thousand dollars. The estate has not yet been distributed and is in the possession of the administrator John Jackson, but Owen fears that Walton is "endeavoring fraudulently to dispose of his said wife distributive share." The petitioner asks that Jackson be restrained "from paying out and distributing the said distributive share." In addition, Owen states that Walton's wife received from her father 160 acres of land and five or six slaves for "her sole and separate use," and he asks that the judgment for his debt be satisfied from those assets.

PAR Number 20184507

State: Alabama Year: 1845
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: Following the death of her parents, Missouri Boyett was left "without any other white person" on their plantation. She was the owner of ten slaves who came from her father's estate and whom she had purchased from her mother. With little knowledge of business, and "being scarcely able to read & to write her name," she hired Andrew Edwards as an overseer and manager. According to Missouri, she soon discovered that he was seeking to deprive her of her property. She claims that he virtually stole one of her slaves and later hired him out. He then tricked her into signing a bill of sale for five slaves--Abram, Isham, Bailus, Joe, and Moses--and signing a promissory note for twenty-five hundred dollars. The bill of sale was executed as a mortgage to secure the payment on the promissory note. Edwards then transferred the bill of sale and mortgage note to James W. Alford. She never "obtained any thing of the smallest value" for either the bill or the note, she asserts, and now is "absolutely penniless & stripped of her property." If nothing is done, she will be "totally ruined & rendered bankrupt." She charges fraud and seeks relief. A related document reveals that one of the slaves, Abram, had been sent to Mississippi to shield him from the law, as he had been charged with a crime. The same document also reveals that Missouri may have had plans to send Abram to Ohio to be freed. A related petition gives the name of Missouri's mother as Sarah Boyett.

PAR Number 20184614

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Barbour Location Type: County

Abstract: When Joseph West of Baldwin County, Georgia, died, he bequeathed a life estate in three slaves, Dinah, Serena and Nathan, to his wife Sarah West. He stipulated that, after Sarah's death, the slaves would go to Ann H. Daniel, the couple's daughter and now the wife of Zadok J. Daniel of Barbour County, Alabama. Sarah West, who still lives in Georgia, has now hired out two of the slaves, Dinah and Serena, together with Serena's child born since the bequest, to Zadok Daniel; the three slaves are now in his possession in Alabama. However, Zadok Daniel is insolvent and Ann West fears that the three slaves may be liable for this debts and her future inheritance thus wasted. Sarah West has consented to the creation of trust for the sole and separate use of Ann and her family, apart from her husband's property. Zadok has agreed to relinquish his marital rights. Ann therefore petitions for the court permission to proceed with the trust. By its related order, the court accedes to Ann's prayer and orders that a trust be created covering Dinah, Serena and Jerry. The court decrees that Nathan will not be included in the trust and will remain part of Sarah's life estate.

PAR Number 20184615

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Barbour Location Type: County

Abstract: Harriett Graves is entitled to a share of her grandmother's estate, including $528.78 that came from the sale of slaves. After her grandmother's death, the heirs "proceeded to sell her estate & divide it among themselves without any regular administration being obtained." In this process, Tennent Lomax, Harriett's brother acting as her agent, received more than five hundred dollars. Harriett's husband, Thomas Graves, is insolvent and Harriett desires to protect her inheritance; she therefore asks the court to appoint Lomax as trustee of her property and to permit her (through him) to invest three hundred dollars in a female slave named Katherine "now in her possession" and whom Lomax is willing to sell to her. She claims to be "greatly attached" to Katherine who is of great value.

PAR Number 20184620

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: When Elizabeth Harrison married James Harrison in 1837 she possessed in her own right a number of slaves--Phil, Phil's wife Yarico, Bob, Caleb, Eady, Little Bob, Little Phil, and Milley--inherited from her deceased father. Although they had signed a prenuptial agreement about her separate property, the couple signed a deed in 1838 showing that they were for her separate use. Unfortunately, she asserts, no trustee was appointed and, as she discovered years later, Milley had been omitted in the text of the deed of trust. In 1841, a New York firm obtained a judgment against her husband, and in 1842 James Harrison declared bankruptcy. Now, Elizabeth asks the court to decree the slaves "named in said deed, together with their increase & future increase to be the sole and separate property of Oratrix, and also the girl Milley and her increase & future increase, free from the control & management of her said Husband."

PAR Number 20184631

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1843, prior to her marriage, Caroline L. F. Brodie of Autauga County put her money, notes, and ten slaves in a trust for her "separate use, support & maintenance" free from any "molestation or hindrance on the part of any person." Her husband, Addison C. Love, agreed to this by signing a marriage contract. In 1844-45, her trustee Erasmus Love of Richmond County, North Carolina, used her money and proceeds from her notes to purchase two slaves, and her husband used her money to settle debts contracted before their marriage. Now the sheriff has levied and confiscated several of her trust slaves to satisfy her husband's debts, and Caroline has sued her husband and his creditor. Deprived "of the use & labour of said slaves for several months" and "greatly perplexed & harrassed & put to great trouble and expense-", she asks the court to declare that the confiscated slaves belong to her, and seeks an injunction restraining any creditor from proceeding against her property. The husband's answer is "pro-confesso."

PAR Number 20184633

State: Alabama Year: 1846
Location: Lawrence Location Type: County

Abstract: John M. McGaughey amends his original suit to confirm his title to slaves he bought from Charles Ewing Jr., one of the heirs of the late Charles Ewing Sr. In his amended suit, McGaughey argues that he purchased the slaves when Charles Ewing Jr. was perfectly solvent, and presents the bills of sale as exhibits. He again seeks an injunction to halt the said suit pending against him and requests a decree validating his title to the slaves. The related original bill reveals that three of the slaves, Lucy and her sons, Jack and Willis, had belonged to the late Charles Ewing Sr. During his lifetime, Charles Ewing the elder had given Lucy and Willis to Charles Jr. and Jack to another of his children. Charles Ewing Jr. had purchased Jack from his sibling before selling all three slaves to McCaughey.

PAR Number 20184706

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Madison Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1832, William Lewis died intestate, leaving a widow, Catharine, and four children, Mary, John, Charles, and Joseph. Catharine and George Connally became administrators of the estate. In 1834, Catharine married Cortez D. Kavanaugh, and Kavanaugh became administrator of the estate by virtue of hi marriage to Catherine, as well as the children's guardian. In 1835, a man named John Blevins, without the consent of the administrator or guardian, took "Little Bill," a slave belonging to the estate, to south Alabama. During that year Little Bill died. Kavanaugh agreed not to prosecute Blevins if he would replace Little Bill, and Blevins did so in February 1837, purchasing a slave named Jack, for $1050, and turning him over to Kavanaugh. According to the Lewis children, the bill of sale was erroneously drawn in Kavanaugh's name rather than to the estate he administered. And now Kavanaugh, who is insolvent, claims Jack as his own property. The petitioners seek an injunction to prevent Kavanaugh or his creditors from selling or disposing of the slave; they also seek a decree "to convey said negro Jack to said distributees."

PAR Number 20184707

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, the executor of the estate of Abraham Standifer, deceased, hired out the slave Augustus to Lewis Houston, who gave as payment his promissory note for $125. At the time, the executor, James H. Standifer, was indebted to Houston for a small amount. Shortly afterwards, Robert M. Cunningham, a physician, who was also indebted to Houston, submitted medical bills to the estate. With the executor short of funds, Houston permitted the amount owned him to offset the medical bills with the understanding that the amounts would be deducted from the note he signed to hire Augustus. But in 1845, Standifer transferred Houston's note to Blake Little, who transferred it to William J. Steele, and when James Standifer settled the administration of the estate no mention was made of the amount Houston paid to cancel his note. Meanwhile, the holder of the note filed suit. Houston responds by filing suit himself, "Forasmuch therefore as you orator is without remedy except by the aid of this Honorable Court."

PAR Number 20184710

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Clarke Location Type: County

Abstract: By 1836, Clarke County slave owner William Matheson had acquired a sizable estate: a saw and grist mill on the Alabama River, a "great quantity" of wood to supply steamboats, bank bills from various states, bank stock in the Planters and Merchants Bank of Mobile, and "many slaves." In his 1836 will, he bequeathed a slave girl Phillis to his daughter Mariah, and a legacy of thirty thousand dollars to Mariah and his two other daughters, Flora McCaskey Matheson and Caladonia Matheson. He directed that beginning in 1832 Mariah should receive one thousand dollars a year for ten years when she would reach age twenty-one. This was to be paid out of his estate by his executors who were directed to keep the mills and plantation in operation. Following Matheson's death, John Murphy and John Darrington became administrators. But Mariah, a minor, did not receive her bequests. In 1847, she and her husband seek damages from Darrington (Murphy had died), including the original bequests from her father and profits from wood sales and cotton production during the 1830s and early 1840s.

PAR Number 20184711

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Clarke Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1847, John Darrington, executor of the estate of William Matheson, deceased, asks to sell personal property to pay debts amounting to ten thousand dollars. In a related petition, one of the heirs of the late Matheson sued Darrington for mismanaging the estate, failing to apply the profits from slave labor to the benefit of the heirs, and using the excuse of the estate insolvency to pay for his own debts. We learn that the late Matheson had been a wealthy man, possessed of land and slaves, and involved in many farm related endeavors, among which the felling of timber for the construction of steamboats, and the production of sugar and cotton.

PAR Number 20184714

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: On 2 May 1843 a suit was instituted by Ephraim Pharr and Thomas K. Beck against Bushrod W. Bell "for the recovery of thirty-five negroes." After the sheriff took the slaves into custody, Bell gave a replevin bond of $24,000, with John Hinkle and others as securities. In 1845, Beck and Pharr obtained a judgment in their favor for the recovery of several of the slaves in controversy. Soon thereafter, James C. Boyd sued to gain possession of the slaves recovered by Pharr and Beck. Bell and Pharr are now dead, and John Hinkle, the petitioner and security on Bell's bond, fears that the slave title dispute occurring between Beck and Boyd will result in his owing money to one or the other because of his part as security. Beck and Pharr already sold one of the slaves in 1845. Hinkle asks the court to award him custody of the slaves so that he may divide them between Beck and Boyd. Hinkle also asks the court to compel Beck to account for the value and the hires of the slaves in his possession, and if the court finds that Beck has a better title to the slaves, then Boyd should be perpetually enjoined from collecting his 1847 judgment.

PAR Number 20184718

State: Alabama Year: 1847
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: When Elizabeth Harrison married James Harrison in 1837 she possessed in her own right a number of slaves--Phil, Yeraco, Bob, Caleb, Eady, Little Bob, Little Phil, and Milley--inherited from her deceased father. Although they had signed a prenuptial agreement about her separate property, the couple signed a deed in 1838 showing that the certain slaves were for her separate use. No trustee was appointed. In 1841, a New York firm obtained a judgment against her husband, and in 1842, he declared bankruptcy. In 1846, Elizabeth asked that the slaves "named in said deed, together with their increase & future increase to be the sole and separate property of Oratrix, and also the girl Milley and her increase & future increase, free from the control & management of her said Husband." In this amended bill, she seeks to "reform said deed so as to make it conformable to the intent of herself and husband when it was made and that this Court will secure said slaves from the payment of her said husbands debts from the date of said Deed."

PAR Number 20184803

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Tallapoosa Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1807, James Tate of Pendleton District, South Carolina, conveyed in a deed of gift to Margaret Speak, his daughter, a life estate in a slave named Rose, along with her "present and future increase." After Margaret's death, the slaves were to descend to her heirs. Margaret Speak died in 1838; her husband, Richard, had died the previous year. Sarah Speak, one of the couple's children still living in the family home took possession of the slaves, now consisting of Rose's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Shortly after her parents' death, Sarah Speak married Benjamin Nixon. After Sarah's death in 1845, Benjamin Nixon kept possession of the slaves. Now, George T. Speak, Sarah's brother, writes that he has obtained a relinquishment deed signed by the other heirs giving him the right to four-fifths of "the value and interest of the slaves." He complains that Benjamin Nixon, who is insolvent or on the verge of becoming so, has "run off said Negro property to parts unknown," except Rose who is "old and of not much value," and Jinney who has escaped and is in his possession. George Speak seeks to prevent Nixon from regaining possession of Jinney, and asks a decree giving him "all the right title claim and interest of the negroes." A related testimony reveals that, during her lifetime, Margaret Speak had conveyed Jinney's title to Sarah Nixon, and that Benjamin Nixon was trying to regain possession of Jinney on that ground.

PAR Number 20184805

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: Elizabeth Little, heir to the estate of her brother, John M. Jenkins, deceased, requests that her share, mostly slaves, be turned over to a trustee for her sole and separate use, free from the control of her husband. When her first husband died, she explains, she received a handsome estate of horses, cows, hogs, sheep, a dower inheritance of land, a carriage and carriage horses, and fourteen slaves. But when she remarried, this property went to her new husband, as she failed to secure a marriage contract. Now, her husband, Blake Little, is "greatly embarrassed in his circumstances is probably insolvent." She is suing him and James Hair, administrators of her brother's estate, in order to protect herself and her eight children, several of whom "are young and helpless."

PAR Number 20184808

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Dallas Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1839, Elizabeth Hassell of Hickman County, Tennessee, married Alexander C. Hamilton, who had many debts and no property. Elizabeth's father, Joseph Hassell, gave the bride 220 acres of land, and loaned the couple a family of slaves consisting of Sophia and her seven children. Before long, Hamilton had sold the land and one of the slaves. Joseph Hassell sued to recover his other slaves, but Hamilton refused to turn them over. Then in 1843, the two men reached a court sanctioned agreement, whereby Hassell gave the couple a life estate in the slaves, on the condition that the slaves not be subject to Alexander's debts and not be taken out of the state of Tennessee. The agreement also stipulated that, in case Elizabeth died without children, the life estate would be split between James Hassell and Alexander Hamilton. Later Elizabeth and Alexander sold Alexander's interest in the life estate to James, but later Alexander purchased the slaves back, a transaction attested by two bills of sale. Alexander later sold two more slaves. Elizabeth charges that Alexander then began to treat her "with great Cruelty & barbarity." Once, she said, he nearly choked her to death; he was also guilty of adultery. And one night in 1848, Alexander stole away, taking five of the slaves to Dallas County. Elizabeth seeks an attachment on the slaves, and a subpoena requiring her husband to answer charges. Related testimony reveals that Alexander was in the habit of frequenting houses of ill repute and even applied to a physician for medicine to treat a venereal disease. This case was filed in both Tennessee and Alabama, the latter being the state where James had taken the slaves; it went up all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court. Alexander and Elizabeth where divorced. In 1850, Elizabeth was awarded the slaves who had not been sold by Alexander; the slaves were delivered to her in 1852.

PAR Number 20184818

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Monroe Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1839, John Murphy, governor of Alabama, gave his daughter Mary Dossey two slaves for her separate use, free from the "debts contracts or encumbrances" of her husband, Alonzo B. C. Dossey. Soon afterwards, he delivered the slaves--Silvia and Emily--to Alonzo, acting as Mary's trustee. Shortly therefore Mary decided that Silvia was not suitable for her needs, and Murphy substituted two other slaves, Jane and her child Amos. In 1842, Murphy died "insolvent," and her estate was sold, including Silvia. After Murphy's death, Alonzo Dossey incurred some debts and the Directors of the Bank of Alabama obtained an order of levy on Jane and her family, now consisting of four children, and Emily. Mary Dossey argued that the person who drew up her trust agreement erred by not specifying that Jane and her children were to be her separate property, but in 1848 a Monroe County jury awarded the slaves to the bank. Dossey now seeks "an injunction restraining the Bank and its agents from selling or disposing of said slaves."

PAR Number 20184822

State: Alabama Year: 1848
Location: Talladega Location Type: County

Abstract: George W. Wilson states that on or about 27 January 1848, John Hardie and Thomas W. White sued John Yarbrough for $621.90. On 2 February 1848, Isaac Hudson sued Yarbrough for $184.15. To settle the debts, a levy was placed upon three slaves held by Yarbrough. Wilson entered into bond as security for Yarbrough for double the amount of the two sums. The petitioner states that the bonds have been mislaid and cannot be found. After the execution of the bonds, Yarbrough regained possession of the slaves. Wilson charges Yarbrough with the fraudulent intent of fleeing the state, thus leaving the petitioner owing the entire sum of the bonds. Wilson asks the court to either award him custody of the slaves, or if they cannot be located, other compensation from the estate.

PAR Number 20184913

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1844, Jonathan Bliss won a judgment against William H. Thompson of Sumter County for "specific property," or its value. He was to recover slaves named Joe, or his value of $350; Frances, or $350; Clara, or $300; Polly, or $175; Penny, or $250; and Rose, or $100. He was also to recover specific livestock or its value. Bliss complains that, although he has received the female slaves, he has not received Joe, livestock or monetary equivalents. When the sheriff reports that Thompson has no property, Bliss argues that Thompson has "an equitable interest in two certain negroes Hannah & America" and has transferred his property to put it "beyond the reach of creditors." He seeks an injunction to prevent Thompson from "selling, transferring, assigning, delivering, negotiating, discharging" his property.

PAR Number 20184916

State: Alabama Year: 1849
Location: Lowndes Location Type: County

Abstract: On the day of her marriage to James Maull in Colleton District, South Carolina, in 1804, Mary Givhan Maull signed an agreement with her husband that she would "become a free dealer and separate trader." She could carry on trades and business ventures "as she should think proper" free from her husband's. At the time her new husband was poor, in fact insolvent, and unable to provide for a family. After the marriage, Mary opened a "house of entertainment in her own name and on her own account, separately and solely, bought provisions and made contracts in her own name with the assent of her husband." Her business prospered and she purchased slaves. In 1806, her father died, leaving her a separate estate of slaves. After moving with her husband to Alabama in 1820, Mary continued to purchase slaves "in her own name and her said husband never desired but always admitted her sole right to the sale of the same." In 1845, when her husband died, Mary Maull estimated her contribution to their total estate was about $25,000; by 1848, she possessed a total of about seventy slaves, consisting of slaves inherited and purchases, and the children born thereafter. After her husband's death, however, the executor of her husband's estate, Thomas M. Williams, urged on by some of Mary's children, brought suit to recover slaves in her possession. She was therefore forced to plead her case in the chancery court. The object of her countersuit, she said, was to prove her absolute right to the slaves.

PAR Number 20185114

State: Alabama Year: 1851
Location: Macon Location Type: County

Abstract: When Catharine Phillips married her husband, Samuel G. Phillips, in 1845, he had neither money nor property. In 1847, her brother, James M. Anthony, gave to her and the heirs of her body a twelve-year-old slave named Charlotte. One year later, her father-in-law, Wilder Phillips of the state of Georgia, made a similar gift of a sixteen-year-old girl named Louisa. The two deeds of gift stipulated that the slaves were "for her sole & separate use & free from the Control or any of the liabilities or debts of her husband." Charlotte and Louisa worked in the boarding house operated by Catharine, who also sold poultry and ran a dairy. With her profits, she bought a forty-five-year-old male slave named Handy for three hundred dollars, held in trust by her husband "free and exempt from all his debts, liabilities, & demands." When her husband's mercantile business failed and he became "much embarrassed" and "largely insolvent," his creditors went after Catharine's slaves. She petitions to keep the creditors and the sheriff "perpetually enjoined & forever restrained from proceeding to sell under execution at law either of the Slaves Charlotte, Louisa, or Handy."

PAR Number 20185206

State: Alabama Year: 1852
Location: Shelby Location Type: County

Abstract: On 8 February 1851, Alfred M. Coldwell and his wife Susan A. Coldwell purchased a "Certain Negro Woman" named Mariah, a cook, age about forty-five, for seven hundred dollars. Coldwell paid Elbert H. Sawyer, Mariah's owner, partly in cash and partly with a $370 note co-signed by his wife. The note was due on the first of January 1852. When it went unpaid Sawyer brought suit. Although Alfred was insolvent, Alfred's wife Susan possessed a substantial amount of property. Sawyer argued that she should be held accountable. The wife entered a plea of dismissal on the grounds that even if the statements were true they did not constitute grounds for a suit. She said that her estate was separate from her husband's and making her responsible for his debts would be to put "the woman upon a platform of Equality and joint responsibility with the husband." The judge agreed, but when Alfred Coldwell died Sawyer instituted another suit for repayment, this one against the widow.

PAR Number 20185207

State: Alabama Year: 1852
Location: Sumter Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1836, Dorcas Lacy married Samuel S. Eakin. During the next several years the couple had five children. To assist them, Dorcas's father gave the couple two slaves, a "negro woman & a negro girl." While she remained a dutiful wife and mother, her husband turned increasingly to drink. During the latter part of 1848 and early 1849, Samuel remained "habitually drunk, and repeatedly beat her in a cruel, and inhuman manner, both with his fist, and with sticks, switches, and brush; and frequently threatened to take her life." He also attempted to humiliate her by forcing her to wear men's clothing and ride through the neighborhood. Furthermore, Dorcas contends, his dissolute habits resulted in the loss of their property. Dorcas fled to the house of her father, and files suit for divorce and custody of her children.

PAR Number 20185213

State: Alabama Year: 1852
Location: Perry Location Type: County

Abstract: In 1845, Nancy Isabelle Tutt, daughter of James B. Tutt, a man "seized and possessed of considerable real and personal estate," married Alexander Sanderson, a man "poor and destitute of property." At the time of the wedding, the father gave the bride "a certain negro girl Ellen of Copper Complexion." That same year Nancy's father died and at the final distribution of his property in 1848, Nancy became a wealthy woman, inheriting Ellen and her three children, and eleven other slaves, as well as several tracts of valuable plantation land. Nancy complains that her husband "has been and now is improvident and extravagant" and will, unless prevented by the court, "waste and destroy" her inheritance. After he abandons her in 1851 after taking money from the estate, she files a suit to "enjoin and restrain" him from "all proceedings at law, or in Equity" against her property; she asks the court to "order and adjudge and decree" that the land, slaves, and other property she inherited remain her separate estate and her brother James V. Tutt be appointed trustee over her estate.

PAR Number 20185308

State: Alabama Year: 1853
Location: Autauga Location Type: County

Abstract: In the mid-1840s, Eliza, a slaveholding widow, married Barnabas Strickland, a migrant from Georgia, described as charming, intelligent, "a man of Specious manners & respectable appearance & a Minister of the Gospel." The couple signed a prenuptial agreement giving Eliza control over her land and slaves. She soon discovered that Barnabas was not only heavily in debt (although he owned a slave woman and her children), but was inept in managing the plantation. She invited her son-in-law, George C. Burns, to come and help her but he left after conflicts with Strickland. Sometime around the year 1848, Barnabas agreed to turn over her slaves to his wife in payment for money owed her; the slaves were nevertheless taken from her possession. Shortly thereafter, Barnabas arranged to purchase slaves in his wife's name, but later sought to make this property his own. Eliza "resisted," and asked her son, William Boswell, to come and take over the plantation. The husband said he would "deliver up control" only if his wife turned the title of her slaves over to him. Fearing he might cause trouble and embarrassment, and after consulting with a lawyer, she agreed. He then mortgaged the slaves, took the cash, and fled from the county. At midnight, on New Year's Eve 1852, creditors sneaked on to her plantation, rounded up the slaves, and took them away. She filed suit against the creditors as well as her husband but the sheriff reported that they were "not found in my County."

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