Plover United Methodist Church

150 years 1843-1993

The Methodist Church had its beginnings in England by John Wesley and his brother, Charles Wesley. John, Charles, and their father were Anglican Priests, hence the name, Methodist Episcopal. The Wesleys were very methodical in their approach, so began the name Methodists. Their pastoring began with circuit riding to reach more people with their message.

This same method was used in America as more people came. This is the way our Plover Church began. One minister served the circuit of Keene, Buena Vista, Calkins, Plover, and Neuman as of 1890. As early as 1843 the communities held services in their homes and schoolhouses, as well as the County Courthouse, located in Plover at that time.

In 1861 the Methodists built the first church. The Presbyterians built at approximately the same time. The Methodists built north of the present railroad tracks, a half-block north of the present old church (originally the Presbyterian Church). By 1887 the congregation of the Presbyterians dwindledPresbyterian/Methodist Church. The decision was made to move the old Methodist Church to a site south and east of Plover, where it was known as the Calkins Church. Today that site is known to be on Kennedy Road between Shady Drive and Highway 54 East. The church was torn down in the early 1920’s as records show that Francis Simonds was baptized there in 1919; Ethel Barker and Lawrence Hale were married there in 1918, and Fern Isherwood Carley remembers attending Sunday School there as a child.

The Methodists bought the Presbyterian Church and conducted services there until the present church was built in 1964. The bell, purchased along with the church from the Presbyterians, is the one we hear today in this church. The old church in Plover was sold to a private Individual when the present church was built.

The Portage County Historical Society purchased the old church in 1977. Fortunately the Society was able to have it entered on the National Register of Historic Places by the Secretary of the Interior on March 27, 1980, so it is preserved.

Many of the older people in our church today were the young people in the old church. Memories reach back to the pastoring of Minnie Cliff, pastor from 1929-1934.

In 1932 the decision was made to remodel the church. The existing basement was enlarged to accommodate the crowds who would come for special events, such as the ten-cent suppers, funeral meals, etc. The kitchen was also enlarged at this time, and I believe a well was added so that the kitchen could have running water. Many of the young girls were recruited to serve the meals put on by the Lady's Aid.

One of the social events at this time, probably a fundraiser, and to dedicate the addition was an evening’s entertainment by a former pastor, Reverend Herbert Lane, and WaldoWaldo Calkins 1876-1941
Calkins, a member of the church.

Reverend Lane was an Englishman, directly from England, whose first charge was Plover Buena Vista. He and Waldo became fast friends, keeping in touch even after Reverend Lane left the area.

Taking this friendship into consideration, someone suggested the above evening’s entertainment with Reverend Lane giving: MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF  AMERICANS while Waldo related: MY  FIRST  IMPRESSIONS  OF  AN ENGLISHMAN.

The speeches were given at Isherwood Community Hall as our Plover Church was unable to handle the crowd. The event was a great success.

One of Miss Cliff’s important contributions was Bible School, a two-week intensive study for children. The names of the Books of the Bible were memorized and recited. Donations of canned goods, soap, towels, etc. were brought in and sent to Stanley E. Jones Mission in Africa by the children. Miss Cliff also believed in teaching hymns. One was “Jesus Loves Me” taught in Malayan:

“Ya, Jesu Cose
Ya, Jesu Cose
Ya, Jesu Cose
Da Booga Ponga si”

Isla Miller Booth recalls the story, The Other Wise Man Miss Cliff told at Christmas. Isla says she tells the story to her seven grandchildren every Christmas.

Miss Cliff had been a missionary in Malaya before coming to Plover. She became involved in the community and made many friends here.

When Miss Cliff left, Mr. France, Supply, pastored until 1937. Mr. Abel was pastor for one year, and next was Reverend Thomas, who drew the young people together socially in Epworth League on Sunday nights.

Reverend Marvin Schilling came in 1940 from Korea. (Missionary) His wife, Electa, was a native of Nova Scotia. She had been a Language teacher in Korea, and they met there. They were married in a Korean wedding ceremony just before the ship was to leave for America. They had to hurry to board the ship, where a second marriage ceremony was performed by the ship’s captain.

Their first child was born here, of all times, on a Saturday night. Reverend Schilling was late for church on Sunday, coming directly frog the hospital.

Under Reverend Schilling, Epworth League continued to be an important part of the young people’s lives. Sunday evening was looked forward tc with a time of worship, and an adjournment to the basement for refreshments and games.

During the 1930’s the country was in the depths of the Great Depression. Because of the financial problems and lack of employment for many, the Lady's Aid came up with the idea of ten-cent suppers, to be served in the church basement. Families in the community were asked to bring a covered dish (the potluck) and pay ten cents; thus able to partake of a full meal.

In an interview that Dora Phelps did with Edna and Ralph Yorton in honor of their 52nd wedding anniversary, Edna recalled some of the things that the ladies of the church had done.

She recalled that during the depression they used to go door to door to collect enough to make ends meet in the church. At the end of each May there was a mad rush to make enough money to send the minister to conference. This meant that they had to have the same percent paid on their Conference obligation as they had paid their minister. The Ladies Aid was the main support of the church and so they had to have lots of dinners. She remembered that Mrs. Rose McCormick and she furnished the food and put on a dinner in the Yorton home, and charged 25 cents per person to raise money for the church treasury.

She also recalled that in the old church the choir room was used for the kitchen and the ladies served meals in the vestibule. Later they served their dinners in the Old Town Hall. She remembered the Election Day dinners the ladies put on upstairs in the Old Plover Town Hall. There was no place for the people to eat in town so it was a necessity as well as a way to raise money. They had to haul all of their water from the “Hub Moss” house across the street. They brought their dishes from home in order to cook and serve meals. They were ‘tickled pink’ when the Palace of Sweets Restaurant in Stevens Point replaced their dishes and gave the Plover Church their old chinaware. When the basement of the old church was finished, the ladies really appreciated the large dining room and kitchen it provided.

For many years Memorial Day was celebrated with family members from away coming home to honor their dead. The Methodist Church ladies would put on a big dinner at noon, so families would be able to visit and “break bread” together. It was also a good fundraiser.

Another activity by the good ladies was the Galloping Tea. The women were not in the work force at this time so the Teas were usually scheduled for mornings. One person would start out, pick up others, regardless of their appearance; i.e., robes, curlers, face cream, etc. They would all present themselves at another member’s home to have the tea with refreshments. There was a ten-cent fee for participating.

World War II ushered in many changes. Reverend Schilling left in 1940 with Reverend Harris pastoring until 1943. This was the one-hundredth anniversary of the church. Thanks to Bud and Nila Taylor, we have a newspaper item to share with you, celebrating this anniversary.


Proposal Made for Merger With Church In Buena Vista

The beginning of Methodism in central Wisconsin was recounted Sunday when the Methodist congregation at Plover celebrated its 100th anniversary. Classes in those early days were held in homes, the first of them at Plover, in the summer of 1843, under the guidance of Rev. J. Hurbert, who had come from southern Wisconsin.

Although the Plover church is presently without a pastor, the congregation went right ahead with plans for the observance and carried them out successfully. The last pastor, Rev. Marvin Schilling, left the first of June to accept a pastorate at Oconto Falls. He and four other former pastors returned to take part in the celebration. They are Revs. Herman Thomas of Algoma, Minnie Cliff of Tomahawk, John Kendall of Dayton, 0., and H. J. Lane of Mosinee. Joining in the observance was Rev. T. J. Reykdal of Appleton, the district superintendent, who preached at the morning service.

Anniversary Cake Cut

Since the departure of Rev. Mr. Schilling, the Plover church has been supplied by A. E. Harris of Central State Teachers college faculty. To him fell the honor of officiating at the cutting of a 100th anniversary cake at a dinner in the church basement Sunday noon. To overcome the rationing problem, each family attending contributed a food dish for the meal.

During the program that followed the dinner Julian F. Maxfield, treasurer, who presided as toastmaster, proposed the merger of the Plover church and its sister congregation in Buena Vista, which have been served by the same pastors but have separate flocks and church buildings. The Buena Vistans were guests at the anniversary affair. Divided, the two congregations are small groups and united they would be one larger church, Mr. Maxfield pointed out. The Buena Vista church was built in 1874.

Mr. Harris, whose wife was also introduced, declared that during its 100-year history the church has been a force in helping to build the Plover community. He said he hoped it would be twice as useful during the next hundred years. It is the small church, in the small community, that has the real strength and from which the members go forth into larger fields, he pointed out. As pieces of the cake were passed out, with ice cream, as a dessert course, candles were lighted on individual cup cakes topped with golden-hued frosting. Flowers in golden color and gold streamers decorated the tables. An anniversary booklet, at each place contained a brief history of the church, the names of all of its pastors since 1843, the present officers and the order of the Sunday services.

Pierce Gives Church’s History

An interesting history of the church was given by Leo H. Pierce, its secretary, who obtained some of the information from the State Historical society library at Madison. No written record was found of the very beginning of the church, he said, but the facts were well established from other sources including the early day history of Plover. Portage County, he pointed out, once embraced territory from Columbia county north to Lake Superior. Plover portage was at the crossroads of two important pioneer trails, one extending north from Fort Winnebago and the other east and west linking the Wisconsin and Wolf River areas. Lumbering was just beginning and sites on the Wisconsin River were being dammed. It was in this setting that the Rev. Mr. Hurbert began his pastoral duties just 100 years ago this summer. The county seat was formerly at Plover and the courthouse there was completed in 1849. Three churches of that day used the courtroom for their services.

First Church Built in 1861

The first Methodist church at Plover was erected in 1861. It stood north of the Green Bay & Western railroad right-of-way. In 1887 this church was moved to a rural site on the Calkins property in the town of Plover and was later torn down after serving for a period as Calkins church. Plover Methodist in 1887 purchased the Presbyterian Church south of the tracks, of which the present building is a part. The church was remodeled and rededicated in 1932 when the basement was constructed.

Excerpts from early day Plover newspapers, the Herald, Wisconsin Pinery and Plover Times and Republican, were read by Mr. Pierce and provided interesting links in the early day church history of Plover. The aroused editor of the Times-Republican wrote under date of December 19, 1874: “Some sneak thief last week during Rev. Olcott’s absence at Waupaca stole an axe from his wood pile. Any person who will steal an axe from a member of the gospel would steal the golden hinges off the gates of heaven if he could get his filthy hands on them”. On January 23, 1875, the paper told its readers that the pastor was presented with a new axe by the editor.

Back in 1868 the Methodist congregation struggled with the problem that still confronts some flocks today, supporting the pastor. The editor appealed for aid for the minister, asking for “corn, potatoes, oats, flour, pork, butter, beef, greenbacks or anything else”. “Come along now, every hoof of you,” the appeal concluded. Net proceeds, it was subsequently reported, were $101.17.

Old Bible Still In Use

The Bible which graces the altar of the Plover church is an historical book in its own right, for it was printed in 1816 and given to the church by Rev. J. N. Ward, the pastor in 1849-50. Plover, now without a parsonage, as one is maintained at Buena Vista, purchased a building for parsonage purposes in 1870. In early years Plover had four Protestant churches, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational and Baptist, Mr. Pierce reported. The Methodist church was outfitted with cushions made for the church seats by the women. Financial struggles continued, and revivals were held from time to time.

Introduced as members of the congregation who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries in 1940 were Mr. and Mrs. Frank Altenburg and Mr. and Mrs. Ed. Lee.

All of the visiting pastors were called upon and gave accounts of their experiences while at Plover. Miss Cliff, who holds the distinction of being pastor at Plover the longest period of time, served six years, from 1930 to 1935. She also told of the method of conducting early day Methodist services, recalling it from childhood days when she went with their parents to classes held in the homes of members.

Dr. Gregory Once Janitor

Dr. W. W. Gregory gave an interesting account of early day experiences. He recalled that he was janitor of the church 65 years ago, when the church was on the north side of the tracks. The Methodists used the bell on the present church, then owned by the Presbyterians, and one of his jobs was to ring the bell. Tramps often frequented the church, sleeping on the cushions on the seats, and Dr. Gregory said that he lost no time in scampering out of the church after ringing the bell. He also gave personal comments on a number of the early day pastors that he knew well.

Toastmaster Maxfield emphasized that the 100th anniversary was not only of significance to Plover but was an historical occasion for Methodism in this part of the state, as members of this faith came from miles around to attend the first classes.

Rev. Mr. Kendall, a retired army chaplain, who is still in the Wisconsin conference although residing in Ohio, recalled many humorous incidents. He stressed the community spirit that has prevailed at Plover where he was pastor from 1913 to 1917. Rev. Mr. Lane, who preceded Mr. Kendall, in 1912, told of coming to Plover from the heart of London, England. He recalled taking the train to Arnott and walking from there to the Buena Vista church. Rev. Mr. Thomas, at Plover from 1938 to 1940, recalled that he arrived during a downpour of rain and that five feet of water stayed in the church basement until December 12. While ill, he heeded the advice of Leo Pierce, he said, after Pierce saw on his dresser the picture of his future wife. He was advised to go and get her so she could take care of him.

The district superintendent, Rev. Mr. Reykdal, emphasized that the laymen are the ones who make the church what it is.

Others introduced included Mrs. Leo H. Pierce, organist, Mrs. W. W. Gregory, Mr. and Mrs. H. D. Boston, Mrs. Herman Thomas and Mr. and Mrs. Norman Bush of Milwaukee.

150 Persons Attend

The celebration and services were attended by 150 persons, including a number of guests. The observance was concluded with a vesper service Sunday afternoon led by Rev. Mr. Schilling. An historical display of pictures and documents in the front of the church attracted interest.

Officers of the church are: Custodian, Elmer Dakins; communion stewardess, Mrs. Dakins; treasurer, Julian Maxfield; secretary, Leo H. Pierce; organist, Mrs. Pierce; president of Women’s Society of Christian Service, Mrs. George Cartmill; vice president, Mrs. Harry Pram; treasurer, Mrs. Harry Babcock; secretary, Mrs. Ralph Yorton; superintendent of Sunday school, Harry Engford; secretary and treasurer, Mrs. O. D. Hilmer; organist, Miss Florence Engford.

Many young people were serving with the military and older people were called upon to fill in. Reverend John Kendall, who had been the minister from 1914-1917, returned. He had been called into service in 1916 in World War 1, continuing with the military as a Chaplain, and serving in the Philippines. He was retired, but came back as the minister from 1943-1948.

Reverend Minnie Cliff returned for one year, 1948-1949. It is presumed she had retired prior to this time.

The 1960’s brought a new era. Plans were made to build a new church as the old church was becoming crowded, heating was a problem, as were adequate restrooms. The decision was made to build the new church at its present location. Consecration Day, September 5, 1965 marked the beginning of life in the new church. Reverend Arland C. Averill was the pastor.

In 1975 Reverend Paul Nulton became pastor. The story goes that the church choir had a celebration of music the first Sunday Reverend Nulton was here. He surprised and delighted everyone with his producing a guitar, playing and singing Rubber Ducky.

In 1982 the church was paid for and the one hundred fortieth year of the church was celebrated.

The year 1982, also saw an addition, nearly doubling the size of the church, completed.

In 1988, under the direction of the Reverend’s Kevin and Marjorie Rice-Meyers, Plover and Buena Vista churches were merged into the Genesis Parish with the addition of Amherst United Methodist Church.

In January, 1992, Plover United Methodist Church voted to become a single church, and began this step in July, 1992.

Thus, one hundred fifty years brings us to this date in 1993. From meeting in member’s homes, courthouse; changes of locations, and finally in our Church Home today, there have been so many changes. The church history reflects the changes in the community and the world at large. Our people have changed as the generations have passed, but the same spirit is evident.

Pastor Terry Hettenbach is our present minister, coming to us in July 1992. She lives in the parsonage with her three children, Jaime, Gerald and Matthew.

Additional History

We are indebted to Mrs. May McKinney Dietrich, great-great granddaughter of J.N. Ward, second pastor of Plover Methodist Church in 1849-laso. She has provided us with material which gives us an insight into community life at that time. This was the time of Circuit Riders, meetings held in homes, in the County Courthouse (located in Plover, then the County seat), and people who were building the area.

Mrs. Dietrich’s great-grandmother was Isabella Ward, daughter of J.N. Ward. Isabella married Alanson (Alonzo) Bean. Mr. Bean was the son of Thomas Goodrich Bean, a lumberman, who was a leading figure in the community.

The Bean family has a genealogy from which some excerpts are given here.

ELIPHALET BEAN b. 1799, Burlington, Vt., d. 7-28-1854, Jericho, Vt., m. 1st, 1331, Jericho, Vt., Minerva Whitmarsh, b. 1799, d. 4-12-1839, Jericho, Vt., the daughter of Oliver and Olive (Weed) Whitmarsh. Oliver was the son of Thomas. He m. 2nd, 6-9-1840 Jericho, Vt. (The Rev. Isaiah Huntley) Lydia (Field) Wright, b. 1807, Jericho, Vt., d. 8-17-1873, Plover, Wis. By his 1st m. he had 2 ch., by the 2nd, 4. All b. at Jericho, Vt. After his death Lydia moved west to Plover, Wis. with her son, Oliver. They lived close to the Cemetery and she liked to walk there occasionally. On the date of her death she made this trio and returned home to feed the chickens in the yard, after which she sat down on the porch. When Oliver returned from the field he found her dead. She evidently traveled west alone from Jericho, Vt. in 1855, her husband dying the year before and her son, Oliver, already living at Plover, Wis. She arrived at Plover on Sept. 16th, 1855. The following day she wrote to her step-dau., Minerva, in Jericho, telling of her safe trip.

Sept. 17th, 1855, Plover, Wis.

Dear Daughter,

I have finally arrived here last night at twelve o’clock. I was hindered at Chicago eight hours on account of our baggage not keeping up. I made arrangements intending to stop at Arena but did not get on the right boat or something was the matter. Perhaps I did not understand the way. I am very sorry I am such a bungler in traveling but it can’t be helped now as I know I shant tell any more now. You may better believe I am glad I got off that Stage for it is awful in a dark night. My journey was very pleasant before Wed. Eve. If you can read this you are a scholor. (scribbled writing)

Lydia Bean

All of the family did not move west to Wis. but remained at Jericho, Vt. There was considerable writing back and forth between brothers and sisters. From these letters, still in existence, we discover a very fine relationship in the family that is very heartwarming. Here is one written by Oliver to his sister, Minerva, 2 years before she was married. His cousin, Alanson, adds a line too.

Plover, Wis.
Sept. 22. 1857

Dear Sister,

I now seat myself to answer your letter. The weather has been very cold and rainy for two or three days. I go to school. We have a very good school. And the scholars like the school first rate and the teacher likes the scholars. You wanted to know where I went the 4th of July. I went to the Town of Plover but stayed only half a day. They had drumming and Marching. Soloman has gone to Arena 150 miles from the Point. He started last Tuesday. Kiss little Eva for me. This from your affectionate brother, Oliver W. Bean.

Dear Cousin,

As Oliver has been writing to you and left a plenty of room I thought that I would write a few lines to you. I don’t know but you will think that I am going to far but you will excuse me I trust. The folks are all well. I am at school now. I am going to Burlen to school this winter. It is in Ohio. 15 dollars a year for schooling, 12 shillings a week for board and ten dollars a quarter for music. There is 1216 scholars there. We are having good weather now you must excuse my writing and I will write better next time. Yours Truly from your friend and cousin. Alanson B. Bean To Miss Minivry Bean

To give us an idea of Circuit Riding, Mrs. Dietrich has provided us with excerpts from a book (title not given) which gives us the diaries of a Mr. Mar3h, who was the Circuit Rider.

Here, it seems, the democratic process was at work at the grass roots level, at the same time at the highest level of the American experience. It was in men like Marsh, far from the centers of power, that Americans learned to establish order and accept a political process that assured the rule of law and continuity of order. Ironically, most European immigrant, and even Yankee migrants to the western frontier, learned to conduct a parliamentary meeting not at a town meeting, but in church, the pastor almost invariably being elected chairman because he had a rudimentary knowledge of these matters.

Sarah Elizabeth Marsh donated her father’s diaries to the State Historical Society in 1916, while living in Chicago, where she apparently died in 1927 and was brought back to Waupaca for burial. While her father was still at the Indian Reservation, he or his assistants had used a conch, or large shell, an old New England device. to call the parishioners together for worship services. (It was cheaper than a bell!) This relic was donated by Sarah to the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia.

The records in Waupaca Court House show that a year after the death of her father. Sarah Marsh disposed of his property at a sheriff’s sale. In other words, this man of God who had labored without stint or favor to his own body or his family, had died without funds. There were no pensions for pastors in those days and all too many of them died in poverty, neglected by cruel fate.

The diary begins on November 2, 1849 at “Stephens Point” (his spelling) and carried through to 1853. By the end of 1853 there was a newspaper in Waupaca, the WAUPACA SPIRIT, and early in 1853 the first weekly in Stevens Point, THE WISCONSIN PINERY, came off the press. Marsh’s diaries are therefore a source of information on pioneers, places and events unavailable in any other source in central Wisconsin prior to 1853. He includes names of people he has met or visited, usually with a surname only. Complete identification of these names has not been possible. This was a fluid society, with people on the move and often lost to census enumerators. Where no identification has been made, or where the spelling is in doubt, a question mark in parenthesis is used after the name or the word. And instead of the several ways that the diarist refers to the day of the month, liberty has been taken to enter the dates in a somewhat consistent pattern.

The long entries in the diary on the trip Marsh made from Stevens Point to Wausau in 1849, are quite confused. He apparently made these entries several days or even weeks after the fact, and his mind wanders back and forth between this place and that, repeating over and over again the several species of trees he observes, and jumping back and forth in his enumeration of the many sawmills he either saw or heard about. The entry of November 2, 1849, from Stevens Point, now begins:

After conversing with the old lady before mentioned, Mrs. Gibson (?) (I) read the fifth chapter of Corinthians and prayed with her. Left with her the tract “The Prayer Meeting at Forty Years.”

In the p.m. called upon a Mr. Bean’s family. Mrs. Bean a member of the Methodist church (and while) there (I) met a Mrs. McGlaflin (?) a Wesleyan Methodist from Illinois, on her way with her husband to the Big Bull Rapids. She mentioned that she had a brother by the name of More once a Methodist preacher, but now disbelieves there is a God.

Called upon a shoemaker Harris, (?) formerly from Woodstock, Vermont, denies moral agency, and he believes (Page missing)

Saturday p.m. went out six miles to visit a Mr. McGreer’s family. (A pioneer lumberman on the Plover River at Jordan, Portage County). Mr. and Mrs. McGreer, born in Ireland, were trained in the Roman Catholic and Protestant religions. Has been living where he now is ten years. Has a saw mill which he keeps running all the time, night and day. His wife was a member of the Methodist church in lower Canada. Himself a frank. open-hearted man, but irreligious. His wife acknowledged with tears that she had backslidden, but said she had resolved to return and do her duty. Proposed prayers. She voluntarily offered to call the men in and went out and all hands, six or seven, came in. I read the last part of 25 Matthew, made some remarks, and prayed with them. All were silent and respectful. The Lord Jesus blessed the interview to all present.

Mr. Corkins (?) teaches at the county seat, thinks there are 200 inhabitants at the county seat (Village of Plover), and 250 or more at Stephens Point. Said when he numbered the children the first of September, there were over forty between the ages of four and twenty years and that as many as ten had come in since. He says also that the pinery has improved two hundred percent within five or six years.

Fourth Sabbath. Preached twice at Stephens Point. In the morning, attendance better than in the afternoon. I heard the low, heavy sound of the ball rolling in the alleys almost all day (probably ten pins). Saw the carpenter and the joiner work with his tools, and business going on by many as though it had been a weekday.

As I passed one of the alleys, saw a dozen or more about the door, and as I left the village to go to the county seat, heard them quarreling. When I arrived at the county seat, I ascertained that my notice had not been received which I sent down the day before. Heard of a prayer meeting at Mister Ulines (?) and attended. Was invited to lead the meeting as the minister, Reverend Mr. Ward, (Methodist), had not returned from his afternoon appointment.

Read the seventh chapter of Luke. Always pray and not faint. Room full and solemn. A number of prayers were offered. It indeed seemed good to attend a prayer meeting on such grounds. Passed the night at Mr. Ulines. Mr. Corkin, school teacher, boarded there.

Nov. 5, Monday. Set off about 9 o’clock to go up the river. Dr. Morrison and John L. More set out also from the Little Bull Falls. The country the first part of the way covered with shrubbery and small trees. Most of the way sandy until we arrived at Du Bay’s trading post 18 miles from Stephens Point. This is delightfully situated upon the banks of the river. At this place they are high. Only three families at this place. One American. A man at DuBay said that it was 90 miles from that place up to the head of the river. (i.e. Wisconsin)

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