Curry Historical Society

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History Resources
Our Place in the Scheme of Things

Historical societies provide a vital link in preserving histories of pioneer families. To that end, we hope to provide information to researchers with ties to this pristine and remote corner of paradise.

Through the years many notable people have passed through the county, some took up residence. These pages tell their stories, and the stories of the men and women who created the county we know and love.

Surrounding County Resources

Oregon: Jackson County, Josephine County, Douglas County, Coos County
California: Del Norte County, Siskiyou County


Curry Historical Society has many obituaries on file, many are listed in a data base by name. Please call the museum for current rates for obituary research and copies. 541 247 9396


Biography: Captain Edward Ord

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Captain Edward Ord

From the Diary of Captain Edward Ord

On March 26, 1856, a military unit under the command of Captain Edward Ord, left the mouth of the Rogue River to locate and destroy the "Mack-a-noo-tenay" Indian village known to be up the Rogue River.

The group consisted of the 55 men of "B" Company, 3rd Artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Drysdale and 38 men of "F" Company, 4th Infantry under the leadership of Captain Delancy Floyd Jones.

Guided by W. Walker, and following a "bridle path" through mountainous country the party reached the village the following afternoon at about 2:00 o'clock. The village was located on a river bottom. Ord's company entered the area from the East. The Indian houses stood in a row on the river side of the flat and appeared to have been recently vacated. About 100 yards north of the houses were steep slopes that were thickly wooded. To the West end of the bottom some 50 yards from the houses, was a thick growth of willows. To the East, or upper end of the bottom where Ord entered, and approximately 200 yards from the houses, were steep wooded slopes.

The Rogue River at this point was 80 to 150 yards wide and ran fast and deep. The mountains on the south shore and at the East and West end of the village came down to the water, completely enclosing the bottom and making it accessible to the mounted men only by the trail they had taken.


Biography: Hathaway Jones Stories

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Hathaway and the Balky Mule

I swam a river with my mule one fall to go hunting in one of my favorite spots. I must have picked a good day because I bagged two five point bucks within an hour. I just got them cleaned up when I heard a noise. I turned around and looked at the business end of the biggest black bear I had ever seen. I just had time to get off one shot but that did it. I cleaned him up to take home for jerky meat. I loaded the two five points on the mule without any trouble, but when I tried to load the big bear the mule just wouldn't have no part of it. I went ahead and packed the bear myself and let the mule pack the two deer. Then we came to the river and the mule balked again. She just would not go into the water with those deer on her back. I told her she could stay there as far as I was concerned and I tied the two deer to the back of the bear and then kind of got inside the bear so that all three of them were on my back. I eased into the river and headed across. Right away I started having trouble. I was lower than I had figured I would be and I was having trouble keeping my nose above water so I could breath. I just kept swimming as hard as I could and I somehow I made it to the other side. Then I saw the problem. That mule had somehow crawled up on top of those two deer.


Biography: The Wakeman's

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The Wakeman Family by Edith Wakeman Jones (1975)

Wakeman is an English name which has been traced back to the Norman Conquest in 1066. It was originally to words, "wake" and "man." A wake man had the task of keeping watch over the clan and alerting them if danger was near.

The Wakeman name came to America in the 1630's and settled in Connecticut. In 1805, our line moved to the Western Reserve in the northeastern part of Ohio where they traded their Revolutionary script for land.

James Frank Wakeman was born in Athens County, Ohio, on July 28, 1847. He lost two brothers in the Civil War. Seth was killed at the battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861. Jarus was killed at the Battle of Missionary Ridge, November 23, 1863. When Grandfather was seventeen, he enlisted in the Union Army in another man's place for the one hundred dollars bounty. He served nine months and was mustered out on June 28, 1865. He married Mary Elizabeth Dolen on October 30, 1866. They moved to Wisconsin, east of LaCrosse and near Bloomington, where my father, Charles LeRoy Wakeman, was born on August 15, 1867.


Biography: Frank Colvin, An Early Mail Route

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In the early 1900's, all the mail was carried by horseback. Frank Colvin once carried the mail from Gold Beach to the Irma Post Office, about twenty-two miles south.

"I went to the Gold Beach Post Office at 6:00 a.m. and Charles Dewey, postmaster, swore me in and signed me up as a substitute mail carrier. He gave me the mailbag and several small sacks, one for each mailbox on the route.

I started south at 6:15 and saw Dennis Cunniff, Sr. on his way to milk his cows. He came to Ellensburg in 1858 with his wife and stepdaughter Eliza Ann Graham, then aged fourteen, who was murdered in 1861 near her home. Two men were hung for the murder by the miners' vigilantes.

I went on to Hunter Creek and saw Antone Defonte who claimed to have walked from St. Louis to San Francisco. He homesteaded at the mouth of Hunter Creek in 1855. Just above the bridge lived a German, Chris Ringe, who deserted the German Navy. He homesteaded his ranch in 1855 and lost his house in the flood of 1890.


Biography: Hooter Scooter Prairie

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by Edith Wakeman Jones, Constantine Smith & Reinhold Rissio

Constantine Smith was the first homesteader in the area near the headwaters of Indian Creek. He and Reinhold Riissio homesteaded the adjoining property to the north and the east. Smith had trouble pronouncing Riissio's name, so he dubbed him "Hooter Scooter" and the name has endured.

Anna Riissio died in childbirth and was buried in the old Gold Beach cemetary. Riissio returned to San Francisco. When he remarried, he brought his second wife to the homestead, but she only stayed six months.


Biography: Hattie Hogue

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Hattie Hogue was born on July 10th, 1900, at Woodville, Oregon, to Frank and Mattie Gilmore. Woodville is now known as Rogue River. Hattie had three sisters, Minnie Kirkpatrick Hall, Ada Johnston and Pauline Deo.

On April 3, 1919, she was married to Charles "Shenie" Hogue in Portland, Oregon. They had two sons, Donald, born September 5, 1928 at the Mary Smedburg Hospital on west 4th Street in Gold Beach, and Ralph, born October 3, 1930, in the "new" Smedburg hospital located about where the Inn of the Beachcomber is now located. Ralph was killed in a logging accident in 1957. Don and his wife Pat live along the North Bank Road a few miles from Gold Beach.

Hattie and Shenie lived at Kerby in the Illinois Valley until 1925 when they moved to Harbor near Hanscam's store and Shenie fished commercially on the Winchuck, Chetco and Rogue Rivers. They grew up with the Hanscams, and with Archie and Fred Anderson, brothers of Viola Hanscam.


Biography: Ruby Purdin ~ 1898-1998

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RUBY MORGAN PURDIN'S grandfather, Wesley Morgan, left a plantation in Mississippi and moved to Horse Creek, California, after the Civil war. Ruby was born April 9, 1898, to Wesley and Grace Bratt Morgan in Horse Creek, twenty-eight miles down the Klamath river from Yreka.

Ruby lived there with her parents and two brothers, Ernest, born in 1891, and D. D., born in 1900. In 1910 she moved to the Burnt Hill Creek area near Pistol river with her mother and stepfather, Walter Doolittle.

Too far from the schools to travel back and forth daily, ruby first lived with Abe and Emma Hardenbrook and their sons Dallas and Homer, at their home near Carpenterville and attended the Irma school. Her teacher was Mr. Hewitt who lived in Roseburg and came to Carpenterville for three months in the summer to teach the ten children attending Irma school. The children were Myrtle, Lola and Linda Clarno, Nettie, Brother and Stan Colgrove, Homer and Wilbur Ostrander, Alice Hill and Ruby.


Justice on the Beach

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Based on an account by Edsel Colvin's father Frank Colvin

Dennis Cunniff, Sr., was born in Ireland on March 7th, 1828. He arrived in San Francisco in 1850 and mined at the Feather and Yuba rivers and then on to the Klamath in 1852.

Four years later, in 1856, he married Margaret McAffery Graham. She was born in Ireland on October 27, 1819. She had a daughter named Lizzie Graham by her first marriage.

In 1857 they arrived in Gold Beach (then called Ellensburg) and homesteaded in the area south of Riley Creek. This included the property that is now the Curry County Fairgrounds. They built a log house and Margaret kept books for some of the miners.

Their marriage did not last long. On August 17th, 1860, they signed an agreement to live apart.


Biography: D. M. "Bullhide" Moore

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D. M. Moore was born in Ophir, Oregon, February 12, 1886, the sixth son of D. L. and Mary Cook Moore. His parents crossed the plains and settled on a ranch in the Willamette valley in 1880. A few years later they came to Curry County, where Moore engaged in logging on the Rogue River and drove a bull team in the Port Orford area.

The later settled on a ranch in Ophir and had eight sons and one daughter. The daughter and one son died in infancy. The boys were: Thomas William, William W., Asher H. (killed in a car accident), James, Walter, D. Milton ("Bullhide") and Willis.

While a young man, Moore and his older brother, Walter, bought a store. Moore operated it until 1909. He also went to work on the home ranch until January 1, 1908, when he purchased a saloon from F. L. Crew and Son, located on the site of the present Drift Inn Motel in Gold Beach. He operated the saloon for about nine months and then sold it to Ira Moore. Next he started a meat market behind the Bishell Hotel where he sold meat by the chunk.

In the early years Moore noticed the cowhides were thrown away. When he opened his meat market in 1908, he started buying hides from the farmers and paid them a dollar for each one. He cleaned and preserved them until he had a sufficient number to ship. The name "Bullhide" was attached to him by County Judge Ed Bailey, and he became known as Bullhide up and down the coast. He received telegrams and mail addressed to Bullhide, and his wife and daughters were often called Mrs. Bullhide or Miss Bullhide.


Biography: Hugo Mayer

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Hugo Mayer was an unnaturalized immigrant that was born in Suhl, Germany, in 1884. He came to the United States in 1904, arriving in New York and continuing on to California. He went to the Klamath River country and got a partner and the two of them came to the illinois River in 1906. They prospected along Josephine Creek and Cyon Creek and then headed down river. The trail at that time only went as far as Bald Mountain and they had to blaze trail from there to Silver and Indigo Creek.

In 1906, Hugo found a meadow and decided to homestead it. He needed some money, so he went to Crescent City and worked that winter. When he came back he found that Phillip Hancock had homesteaded the meadow while he was gone. Hugo crossed the river and homesteaded a place there. The only building on the property was an old miner's shack. He cleared the land of rocks to make a pasture and garden space. It became his home for the next 27 years.

To obtain tools, Hugo ordered from a catalogue. His order would arrive by train and he had to travel 50 miles to West Fork to pick it up. Most of his supplies he obtained from Gold Beach or Selma. The only groceries he bought were flour and coffee. He left his homestead occasionally to get money, but most of his time was spent on the Illinois.


Biography: Geisel Family

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History of the Geisel Monument and the Last Hanging in Curry County

Geisel FamilyJohn and Christina Geisel were married in May 6, 1842 in Butler County, Ohio. Before making there way west the lived in Kentucky and Indiana, and finally Oregon. In 1854 they settled about 6 miles north of the mouth of the Rogue River on a bluff of the ocean bench. On February 22, 1856 the family consisted of John, Christina and 5 children, three boys and two girls. The oldest child was a girl of 13 years and the youngest was a baby girl about two weeks old.

They lived in a house that also served as a hotel and store. The house was about 30 x 35 feet and was two stories high, with three outside doors. The house had 12 rooms and 12 windows, and was a framed house built out of whipsawed lumber. The house was nearly new. They valued the house at $1,100.00. In addition to the house they had three 14 x 20 one room mining cabins with stone chimneys. These had also been built out of whipsawed lumber and were nearly new. They valued the cabins at $150.00 each. A large house near their dwelling was being used as a store. This building was 20 x 30 and one story high and built of lumber. They valued this at $800.00.


On February 21, 1856, Ben Wright, the Indian Agent for the area paid a visit to the Geisels. He told them that the Indians were well and peaceably disposed towards the white people and that there was no danger of an attack from them. On the following night a "tame" Indian who had been working for them and who had been out hunting their hogs that day, returned to their house around midnight and knocked on the door asking to be let in. They knew his voice and since they were not suspecting any danger, John Geisel got out of bed and opened the door. As soon as the door was opened the Indians that had been working for them and three or four others rushed in immediately and began a murderous assault on John.

Although Christina had given birth to Annie on January 28, 1856, and had not yet fully recovered her strength, she rushed to John's side to assist him and received a painful cut that nearly severed her finger. Christina was soon over powered and John was killed. The oldest daughter, Mary, born February 14, 1843, was dragged out of her bed and her and Christina were securely bound. Her little boys, Andrew 5, Henry 7 and John 9, were then brought out one by one killed in her presence while the Indians made her watch. The Indians then removed Christina and her daughters from the house in their night clothes and more Indians showed up. They ransacked and burned the houses without removing the bodies of John or the boys.

The Indians stayed at the Geisel residence for about an hour and a half and then started on the return trip up river. Christina and Mary were not permitted to take any clothing or shoes. About a mile from the Geisel residence the Indians stopped at a cabin lived in by a settler named McPherson. He was immediately killed in their presence and after the cabin was ransacked it was burned. Not far from there the Indians came upon another man in a cabin and killed him. By this time it was daylight and Christina could see several dead people near the trail to the river. Their houses were burning and their fences were destroyed.


Biography: Gust Schneidau

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The Man and The River by Dot Gray

Curry County Reporter - Rogue Coast May 21, 1997

Flowing waters, whether they come from a natural hot mineral spring, a lovely waterfall, a placid lake or rushing river, have always had a healing effect on humans.

People are drawn to water, turbulent or tranquil. Souls are lifted, sorrows and troubles seem to wash away... and life goes on.

Living a lifetime near flowing waters is a dream most never experience. Creating a paradise alongside a river called the Rogue was what one man set out to do about 75 years ago after first setting eyes on 12 acres of riverbank on the north bank of the Rogue, about 8 miles from its mouth at Gold Beach.


The Woodman

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Once upon a time there was a fellow who made his living in Curry County by cheating others. They say he not only sold things that didn't belong to him but he sold them twice and left the real owner and two purchasers to argue over it. He was clever and always claimed he had bought the items from another party. Catching him was not easy. But then one day he made a mistake and sold a boat to a fellow that had gone fishing in the boat with the real owner. When the new buyer asked his fishing partner why he had sold his boat the man said he had not sold the boat. The Sheriff came and put the con man in jail.

When the judge came to the county there was a trial and the man was convicted. On the day that sentence was to be passed the judge asked him if he had ever engaged in honest work. The man told the judge that he had been a woodcutter for quite a while but it was hard work.

It just so happened that in those days the Curry County courthouse was heated with wood. The county would buy a load of logs and have them delivered in back of the courthouse to be cut into lengths and stacked inside for the winter. The judge told the man he would make him a proposition. He was going to sentence him to one year in the county jail. However, if he wanted to saw the load of wood into blocks, split the blocks and stack them inside the courthouse he could be released early. The man said he would do it.

The load of logs arrived and the man eagerly set to work sawing the logs into blocks. He started at daylight and quit when it got dark. When he had the logs cut into blocks he started splitting the blocks into lengths. He started at daylight and quit when it got dark. Everyone that walked by commented on his long hard hours. Finally, he split and stacked the last block.

The next time the judge came to Curry County he inspected the wood and had the man brought to court. There he told the man that he, along with many others, including the Sheriff himself, was impressed with what he had done in so short a time. And, the judge added, he hoped that the man had learned the value of good honest labor. The man said he had. He thanked the judge for giving him the opportunity. The judge said he was ordering the Sheriff to release him that day and wished him well. Everyone in the courtroom shook his hand. He left town the next day.

Towards the end of September it started to get chilly and the janitor at the courthouse decided it was time to start up the wood furnace. Try as he might, he could not get the split wood into the fire box. Upon close examination it was determined that the prisoner had cut every block exactly 2" too long . Mistake? Maybe not. ...Bill Wallace


The Lost City

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On September 8, 1881, the Port Orford Post ran the following story....

"There have recently been discovered near Floras Creek in this county, what appear to be the ruins of an ancient city, built of cut stone. The site of the numerous buildings of the ages gone by are indicated by mounds, in and under which, by making excavations, are found masses of cut stone, bearing quite plainly the marks of the stone cutter's chisel, and lying as if the wall had tumbled down.

These relics of ancient masonry were first unearthed to view by the storm uprooting a large tree which had grown up on one of these mound-like elevations. Thus the blocks of sand stone were exposed to view, and thus curiosity excited which led to the prospecting of other mounds (of which there are many) in the same locality, in all of which the phenomena were present. Further explorations will be made with a view to throwing more light if possible on this curious spectacle.


The Vault

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by Howard Newhouse

The VaultIt was a calm, dog day, just after school started in 1944, when this 16 year old lad hiked down the hill from his home in Wedderburn to the Wedderburn Store. My dad, Sewell Newhouse, had an office located in the west end of the old building which had been built by Hume in 1895. When Saturday weather was good it meant we were going surveying, just like we had been doing all summer. School had not separated me from work. Especially when the weather was good and I was available. I'd been at surveying long enough to know that the first order of business was to gas up the 1938 Oldsmobile, so I backed it up to the old glass reservoir pump in front of the store and went in to tell Bud Goudy what I was going to do. He nodded his head in approval and went about his business filling out grocery orders for delivery up the Rogue River in Bob Elliot's old Rogue River mail boat. I managed to get the whole 10 gallons down the fill pipe and went back in the store and told Bud. He reached for dad's account and duly noted the purchase. Then I went into the office and into the large back room where the bulk Montgomery Ward oil was stored. The Oldsmobile always consumed a quart of oil per day unless you drove clear out of Curry County, which was seldom.


After a short discussion with dad on what was needed for the day I went on back to the ante room where Hume's old vault held everything of value, including dad's transit. We never locked the vault door, for things were only kept there for fire protection. I tried the handle and sure enough, the vault was somehow locked. We were already running late so I was uneasy about going out front and telling dad about the vault door been somehow locked, but I did. After a few words, which I didn't hear very often, he went over to his desk and rummaged around the papers until he found one of Wakeman's myrtlewood ash trays. When he turned it over it revealed the combination to the vault. He gave me the combination with instructions to open the damn vault and to get going. I had tried the combination about three or four times when he came into the room. I couldn't make the combination work. Dad tried it two or three times and had no better luck. He now seriously questioned me on what I had done the last time I put the transit away. I pleaded innocent of tampering with the combination, and that was the truth. I didn't mention trying to slam the door which never worked anyway since the vault was air tight. That settled the surveying project for the day so I was released to go home and stack wood.


The Lost Mine of Nugget Tom

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In 1871 "Nugget Tom" had a small gold claim in Star Gulch near the headwaters of the Sixes River in Curry County. For a long time he had been wondering if there wasn't a ledge up above him that all his placer gold had come from. If there was, and he could find it, he would be a rich man, indeed. The only drawback that presented itself, was age. Nugget Tom was getting a little long in the tooth, and mountain climbing in one of the wildest and steepest areas in the Oregon Mountains was a chore he wasn't quite up to.

Nevertheless, late in the fall of 1871, Tom packed his gold pan, pick, shovel and enough food for a week and made his way slowly up Star mountain at the head of Star Gulch. It was a long and hard job. He hammered and pecked at each favorable looking outcropping. Evening found him high on a lonely mountainside, where he made a dry camp.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, but Nugget Tom didn't feel quite right. He wasn't tired, he had slept well as he always did in the mountains, but he didn't feel right. He had an uneasy feeling that someone or something was watching him. He kept on hammering and pecking along, but every so often he would whirl and look to see if anyone was behind him. He would carefully eye the bushes and other areas of concealment, but he never saw anyone. Tom laughed, and shook his head. He must be just getting spooky. He climbed for a spell and started hammering again. His hammer knocked off a piece of quartz that took his breath away. It was rich with free gold. He knocked off several more pieces and stowed them in his packsack. He felt great, but he still whirled around and looked behind him, for the uneasy feeling wouldn't go away. He continued to look carefully all around him as he made his way back down the mountain towards his cabin. Tom took a break and sat for a spell. He tried to get ahold of himself and the feeling that he was being watched.


Arch Rock

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A Tradition Tale From Curry County Echoes: Volumn 1 1973-1974

Arch Rock is located approximately thirteen miles south of Gold Beach and one quarter miles from shore. Its prominence has made it a hallmark of Curry County, and it appears on the letterhead and on contemporary county stationery.

The Tolowa Indian tribe in Northern California and southern Oregon used Arch Rock for many of their celebrations. Some of their dances began on the mainland and ended out on the rock.

Coyote plays an important part in many Indian legends. He taught ingenuity, craft and pride, and explained the unexplainable.

COYOTE, BEAVER, BEAR, PANTHER, RACCOON and all the animals joined the People at an important dance. When the sun lay down to sleep, canoes carried everyone to the rock where they continued to dance. As they danced, they sang, except for Coyote, who couldn't sing and wouldn't try. The others began to chide him, but being very smart, he quickly went and found two crickets and fastened them behind his ears.


The Shootout

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Stay Away From Her, Or Else! *

The ShootoutDuring the early part of August, 1896, H. W. Fountain, a sewing machine salesman, left Marshfield, Oregon and headed south. He arrived in Wedderburn-Gold Beach and tried to sell some sewing machines before heading on to Crescent City, California. He only intended to stay a few days but he got involved in things other than business. Grant Baxter lived in the area and he thought that May Smith was his one and only, although she apparently did not feel the same way about him. When Baxter heard that Fountain had been visiting May Smith, he got very upset. On Friday night he informed May that if Fountain came to see her again he would kill him. 

The next night the trouble began. Fountain had been out to Alf Miller's house and picked up his oars to row across the river to Gold Beach. When he got near the Bayview Hotel** he met Baxter and the conversation immediately heated up. Baxter warned Fountain to stay away from May Smith, but Fountain figured it was none of Baxter's business and told him so. Fountain was armed at the time and ready for trouble if it happened.

Baxter said, "I'll see you again." Fountain went across the river, where he told several people that he had been threatened by Baxter. Baxter went into the Bayview and talked the matter over with some others there. He told them that if Fountain did not stay away from May he would do him in. He then borrowed a pistol from a fellow, telling him that he wanted to do a little target practicing. The owner took the pistol back the next morning but Baxter borrowed it again. A little while later, E. A. Bean was getting a shave from Baxter and Baxter told him of the trouble he was having with Fountain. Baxter patted his pants pocket that showed the outline of a pistol, and told Bean that he was ready for Fountain. Later on Baxter obtained some cartridges from Dave Carey. He reloaded the pistol and placed it in his front, right hand pocket. That morning he visited May Smith. Now he had the pistol tucked in the band of his trousers in front and he told her it was for Fountain. He said he was ready for Fountain and would do him in.

Just after lunch the following day, Charles Leon had Baxter cut his hair. He noticed the pistol in Baxter's pocket. He felt of the pistol and asked, jokingly, if it was for him. Baxter answered in an angry manner and Leon dropped the subject. After the hair cut was finished, Baxter and Leon left the Bayview. Leon heard some shots as he walked away, but he paid no attention to them.


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