Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

Radnor Township




Est. Nov. 6, 1849
Name changed from Benton to Fremont and then to Radnor (dates unknown, probably 1850).
Towns/Villages: (Orange Prairie 1875)Radnor, Dunlap was Inc. Nov. 3, 1951
Minerals/Coal Mines: Evans' mill
Rail Roads: Peoria
Water Ways: Kickapoo Creek
Other: Fango Run


Radnor Township History  [from "The History of Peoria County, Illinois; Johnson & Co., 1880.  Transcribed by Karen Seeman]
Radnor Township History [
From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.]


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Looking over the past for a period of sixty years we are filled with amazement at the changes that have taken place. Then the deer and wolves were plenty and prairie chickens were common game. Steam power was in its infancy, the telegraph and the telephone were unknown, electricity as a mechanical power had not been dreamed of, and weeks, or even months, were consumed in traveling a distance now accomplished in a few hours or days at the farthest. Of this the early settlers of Radnor, who came mostly from New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and other Eastern States, had a rich experience, many of them coming overland by emigrant wagons, consuming weeks in making the journey. One of the earliest, if not the first settler in the township, was Erastus Peet, who came in 1834. His little daughter of four years, having become lost, and a fire having swept over the prairie in the night time, she perished in the flames and her body was discovered the next day. Robert Cline came in 1835, from Oswego County, New York, and, after remaining two years at Hale's Mill, settled on Section 35, and two years later on Section 13. He was killed by lightning on April 21, 1849. William Gifford, who came from Barnstable, Massachusetts, in 1836, erected the first frame house, on the south half of Section 28. Moses Harlan settled on Section 22 in the same year. He was County Commissioner in 1838, and two years in the Legislature, 1838-40. His son, George B. Harlan, settled on Section 2 in 1836. He was a Justice of the Peace for some years and a member of the Board of Supervisors for one or two years, besides holding other local offices. William Knott settled on Section 26 in the same year; also John L. Wakefield, who came from Butler County, Ohio, to Peoria County in 1834, but settled on Section 18 in Radnor in 1836. Aaron G. Wilkinson and his brother, Abner Russell, Calvin Blake, Charles, Richard and George Wilkins, Anson Bushnell and his brothers, Horace and Alvin, Thomas Shaw, James ————— and his brotherin-law, Griffith Dickinson, all came about the year 1837.

About the same time Alva Dunlap came on a prospecting tour from Sandy Creek, Oneida County, New York, and, having become satisfied with the place, returned the next season (1838) with his family. Leaving his home on the 11th day of August, with his father and mother, five children and a sister, he, with his brother, the writer, embarked at Sackett's Harbor on a little schooner of about one hundred tons for Chicago. Leaving his mother and sister, with a daughter residing at Chicago, for another trip, the rest of the party proceeded in wagons, which had been previously engaged, arriving at their destination on the northwest quarter of Section 14 on the 11th day of October, and took up quarters in a frame house, 16x24 feet, which Alva had erected the preceding summer from lumber hauled from Hale's Mill, then recently erected. Their nearest neighbor was an Englishman named John Jackson, a bachelor of about thirty years, with a lad of about fourteen years named George Scholes, "keeping bach" on the northeast quarter of Section 15. Jackson had arrived in 1837 and had broken part of his land, on which he raised a crop in 1838. Ira Smith, a native of Hampden, Maine, who had been a sea captain, had also come in 1837, and had paid Chloe Case $50 for a claim on the northeast quarter of Section 3, which he entered and afterwards, in 1849, sold to Adam Yates for $3,000. He was a very worthy man, an old-line Abolitionist, and believed in the Golden Rule. He removed to Peoria and went into the lumber trade.

J. J. Hitchcock, with his aged parents, had also settled on the northwest quarter of Section 3 in 1837. In the winter of 1838 he went with Alva Dunlap to Chicago, and assisted him in bringing the remainder of the goods, together with his mother and sister, to the new house. The country, at that time. was an unbroken prairie, and what houses there were were scattered along the streams and in the edges of the timber. On the larger prairies one could travel a whole day without seeing a house. The scarcity of timber for fuel, fencing and building purposes was a serious matter with the early settlers, and, if one could get hold of a piece of timber land, ;he was considered fortunate; and woe to him who having secured one would go off without leaving some one to guard it, for on his return he would likely find it all stumps. No one thought lumber could be shipped here in sufficient quantities to supply the needs of these vast prairies. Coal had not yet .been developed to any considerable extent. Saw mills were erected along the streams, where there was timber and water with sufficient fall to obtain power. But the lumber secured in that way was very unsatisfactory for building purposes. When the Osage Orange was introduced for hedges, it was thought to be a great advance in the matter of fencing; but now, since the introduction of barbed wire, the Osage Orange is no longer planted and farmers would be glad to be rid of what they have. Jonathan Brassfield took two loads of wheat to Chicago and brought back finishing lumber. Several others tried the same experiment, but no one went the second time. When the canal was opened in 1848 it brought great relief to those living within reach of the river. Timber is much more plentiful now than it was sixty years ago. Then it was short and scrubby on account of the fires; after that was cut off and the fires kept away from the new growth it became thrifty. Coal became the principal fuel and the inhabitants ceased, in a great measure, the use of wood for either fuel or fencing. But for the last few years many prefer to have the land for farming purposes, and are cutting off the timber, selling the wood so cheaply that the people are again using it for fuel.

As the population increased the deer disappeared, but the wolves remained and are not yet entirely extinct, an occasional one venturing out from its hiding place. As corn fields increased the prairie chickens also increased, for a time into large flocks, and became very destructive to the corn, which, according to the custom of the country, was left in the field over winter; but when the prairies had become settled up and their nesting places invaded, they began to decrease in numbers until now they are nearly extinct. The rattle-snake was a common pest in breaking up the native sod, and was often encountered by the plowman. They were not considered dangerous, as they made their presence known by their rattle and were easily disposed of. Cattle instinctively avoided them, but were sometimes bitten by them, which caused severe swellings, but seldom, if ever, death. They disappeared when the land became cultivated.

After the opening of the canal pine lumber in quantities began to make its appearance, the coal banks began to supply fuel and the people began to lose their fear of settling upon the broad prairies. The big prairie team, with four or five yoke of oxen and the huge breaking-plow, rapidly turned over the native sod; houses rapidly sprang up in all directions and a wave of prosperity seemed to have struck the country. The light steel-plow introduced by Tobey & Anderson, of Peoria, took the place of the wooden moldboard and heavy cast-iron plow brought from the East. The reaper took the place of the back-breaking cradle; the Brown corn-planter did away with planting by hand; the thresher, with its simple cylinder throwing straw, chaff and grain out together, displaced the flail and the tramping-floor, only to be displaced in its turn by the separator, which also took the place of the Nurse or Proctor tanning-mill formerly in use; the single shovel-plow, doing duty with one horse traveling first upon one side of the row and back on the other, was superseded by the two-horse riding or walking cultivators. The complete outfit for husking corn was one team, two men and a boy taking five rows, the team, and wagon treading down the middle one, which was the boy's share to pick up.

The first reaping machine known in Radnor —and perhaps in the county—was owned by Alva Dunlap, and was built by George Greenwood of Peoria. It was so constructed as to throw the cut grain directly back the width of the swath, which had to be bound up before the next swath could be cut. It did clean work and he used it for several years in cutting his own and his neighbor's grain. It was built about the year 1846, only seven years after Cyrus H. McCormick gave the first exhibition of his reaper on the farm of Joseph Smith, in Augusta County, Virginia. The next was a McCormick—the grain being raked off on one side. This was followed, in a few years, by the self-raker; and in about twenty years by the self-binder. Through these improvements the hard labor of eight men was done away with, and the women of the household were relieved of the labor of boarding a large number of men during the heat of the harvest time. Before that time harvest hands would begin in the South, where the season was earlier, and work their way northward as the grain ripened. These traveling men were thrown out
of employment by the self-binding reaper.

About the year 1839 experiments were made by Aaron Bushnell, J. J. Hitchcock and Alva Dunlap in making sod fences, consisting of a ditch two and a half feet wide by the same in depth, and an embankment on the side protected by the sods cut from the ditch. But the theory would not hold good in practice, for the cattle, getting into the ditch, would have a fine frolic in tossing the sods out of the place with their horns and so destroying the fence.

One of the serious problems with the farmers was to get their products to market. In the spring of 1841 John Jackson built two flat-boats and loaded them with ear-corn and bacon, for the purpose of coasting along the Mississippi and selling to the planters and negroes. As was customary, they were floated with the current. They had long sweeps or oars to guide them and keep them off the snags. To build them two large trees would be found (generally hackberry), which were hewn flat for the sides, and planks spiked on the bottom, the ends sloped like a scow. The roof, or deck, was made of boards sawed thin enough to bend across the boat, and thus make an arched roof. The crews of these famous boats were John Jackson, Elisha Barker, John Peet, Warren Hale, William Harlan and Napoleon Dunlap. The two latter went as far as Natchez, but, concluding they had had enough of the life of boatmen, they begged off and returned by steamer, working their way by helping to take on wood at the wood-yards along the way.

The first election in Radnor was held at the house of Alva Dunlap in 1842. It was then Benton Precinct, composed of Radnor and Kickapoo townships. An election had previously been held in the woods in Kickapoo, north of where the village now is. At this election in Radnor Smith Dunlap, father of the writer, was elected Justice of the Peace, and continued to serve in that capacity until the adoption of township organization. The first annual town meeting of the Town of Benton (afterwards named Radnor) was held at the residence of Jonathan Brassfield. Alva Dunlap was chosen Moderator and Nathaniel T. A. Shaw, Clerk; Jonathan Brassfield was elected Supervisor; Nathaniel T. A. Shaw, Town Clerk; Lewis Harlan, Assessor; Jonathan Brassfield, Griffith Dickinson and William Wilkinson, Commissioners of Highways; Phineas R. Wilkinson, Collector; Lorennes Shaw, Overseer of the Poor; George B. Harlan and Smith Dunlap, Justices of the Peace; John M. Hendricks and Phineas R. Wilkinson, Constables. Fifteen dollars were appropriated for contingent expenses and fifty dollars for road purposes.

The only Post Office in the township before the building of the Rock Island and. Peoria Railroad, was kept by Enoch Huggins on Section 35. The mail was carried from Peoria three times a week. This office did not continue long. There was a mail-route from Peoria by way of La Fayette, through Medina and Akron, but most of the people received their mail at Peoria until the building of the railroad. In the first settlement of the country the wagon-road took a straight course from Mt. Hawley to Princeville; but, as the prairie became settled, every one would turn the travel around his own land, but was anxious to have it go straight through his neighbor's. An attempt was once made to open up a State Road from Peoria to Rock Island, but the opposition to its going diagonally through the farms was so great it had to be given up.

Mary J. Peet, who was burned to death on the prairie, was the first person to die in the township, and Henry Martin the next, on November 10, 1836, John Harlan was the first child born, October, 1836, and died February 1, 1847. The first school was taught in the summer of 1840 by Miss E. R. Dunlap, in a little frame house built on the northwest quarter of Section 13 in 1837 by a man who committed suicide, and it was never occupied except for schools or other public purposes. Horace Bushnell taught a singing school in it the same summer. The next summer Miss Dunlap taught in another vacant log house on the northwest quarter of Section 13. The first attempt to organize the school system was in December, 1841. Charles Kettelle, School Commissioner, then surveyed and laid off the School Section (16) into forty-acre lots, and had them appraised and offered for sale. Cyrus W. Pratt bid off three of these lots for $170. He made no payments, but gave a mortgage for the price with interest at twelve per cent. After making two or three payments of interest he failed to make any more, and the land reverted. About the same time trustees were appointed and Peter Auten was made the first School Treasurer. At their first meeting, April 4, 1842, they laid off the town into six districts and resolved that, inasmuch as the money in the treasury was depreciated paper of the State bank, and believing that it would recover its former value, the Treasurer should loan the same at par with interest at twelve per cent.—conditioned that money of the same bank might be received in payment of the loans.

The same winter, or in the early spring, a log school-house was built on Section 13, in which Anna McKnight and Sarah D. Sanford taught, and William Gifford in the winter of 1843. The school-house was then moved to Section 22, on the wood-lot now owned by George B. Taylor. This was as near the center of the town as the condition of the ground would permit. Within a radius of two miles there were ten or twelve large families. They were in the woods or near the edge of the timber. Their cultivated fields were along the Kickapoo bottoms or near the edge of the prairies—the object at that time being to get where they would be sure of having timber. There was much strife in locating the school-houses, and they were frequently moved to get them to the most central point. In 1842 there were three school-houses built; the one just mentioned, a small frame on Section 2, and a log one on the northeast ;quarter of Section I. The first teacher in the last named was Catharine J. Jamison, who began on May 10, 1842, her school consisting of seven Blakesleys, five Wakefields, four Chapins, three Van Camps, two Gordons, two Rogerses, one each of Hall, Gilkinson, Hatfield and Slaughter. The Directors who signed her certificate were Parley E. Blakesley and Joseph Chapin. The next term was taught by Deborah L. Woodbury, the same year. In 1843 a man by the name of Elisha Barker taught in a log school-house on Section 22, built in 1842. In the winter of 1843-44 William Gifford taught in the same house.

Early in the spring of 1842 a small frame school-house was built on the southeast quarter of Section 2 by voluntary labor, of lumber sawed at the mill of Robert Bette's and William Bruzee on the creek in Section 23, a dry place now for a saw mill. Miss Margaret Artman taught there in 1842, her patrons being Ira Smith, J. J. Hitchcock, Anson Bushnell and his sons Alvan and Horace, Samuel and William Seely, William Moore, O. L. Nelson, Ira Hitchcock and ————— Goodell.

At the January (1843) meeting of the Board of Trustees, schedules of the following teachers were approved and the Treasurer ordered to pay them their respective shares of the interest arising from the School, College and Seminary Fund, viz.: District No. I, Margaret Artman; No. 2, Catharine J. Jamison and Deborah L. Woodbury; No. 3, Anna McKnight, Sarah D. Sanford and William Gifford, Jr. William Gifford received for three months, $40; Deborah L. Woodbury, for two months, $10.50; Catherine J. Jamison, for two months, $10; E. B. Dunlap, for three months, $24. The custom was to "board around."

The office of Trustee having now became elective, Griffith Dickinson, Horace Bushnell, Joseph Chapin, Jonathan Brassfield and Nelson Bristol were the first to be elected, Trustees before then having been appointed.

A new valuation of the lands was made in 1845, when all the lots except four were valued at $1.25 per acre, two of the others at $1.50, and one each at $1.75 and $2.00. Between that time and May 22, 1847, they were sold at various prices, realizing, in the aggregate, $1,471.10.

No sooner was the free-school law in operation than the Trustees began to act under it. On April 26, 1855, they ordered the Treasurer to levy a tax of ten cents on the hundred dollars for general school purposes, and five cents for paying teachers and extending terms of school. The valuation of real estate for 1854 was $141,430, and of personal property $54,592; total, $196,022. This was the first attempt to sustain free schools by taxation.

The village of Dunlap was laid out on June 12, 1871, on Section n by Alva Dunlap. Dr. John Gillette erected the first building in 1871. It stands opposite the railroad depot, and is now owned by B. C. Dunlap. It is a thriving village of three hundred inhabitants and is situated on the Rock Island and Peoria Railroad. It has six stores, two grain elevators, three churches and an Odd Fellow Hall, and a graded public-school building, erected in 1899 at a cost of $4,000. District No. 4, in which it is situated, has one hundred children of school age, of whom over eighty were in attendance in 1899.

The history of Prospect Presbyterian Church, now located at Dunlap, furnished one of the marked features, not only of Radnor Township but of Peoria County. In the year 1848 and 1849, a number of families from the Pan Handle section of what is now the State of West Virginia, settled in the townships of Akron and Radnor, and at first connected themselves with the church at Princeville; but. owing to the distance, of four to nine miles, and the fact that others were following them from their old home in the East, they decided to ask the Presbytery for a separate organization, which request was granted. Rev. Addison Coffee, of Peoria, Rev. Robert Breese, of Princeville, and Elder Henry Schnebly, of Peoria, as a committee of Presbytery, met the congregation on June 8, 1850, in the schoolhouse where they had been accustomed to worship, when the new church was organized with fifteen members, namely: From the Princeville Church, Joseph Yates, Sr., and Mary his wife, John Yates, Sr., and Eleanor his wife, Samuel Keady and Eleanor his wife, Thomas Yates and Mary his wife, John Hervey and Sarah his wife, and Mrs. Margaretta Yates; from the Church of West Alexandria, Pennsylvania, David G. Hervey and Jane his wife; and from the church of West Liberty, Virginia, Adam Yates and Sarah his wife. Their first house of worship, a frame building, 36x48 feet, costing $1,400, erected on a lot, containing about seven acres donated by Adam Yates, was dedicated in June, 1854. When the Rock Island & Peoria Railroad was built, and the village of Dunlap laid out one mile south of the location of the church, the meeting place was removed to the village and a new church edifice erected at a cost of $5,100. The lots on which the church stands are 150 feet square. The old church was torn down and the land on which it stood added to the church cemetery, and the same is now known as Prospect Cemetery. In 1867 a parsonage was purchased at a cost of $3,000; but in 1878 it was sold and a new parsonage was erected at a cost of $1,700 on lots 100x150 feet adjacent to the village, donated by David G. Hervey. The following are the names and dates of pastorates of those who have served the congregation: Rev. David Hervey (stated supply), 1850-51; Rev. John Turbitt, 1853-55; Rev. Thomas F. Smith (stated supply), 1856-57; Rev. George Cairns, 1858-63: Rev. J. A. E. Simpson (stated supply). 1864-66; Rev. A. S. Gardner, 1866-71; Rev. John Winn, 1872-77; Rev. Silas Cooke, 1877-00; Rev. H. V. D. Nevins, D. D. (supply), 1891- 92 ; Rev. Harry Smith, 1893-96: Rev. R. C. Townsend, 1896 to the present time (1902).

Besides these, the congregation was served for short periods by Rev. Robert R. Breese and Rev. James K. Large. Two died in the service: Rev. James K. Large, March 18, 1858, and Rev. George Cairns, June 25, 1863. Their remains repose side by side in Prospect Cemetery; and near by is the grave of Mrs. Mary Winn, wife of Rev. John Winn. the pastor, and daughter of Mrs. Phoebe Hinsdale Brown, the author of that exquisite hymn, "I love to steal awhile away," etc.

Mrs. Brown died at Henry, Illinois, October 10, 1861.

The spiritual power which this church has exerted cannot be better shown than in the number of its members who have gone into the ministry, including the following: Rev. George Dunlap, 1875; Rev. Thomas C. Winn, Missionary to Japan; Rev. William Jones, California; William Y. Jones, the son of the latter, Missionary to Japan; William Ayling, Kansas, Minister in the United Brethren denomination; Franklin Brown, Idaho—six in all.

From June 8th to 10th, 1900, this church celebrated its semi-centennial anniversary in a series of exercises of the most interesting character, a full account of which has been published in a small pamphlet of seventy-four pages. This publication, abounding as it does in rich historical facts and sprightly reminiscences, is worthy of a permanent place in the historical relics of the county.

The Methodists held services in this township as early as 1840. Before there were any school-houses the circuit riders held meetings at private houses. Their first church was built in the year 1860, about one mile west of where the village of Alta now is. It was called the Glendale Church. Its principal members were Wesley Smalley and George Divelbiss. In its pastoral relations it was connected with Kickapoo and Mount Heddining, in Hallock. After the village of Alta was laid out, the church was moved to that place, which is situated in Medina Township, the pastor making his home in Kickapoo.

In 1885 the church was built in Dunlap under the direction of the Rev. Webber, and the pastoral residence was changed to Dunlap. The church at Dunlap still remains in connection with the church at Alta. It has a membership of about one hundred.

In the year 1865 the Methodists built a church called the "Salem Church" on the northwest quarter of Section 16. near the school-house. The leading members of this church organization were Wesley Strain, A. J. Gordon and John Jackson. After ten or fifteen years it was abandoned for want of support on account of removals and deaths. The house was sold and another built on Section 18, near the line of Jubilee Township, called Zion Church, which is now connected with Kickapoo in its pastoral relations. The leaders in starting this church were William Rowcliffe and Daniel Corbett. The membership is small.

The Catholics have a strong church in Radnor called the St. Rose Catholic Church. Their church edifice was erected in the fall of 1879 by John Horine. The congregation contains many of the leading citizens of the place.

From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.




Radnor Township History

[Town Ten North, Range Seven East]

In early times the territory included in this township was attached to Kickapoo precinct for election and other purposes. Under the law providing for township organization, the name Radnor was proposed for this municipality by Evan Evans, the first supervisor, after Radnor, Pennsylvania, and Radnorshire, Wales, the home of his ancestors, and the name was adopted.

To a man named Miller is ascribed the honor of building and occupying the first cabin in this township. The Miller cabin was probably built about the latter part of 1832, or early part of 1833; and until 1835, if he remained here that long, he was "monarch of all he surveyed." In 1835, a number of persons came and founded homes.

Erastus Peat, Griffith Dickison, and some other members of the Dickison family, were the next settlers after Miller, but the date of their settlement is not easily accessible. They probably came bout 1834-5. John L. Wakefield moved over from Kickapoo township about 1835-6, and located on section 18, his present home. George D. Harlan, the Dunlaps, Calvin Blake, Griffith Dickison, Daniel Corbet, Elihu Pratt, Daniel Robinson, Robert Cline, Jedediah Hitchcock, Moses Harlan, William Gifford, and Harvy Stillman, came in 1837.

The first precinct election was held at the house of Alva Dunlap, on the northwest quarter of section 14. Richard Scholes is reported as the first justice of the peace. The first couple married was George McMillan and Miss Phoebe Hill. The first birth was in the family of Henry Martin, on the southeast quarter of section 35, in 1836. The first death was that of Henry Martin the same year. The first post office was known as Orange Prairie, and was located at the residence of Enoch Huggins, who was the postmaster, on section 36. That post office was discontinued some years since, and was succeeded by the post office at Dunlap, Miss Frances Dunlap, postmistress. This is the only post office in the township.

The first schools were taught in the Summer of 1837, and were subscription schools. These schools commenced almost simultaneously. One of them was taught by Miss Mary Twitchell, in a log building on the Gifford place. The other school was taught by Miss Phoebe Cline, in a small building on the Wakefield place, on section 18. From the time of these primitive schools to the present, the educational interests have not been allowed to languish. Schools were carefully and steadily maintained in every neighborhood -- in every part of the township where there were children enough to make a school. Sometimes they were taught in rooms belonging to private houses, and sometimes in houses that had been vacated for better ones. At last the township was districted, and public school-houses were built, until now there are nine as handsome school-houses in Radnor township as in any other political division in the county. Each district is composed of four sections, and the school-houses are located, as nearly as many be, at the adjoining corners of these sections. They are all supplied with modern furniture, and made as comfortable every way as possible. School is maintained about nine months in each of them.

The earliest preaching was about 1837, by the Rev. Mr. Cunningham, of the M. E. church. He visited here occasionally, and preached in the houses of the settlers. The first church edifice was erected on the land of Mr. A. Yates, in 1850. There are now four church buildings, and as many congregations. Of these the Methodist people have two, the Presbyterians one, and the Catholics one.

The Glendale Methodist Church was erected in 1861, and is located on the corners of sections 25, 26, 35, and 36. It is an appointment of the Kickapoo circuit, and is supplied by the "circuit rider." The other Methodist congregation is know as

Salem Church, and is located on the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 16. It is also an appointment of the Kickapoo circuit. Rev. C. W. Green has preached to thes congregations since the Conferece appointments of 1878.

The Presbyterian and Catholic churches are located in the village of Dunlap, and will be further noticed in the sketch of that promising hamlet.

Industries -- Agriculture and stock-growing are the leading industries of the township. In these respects, and especially the former, it is more than an average with the other townships of the county. The farms are all in good conditions, and remuneratively productive.

Coal Mining -- Although the entire township is underlaid with a rich deposit of coal, only two banks have been opened. Both of these openings are in the southwest part of the township and are the principal sources of fuel supply.

What is known as Evans' mill, on the east fork of Kickapoo creek, was built about 1842-3 by a man named Pierce. It is located on Sec. 29, and is the only mill in the county driven by water power.   [from "The History of Peoria County, Illinois; Johnson & Co., 1880.  Transcribed by Karen Seeman]



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