Liberty Township McKean County Pennsylvania Genealogy


PAGenWeb McKean County, Pennsylvania

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP

History of Liberty Township
from History of the Counties of McKean,
Elk, Cameron, and Potter, Pennsylvania
J.H. Beers, Chicago, 1890

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP stretches along about half of the eastern line of the county. It is the gateway to the Sinnemahoning, as well as to the upper waters of the Allegheny, northwest of Coudersport. This river enters the township at Burtville, five miles about Port Allegany, and flowing northwest exits in the center of the west half of the north town line (the lowest elevation), about three and one-half miles below the town, a mile and one-half below the mouth of Two Mile creek, and three and one-half miles below the confluence of Lillibridge creek, which flows from the northeast corners, as well as Coleman creek, above Port Allegany. Allegheny Portage creek (which rises across the line, near the head of the Sinnemahoning portage) joins the parent river just above the Port, and this receives several streams from the summits of Norwich, such as Comes creek, as well as a few short streams from the borders of Potter county. For altitudes the township may claim a part of Prospect hill, the peak of which (2,495 feet high) is in Keating township; a mile east of that hill the height is 2,415 feet, gradually falling to 1,800 feet as Skinner creek is approached; near Keating depot the altitude is 2,400, although at the depot only 1,876 feet; at Liberty 1,641, at Port Allegany 1,477, and at Sartwell 1,447 feet. The rock exposures show 890 feet, of which 190 form coal measures and conglomerate, 250 to 300 Mauch Chunk and Pocono, 300 red Catskill, and 100 Chemung. In the center of the Skinner creek coal region the highest stratum is found, Kinzua creek sandstone, at an altitude of 2,140 feet. In the year 1855 Seth A. Backus opened two coal beds here, finding eighteen or twenty-inch benches forty feet below the surface and below a nine to twelve-inch deposit of iron ore, which showed fifty-six per cent of metal. S.H. Barrett also opened a mine here, finding a twenty-eight inch seam of good coal six feet below the surface. In the vicinity of the Backus bed Thomas Petturick found a four and one-half feet vein of cannel coal in 1856. From Port Allegany to Comes creek summit the soil is red; also to the head of the Lillibridge and up Two Mile run.

The oil well at Sartwell was drilled 723 feet in 1877, but abandoned. In July, 1887, the work of drilling the gas well at Port Allegany was commenced on the Dolley lands. This well was bored 2,400 feet, but without the desired result, although sufficient to supply light and heat to a section of the borough was obtained.

In 1788 a party of immigrants came up the Susquehanna and Sinnemahoning to Emporium in canoes, left their barks there and crossed the portage on foot, making a road hither and camping here beyond the river, on what in later days was known as the W.J. Davis farm. E. Fitch, who contributed much valuable history to the pages of the Reporter, is inclined to believe that this same party made the first settlement at Franklin, Venango county. The first road from Canoe Place to Smethport crossed the river at Red House, thence by the mouths of Skinner and Portage creeks across the flats; thence up the hill and along the ridge to Nunundah creek, where it crossed another road at Horace King's corners. Samuel Curtis is credited with cutting this road. In 1844 Gideon Irons was employed to cut a wagon-road from the Port to Larrabee. Years before this a road was cut through and regular culverts built, but at the period of building the Turtle Point mill it was hid under fallen trees or underbrush, and the culverts disappeared in decay.

In 1822 the first bridge in this township was erected across the Allegheny by Judge Nathan White, who resided on Marvin creek, four miles from Smethport. This structure was near Davis' Red House, and up to 1839 some portions of it were visible. Daniel Stanton's still-house was near this bridge.

The mill erected in 1815, where the Daniel Clark mills stood in 1876, was the joint property of Obediah Sartwell, W.W. Whitney, Benjamin Burt and David Burt. In 1820 Maj. Lyman purchased the concern, and sold it to Daniel Brooks in 1823. This Brooks erected the first grist-mill in 1824, but in 1827 he sold the old saw-mill as well as the new mill to William Moore, who in turn sold it to Sartwell & Arnold in 1835. Three years later they sold to Coats & McKee, but, through foreclosure, resumed ownership in 1841, and then sold to Barnaby Brothers, who, after establishing a pail and sap-bucket factory there, had to give up the property. N.L. Dike then purchased from Sartwell & Arnold in 1844, who sold to A.M. Benton in 1845. He continued the industries until 1869, when Daniel Clark became owner.

The first farmer was David Burt, who cultivated lands where George McDowell settled in 1833. Obediah Sartwell owned the farm where Seth Hackett settled in 1835, and where he resided until his removal to Emporium, about 1869, while Benjamin Burt, one of the pioneers, resided here until his death, February 28, 1876, in his ninety-seventh year. The old barn belonging to W.J. Davis in 1876, near the cheese factory, was built in 1816 by Benjamin Burt and Daniel Stanton, and the oldest dwelling house, coming down to centennial year, was that in which Owen Coyle resided, William Moore, one of the old owners, being accidentally killed at Cincinnati in 1844.

The first mill on the Portage was that built in 1838 by Luke, John and Harvey Gibson. At that time the family of Horace Barnaby was the only one on the Portage. D. Cornelius and Stephen Rowley operated for some time, until S.A. Backus purchased it. The old mill was burned, but rebuilt for Jacob Coss in 1852 by Nathan Boylan. In 1853 steam machinery and a circular saw were introduced the first time in this township, but in 1856 Mr. Coss removed to a point below Olean, intending to use the water-power there. The building was burned soon after, but a new mill was erected by Fordyce Lawton, who sold to J. Campbell, who sold to A.L. Wright, the owner in 1876. In 1849 David Cornelius and S.S. Lillibridge built the second mill on the Portage, which, in 1873, became the property of L.H. Dolley. J.M. Grimes built the third mill near Liberty depot, which, in 1869, became the property of Ira Weir.

Horace Barnaby, A.P. Barnaby and one Upton were the first settlers on this creek, having opened their farms in 1830. In 1833 Philander Read and Elisha H. Bent were road supervisors. In 1866 John Tallamadge built his mill, later the property of the Goodyears. A.S. Arnold & Co. built the first lath-mill in 1852; A.M. Benton the first shingle-mill in 1855, and John G. Hall the first sash and blind factory in 1866-67. The records of survey around Canoe Place in 1811-12 mention Conrad's mill and Hitt's place, and Robert Gilbert's and John Bell's lots on the Oswayo. In 1817 John King and E.B. Foster surveyed lots on the Portage branch, above Kingsville, near the Strawbridge lands, and at other places. In 1818 surveys in the Rensselaer Wright neighborhood were begun; mention is also made of Jonathan Moore's lot and of Isaiah Tyler's lots.

The resident tax-payers of Liberty township in 1836-37 were Ralph P. Andrews, D. Allard, Henry Bryan, Elisha H. Bent, Dan. Bellows, H. and A.P. Barnaby, J.C. Coleman (now living, saw-mill owner), Horace Coleman, Pete Corsaw, Levi Coats, Hiram Coon, Edward Cummings, John Chase, A. and S.B. Eastwood, John and Horatio Fobes, John R. and Sam Grimes, Ephraim Green, Seth Hackett, Lod. Lillibridge, Isaac and Harry Lyman, Moses Lucore (saw-mill owner), Andrew Moore, William McKee, George McDowell, Solomon Sartwell, Sartwell & Arnold (saw-mill owners), Jacob Simcox, Hubbard and Elisha Starkweather, Daniel Wright (a wheelwright) and B.H. Wilmarth (blacksmith); William Moore was the assessor.

A.M. Benton came into this township in 1846, where he purchased about 3,000 acres of pine lands, and also the N.L. Dike mills above Port Allegany at Burtville, where Hubbard's steam mill now stands. In 1852 Mr. Benton found an old hunter on the Summit, living in a shingled house, who gave his leisure hours to making the spring rivulets flow north, south, east or west. For twenty-six years Mr. Benton continued the fine industry, sometimes employing 100 men on the rafts and in the mills. After the pine era vanished he built a mill below Eldred (the same which is now operated by the Wolcotts) nineteen years ago, which, after thirteen years' use was destroyed, and a new mill was erected. In that mill he continued the hemlock industry for seventeen years, when he sold to the Wolcotts.

A.S. Arnold died at Port Allegany April 1, 1874, aged sixty-seven years. He came to the county in 1833, opened a store at Smethport, moved to Canoe Place in 1836, and joined Solomon Sartwell in his lumber business.

In February, 1847, S.A. Backus had a store, and later H. Coleman was granted a tavern license. In February, 1848, A.M. Benton, L. Wells and Marvin were merchants, and later S.M. Russell. The merchants in 1852 were Arnold, Davis & Medbery, Martin W. Barker (small grocery), A.M. Benton and Johnson Slerozier (small store).

In February, 1885, Peter Brion, of Liberty township, killed a cranberry bear. This animal had long, thin legs, with a long sharp nose and red fur. In May H. Berfield and W. Burlingame captured four black bears in Wharton township, Potter County.

Liberty township in 1880 had a population of 2,029, of which number 731 were credited to Port Allegany village. In 1888 the vote of the township, outside Port Allegany, was 146 Republican, 186 Democratic, 1 Prohibitionist, and 32 United Labor, or a total of 365, which multiplied by five represents a population of 1,825. The officers elected in February, 1890, are as follows: Supervisors, Mart Simar, Henry Lynch; justice of the peace, R.M. Dunbar; constable, W.D. Thomas; collector, John Acre; town clerk, W.R. Franklin; school directors, George Backus, H.R. Meeker; auditor, F.A. Fitch; judge of election, Samuel Grimes; inspectors, John O'Brien, George W. Baxter.

The Methodist Church of Liberty township was incorporated in February, 1854, on petition of Samuel M. Hopkins, James R. Proctor, Nathaniel West, C.B. West, B.M. Pride, S.H. Barrett and J.F. Cone.

The Grimes District Cemetery was incorporated in February, 1881, with Samuel Grimes, Z.J. Sherwood, A. Ostrander and Lester Grimes, directors. Among the other stockholders were S.L. Amidon, D.W. and J.R. Sherwood, C. Ostrander, A. Lewis, L. Burrows and A.D. Freer.

F.H. Goodyear & Co.'s upper mill at Liberty, seven miles southeast of Port Allegany, was destroyed in 1877. The loss was about $9,000…The George D. Briggs steam saw-mill at Liberty depot was burned in April, 1886 - the second destroyed on that site.

The Birch Grove Mills of H. Palmer are located two miles below Port Allegany. There, on August 5, 1889, was organized a branch of the W.C.T.U., with Mrs. H. Palmer, president; Mrs. N. Palmer, vice-president; Mrs. M. Robinson, corresponding secretary; Mrs. S. Proctor, recording secretary, and Mrs. L. Burleson, treasurer.

The Allegheny River, Sartwell Creek and Fishing Creek Improvement Company elected the following named officers in November, 1889: C.E. Hubbard, president; F.E. Rowley, secretary and treasurer; F.H. Arnold, E.P. Dalrymple and C.E. Hubbard, directors, with F.L. Peck and J.H. Steele directors of the Allegheny River Improvement Company. Borough of Port Allegany.

The phenomenal growth within the past few years of this bustling and thriving place has far surpassed even the most sanguine expectations. And this development is due not alone to the vast lumber districts and magnificent farming country surrounding the place, or to its unlimited water-power privileges, but in a very large measure to the well-known enterprise of its solid business men.

Until about the year 1840 the point, which is now the site of Port Allegany, was called "Canoe Place," so named for two different reasons, as handed down by tradition. One is that it was the custom of the aborigines on the Atlantic slope to move up the Susquehanna periodically to what is now Emporium, shelter their canoes there, and march over the divide to the Allegheny river at this point. The other reason advanced is that a number of immigrants came up the Susquehanna river and across the country to this same point, where they erected rude huts and commenced the work of hewing out canoes. In the following spring there came a flood, and the party had to take to their canoes and hurriedly paddle or float away from the scene of danger.

About the close of the first decade of this century pioneer Stanton came into this wilderness and settled on the river bank, where the Red House stood on the W.J. Davis farm. The pioneer was soon joined by another, Foster, and the beginnings of Port Allegany were made.

The first saw-mill was established by Daniel Stanton and Dan. Webber (six rods east of Arnold & Dolley's dam) in 1824. Five years later, Stanton, being sole owner, sold the concern to Gideon Irons, who, in 1832, sold to Solomon Sartwell. In 1835 A.S. Arnold purchased an interest, and with Sartwell continued in business until 1849, when W.J. Davis and C.I. Medbery purchased Sartwell's interests and became Arnold's partners. In 1869 this company sold to F.H. Arnold, E.B. Dolley and C.L. Bellows, the latter going out in 1873.

The first postmaster was Dr. Horace Coleman, who served from 1828 to 1838. During the first few years it bore the name of Keating, then changed to Liberty, but on A.S. Arnold being appointed master in 1838 the present name was conferred. In 1841 William Moore was appointed. He was succeeded in 1843 by J.S. Barrett; he by E. Fitch, in 1847, and in 1849 Dr. Coleman, the pioneer postmaster, was appointed, keeping the office at his house. A short time after S.H. Barrett was appointed, but held the office only three months, when Elihu Starkweather became postmaster. William Wilkin succeeded him in 1853, and served until 1861, when Dr. B.S. Gould was commissioned. Within six months O.D. Coleman was appointed; and shortly afterward Orrin Vosburg, who held the office until succeeded by N.V. Jackson in 1865. In 1869 A.N. Lillibridge was appointed, and in 1873 C.A. Larrabee, who served until succeeded in 1885 by W.J. Davis, the present postmaster. In April, 1888, the office became a presidential appointment

The first school teacher at Port Allegany was Miss Eliza Manning, who taught in the Red House. In 1836 the first school-house was built near the site of the old Starkweather store of 1850.

The old store building which stood near the old tannery was torn down by John Ford in 1875. It was erected about 1850 by Elihu Starkweather, and used by him for store and hotel purposes. Afterward it was successively occupied by Martin Barker, I.W. Bellows & Co., F.W. Tucker & Co., A.M. Benton, for whom T. McDowell was clerk, T. McDowell & Co., McDowell & Dolley, Arnold & McDowell, A.H. Medbery & Co., J.O. White & Co., A.F. Bard & Co., and lastly by the office of the Northern Tier Reporter. On the site is the residence of James Ford.

The editor of the Reporter, reviewing the business of the town in December, 1874, refers to L.H. Dolley's general store building as the oldest mercantile house, being established in 1850. The old building was erected by Johnson & Crozier, but in 1855 A.M. Benton purchased the house, completed the building and opened it that year. In 1860 or 1861 he sold the building to Dolley & Co. In 1850 A.S. Arnold, W.J. Davis and C.I. Medbery, opened the house, which was sold to T. McDowell & Co. in 1868. In 1869 B.C. Gallup established his hardware house, followed in 1870 by A.F. Bard & Co., in the same line, and C.L. Medbery & Son, general merchants. Davis & Simar opened their dry-goods house in December, 1871; Dr. G.H. Goltry, his drug store in 1873; R.B. Rhodes & Son, their furniture house the same year, while Dr. Hogarth and Charles Dolley's drug store, J. Demarest's tailor shop, J.W. Neefe's clothing store, Dalrymple & Humphries' coal and lumber yard, W. Hooker's grocery, C.W. Bishop's bakery, P.A. McDonald's harness hop, A.C. White's book store, C.A. Larrabee's jewelry store, M.A. Lillibridge's clothing and shoe store, and Mrs. Sue Kenny's millinery store were all in existence in 1874. The Mullin House on Main street, the Sartwell House near the railroad, L.B. Bishop and E.D. Slingerland's restaurants, and Lillibridge's and Blackman's meat markets were also here.

The Chapin Tannery, built years ago, may be considered the first manufacturing industry of this district. A.M. Benton purchased the work in 1857. He sold to J.O. White & Co. in 1860-61, who operated it until purchased by John Ford in 1869, and he conducted it until 1884, when work was discontinued. Barrett, Dolley & Co.'s sash, door and blind factory was established in 1873, south of the depot; H.J. Barrett, was sleigh manufacturer; J.H. Sherrill operated the carding mill, and A. Crandell, the iron foundry. The Jewett & Keating Tannery was completed in the fall of 1874, after plans by Henry Jewett, and the dwelling houses were built for the company by Barrett & Dolley. The Hub factory was established in the "seventies."

The population of Port Allegany in 1880 was 731. In 1888 there were 115 Republican, 133 Democratic, 19 Prohibitionist, and 11 United Labor votes cast, or a total of 278 representing a population of 1,668.

Recent fires have destroyed some of the houses named. The fire of June, 1888, destroyed Bard, Dalrymple & Co.'s store; Attorney Colcord's office and Brandon & Dodd's insurance office. The fire of July, 1889, swept away the Durfee photograph gallery owned by L.L. Lillibridge, and the latter's billiard hall and barber shop; Weiper Bros.' Store, then unoccupied, Dolley & Roy's billiard hall, and Hallett's household goods and stock.

The flood of May 31 and June 1, 1889, introduced itself at Port Allegany by rushing down Main street, tearing up side-walks, destroying gardens, and impeding travel - people living above the Mill street bridge being compelled to go over the hill to reach their homes. About 4 o'clock on the morning of June 1, the boom of Arnold & Dolley, near the mouth of the Portage creek, burst asunder, and the logs were hurled with irresistible force through the mill yard of C.E. Grover, and thence among the houses, along the street, and across the Arnold flats to the river below. Several families were driven from their homes by the angry waters, and valuable property was torn up or carried away.


Municipal Matters
- The charter election for Port Allegany borough was held April 4, 1882. C.N. Barrett was elected burgess without opposition, receiving 129 votes; F.D. Leiner, L.H. Dolley, S.G. Peters, received almost unanimous votes for councilmen; C.E. Wright was elected justice; S.S. Lillibridge, high constable; W.M. Royce, constable; C.R. Bard, auditor, K. Hanlon, poormaster; B.C. Gallup, assessor, with V.R. Vanderhule and A.H. Medbery, assistants; A.J. Hughes, C.A. Larrabee, F.P. Camp, A.R. Barnaby, M.C. Field and O.L. Snyder were elected school directors; R.E. Bellows, judge, and O. Vosburg and E.B. Starkweather, inspectors of elections. N.R. Bard was elected burgess in 1883, over P.R. Cotter; O.L. Snyder, in 1884, with H.D. Helmer, justice; H.J. Burritt, in 1885; B.C. Gallup, in 1886-87-88, with C.A. Larrabee, justice; W.L. Lillibridge, in 1889, received 128 votes, and O.E. Goldhagen 96 votes for burgess, and J.E. Rounseville 110, and O. Vosburg 108 votes for justice. In 1885 there were 104 votes for and 90 against the proposed water tax.
The officers chosen in February, 1890, are as follows: Burgess, George Weber; council, J. Dick, S.C. Sartwell; school directors, J.W. Kershner, W.H. Keeney; justice of the peace, William Roy; constable, M.T. Shurtz; collector, M.T. Shurtz; auditor, E.O. Durfee; judge of election, M.J. Dwyre; inspectors, R.E. Roy, John Carlson.

Hose Company. - Star Hose Company No. 1 was organized November 16, 1884, and, unlike former fire companies, entered at once on a successful career. Since organization a State charter has been secured and Star Hose Company No. 1 now owns the building and equipment, and boasts of thirty-five active members. The president is J.V. Otto, with M.A. Lillibridge, vice-president; W.M. Holmes, secretary; N.R. Bard, treasurer; F.E. Rowley, foreman; C.W. Wagner and M.E. Hall, assistants, and B.C. Gallup, chief engineer; directors: F.E. Rowley, J.V. Otto, E.P. Dalrymple, W.W. Rinn and N.R. Bard. Star Hose Company No. 1 attended the State convention of firemen at Carlisle in September, 1889.

Gas and Water
- The Citizens' Gas Company was incorporated in May, 1888, with F.H. Arnold, B.C. Gallup and H.E. Sturcke, directors. The company developed the gas reservoirs of the vicinity and gave to the borough the advantages which gas light and heat can alone give…Gas Well No. 6, at Port Allegany, did not prove profitable, and was abandoned in November, 1889. No. 7 was drilled in the spring of 1890.

In 1885 a complete system of water-works was provided for the village by a stock company with a capital of $20,000, of which Thomas McDowell is president, F.P. Camp, secretary, and J.H. Williams, treasurer. The reservoir is one mile from the town, on Skinner creek, 200 feet above the borough, and is furnished by a pure mountain stream. The water is conveyed to the city through a six-inch pipe. In case any damage should occur to this reservoir the company has another on the other side of town, called Smith's addition, which would supply the people's wants.


Industries
- The Port Allegany Tannery had at the beginning a capacity of 90,000 hides. The grinding house, sixty feet square, had a capacity of fifteen cords of bark per day. Here was the Keystone mill. The leach room was 180x32 feet; the three steam pumps were supplied by Blake & Co., of Boston. The boiler house is sixty feet square, supplied with four large Riter boilers and Hoyt's tan burning ovens. A brick chimney, twelve feet square at the base, is 116 feet high. The beam house and yard building are 92x180 feet, with an "L" sixty feet square. There are six sweat pits, each with a capacity of 200 hides. The dry house is 60x180 feet, five stories in height, with ten feet basement. During the summer of 1886 a building 54x72 feet was erected for a cooling house. It contains twelve large tanks, holding about 250 barrels each, in which the liquor is allowed to cool before being drawn on to the leather in the lay-away vats, to which it is conveyed through wooden pipes by gravity. Another building was erected during the year 1887, 60x126 feet, northwest of the boiler house, for the storage of hides. Here can be stored from 25,000 to 30,000 dry flint hides, of which large stocks are kept on hand. There are employed usually from ninety to 100 men in the various departments of tanning, and in the piling of the bark during the season. The men employed about the tannery live within a short distance, occupying some thirty houses belonging to the plant, as well as nearly as many more owned by the occupants. Not far from 1,000 acres of hemlock timber are annually denuded of bark to supply the needed product for thoroughly tanning the thousands of sides which are turned out each month during the year. No "bark extract" (so called) is used. Of course, so large an establishment must of necessity be a large patron of the railroads, and it is not unusual for the weekly freight bill to amount to $500, and sometimes to more than double that amount. At the beginning of the year 1878 the firm name was changed from Jewett & Keating to that of Root & Keating, which name still remains. Myron H. Paxson was superintendent and John Goodsell foreman till February, 1877, when they resigned and M.C. Field was appointed superintendent and B. Kershner tannery foreman, who still hold the same positions. In the year 1881 Peter Sharp was appointed bark foreman, and in 1885 George H. Kershner was appointed assistant tannery foreman. Mr. Root, a resident of Buffalo, visits the town every two weeks, but beyond a general observation does not interfere with the management. To this company is credited much of the progress of Port Allegany. The members and managers are very liberal in their dealings; their cheerful methods of business, together with their active, earnest interest in local affairs, give them a high place in public estimation.

The American Extract Company purchased lands, made many repairs and additions, and increased the working capacity of their manufactory twenty per cent during the fall of 1889. The works are owned by a Chicago company, for whom B.C. Tabor, a stockholder, is manager.

Arnold & Dolley, F.H. Rowley and A.N. Lillibridge are heavily engaged in the lumber business, as well as V.R. Vanderhule, the latter also having interests in stone quarrying, etc. N.R. Bard of the firm of N.R. Bard & Co., successors to A.M. Benton & Co., is extensively engaged in the lumber business at Roulette, Potter County.

The Hall & Pelton planing and turning mill was erected in the fall of 1889, the building being 28x76 feet and two stories in height…Within the borough and a radius of a few miles are several important lumber manufacturing concerns. Portage creek, Keating and Shippen to the south, and Turtle Point, Sartwell and Larrabee to the north, are all tributary to Port Allegany.

Banks. - The First National Bank was founded in April, 1888, with F.H. Arnold, Henry Hamlin, B.D. Hamlin, A.G. Olmsted, F.H. Root, B.C. Gallup, J.S. Rowley and A.J. Hughes, stockholders. The capital stock was $50,000. The office of this banking company is an elegant modern structure. The officers of the First National for 1890 are F.H. Arnold, president; Henry Hamlin, vice-president; J.S. Rowley, cashier; A.J. Hughes, F.H. Arnold, B.C. Gallup, C.A. Dolley, Henry Hamlin, B.D. Hamlin and F.H. Root, directors.

A local board of the National Savings and Loan Association of Rochester, N.Y., was organized May 27, 1889, with the following named officers: President, N.R. Bard; vice-president, J.H. Williams; secretary, A.J. Hughes; treasurer, F.E. Watts; attorney, R.C. Bard. In 1890 C.C. Ward was elected secretary, and M.J. Colcord, attorney, with A.J. Hughes, N.R. Bard and R.C. Bard, directors.

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contributed by Maureen M. (Buckley) Lee
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