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Benton County, Iowa ~ Biography and Family Information

Welton - Whitcomb History

Researched and written by Helen Welton Harper (Mrs. Milo LeRoy)

Before writing up the Welton-Whitcomb History perhaps a preface should be written telling or explaining the reason for my writing.

Several weeks ago, I listened to a speaker tell of the lives of several Benton County people. Their stories were so fascinating that I thought to myself  “Some one should write up our History.”  Then again I thought “Why don’t I?”  So I have undertaken the task of putting on paper much of the information, plus many of the stories I have read or learned through the years so that every generation, and those yet to come, may have some knowledge of the long ago and from this history learn something of their ancestors.

These ancestors, or forbearers, of ours came to America from across the water.  The Whitcomb’s were of Scottish descent while the Welton’s were English.  The story follows:

I’ll begin with the Whitcomb’s (my mother’s side of the family).  Actually nothing much is known of my great-grandfather.  His name was Abel and he had married Hannah Hale of Vermont.   They lived in Merrimack County New Hampshire and their son Oscar was born in that New England state, and farmed later until he ventured west over the prairies and settled in this new country.  This was in Section 23 Cedar Township in Benton County Iowa.

Anyway, my grandfather Oscar B. Whitcomb was born in New Hampshire on May 8, 1820.  As he grew to manhood, articles say that he courted and finally won the hand of Lorenza Boyd who lived in New Hampshire and the adjoining county.

Grandpa Whitcomb, as I knew him, was a large man, strong sturdy and robust with a ruddy complexion.  He possessed a heavy head of grayish hair which he carried as long as he lived.

Grandma Whitcomb was a serious strong-willed person active to the 9th degree and in her youth worked in the woolen mills in her home state of New Hampshire.  She was born the daughter of one of the intellectual families of that state, so I have read and been told.

The Whitcomb’s (Oscar and Lorenza) had one son, George, who died in infancy before they moved to the farm south of Mt. Auburn in Iowa after which two more children, two girls, Maria and Emma Lorenza, were born.  Emma was my mother.  Her birth date was April 9, 1863.  They grew up on the farm.  Both were musical.  Aunt “Rye,” as we called her, played the church organ for years while my mother gave music lessons.  They each had some college – Aunt Rye to Cornell in Iowa while mother went to Teacher’s College, or University of Northern Iowa (UNI) as it is now called.

Later, my mother Emma married Henry E., the son of Professor Henry Sanger Welton of Iowa City.

At this point I’ll leave the Whitcomb side of the house and give you a brief history of the Weltons.

I know only that my great-grandfather Welton was born in New York and had graduated from Harvard and was an attorney.  His name was Willard Welton.

My Grandpa Welton (Henry Sanger Welton) like his father before him was an educated man.  He was born at Eaton, New York on November 3, 1827 and went to school and graduated from Hamilton College.  Schooling finished, he married Julia Pauline Grinnell.

Grandpa Welton was of a slight build and average height.  He was dignified and considered a deep thinker – not “showy” in his religion but no one ever doubted his faith.  He was a good husband and father.

Grandmother Welton was born Julia Paulina Grinnell, the daughter of Eugene Grinnell who was of the Grinnell family who had given Grinnell, Iowa its name, and the family who gave finances to the college which bears the Grinnell name.  Grandmother was a dainty fancy type person.  It was often said of her that she never left her bedroom until she was ready for the day.  She loved literature, all kinds of it, especially poetry.  She learned many poems and recited them from memory.

She and Grandpa (Henry Sanger Welton) arrived in Iowa City just as the University was being established.  He became one of the three directors and soon was chosen to be the first acting President.  He now was called Professor Welton.  He also taught the languages, Latin and Greek.  Grandma, Julia Paulina as we sometimes called her, was a gracious hostess and helped meet on each and every occasion.

The Welton’s had seven children:   Dr. Orlo, an Optometrist; Kate, the wife of Dr. Sam Oren; Etta, the wife of William Jadwin who managed Denekes Dry Goods Store in Cedar Rapids; Henry E., a farmer; Ernest, a merchant in Milwaukee; Westol, a telegrapher; and Mae, the wife of Frank Lormor who was a farmer.  Henry E. was my father.

After a number of years at the University, Professor Welton became the Superintendent of the Iowa City schools which position he held for ten years.

Still later he purchased a shoe store in Clinton, Iowa and ran it.  Finally age was creeping up, so he and my grandmother Welton moved to Mt. Auburn where two of their children (one being my father, Henry E.) already lived.  However, my grandfather was still sought out as an educator and taught in Normal School, also did private teaching and tutoring, and even became Justice of the Peace in Mt. Auburn.

He died July 5, 1902.  Grandmother then gave up housekeeping and went to live with her daughter Mae, my aunt (Mrs. Frank Lormor).

Now, Henry E., the son of Professor and Mrs. Henry Sanger Welton, married Emma Whitcomb, the daughter of Oscar B. Whitcomb and this marriage brought the two families together.  They were married in Muscatine June 25, 1891 (I have their marriage certificate in one of my scrapbooks).  They moved to Des Moines and entered the merchandising business and intended to live there always.

Bernice was born there on August 3, 1892.  She was scarcely five months old when Grandfather Whitcomb called and urged them (his daughter and son-in-law) to return home and take over the farm, which they did.  They had been in Mt. Auburn only briefly when grandmother died on December 18, 1892.  So besides running the farm, they made a home for my grandpa.

My dad had never been on a farm before but mother had been born on that very farm so it felt like home to her, but a bit strange to Dad.

They had hired help from the beginning.  Mother had a woman who “lived in” and Dad a married man and his family who lived about eighty rods north in a house they built for men who might work for them (of course on their land).  Two hundred and forty (240) acres was too much for one man to care for and mother also needed help for the house was large (four bedrooms upstairs, one down, one living room, one parlor, dining room, kitchen and what they called a summer kitchen, porches, etc.).

Dad was of normal size, industrious and quick in action and always a good kind person.  Mother was a rather large woman who loved to read and write.  She seemed to have a flare for writing.  Friends said of her that they believed she could sit in the middle of the ocean and write something interesting.  Her priority was home and family.

She also loved to cook and sew and people said that the clothes she made for us always looked “store bought.” There were four of us: Bernice, myself, Ruth and Audrey.

I think mother and dad had a good life on the farm even though they lacked about everything we call necessities these days (no electricity, no furnace, no running water, no refrigeration, no big machinery, but of course lamps, hard coal stoves, a basement to keep things cold, a cook stove, irons to heat on the stove.  They did have a telephone, even two of them and also a neighborhood threshing machine and a one row plow, etc., etc.).  Every season was busy on the farm but the spring planting, the cultivating and the harvest really the most important.  Of course, all farm work was done with horses or by hand such as plowing, haying, threshing, corn picking, etc., and this took long hours and hard work.  In the meantime much else had to be done:  fences had to be fixed, the road was kept up by working his poll tax, or perhaps a new building was needed.

Dad was not only a farmer but a carpenter as well.  I remember he built a tool and machinery shed in which every piece of farm equipment was kept.  Dad was particular to the 9th degree.

Nearly every farmer, besides horses, had hogs, cattle and chickens; also cows to be milked morning and night, the milk separated which was usually the housewife’s chore; the eggs must be gathered.  My father always kept a large garden the produce of which my mother canned or stored for later use.

Of course the mode of transportation was a farm wagon:  the spring wagon, the buggy, one a surrey, the cutter, the sleigh or bob sled; were all horse drawn.  No cars or power machinery in those early days though an automobile did go by our house once in the late 1800’s or the early part of the new century.

In spite of the above which I have written I would say that my parents took time for the good things of life – church, and Sunday School, particularly for us children, lecture courses and other entertainment like clubs, parties, small excursions, the nine-day Vinton Chautauqua which they always attended, etc.

Dad was an I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) member, trustee in church, on the official Board, a Township clerk and frequently a delegate to various conventions.

Our farm sale was December 22, 1909 but we didn’t move to Vinton until February 25, 1910.  In the meantime, our friends – both the Mt. Auburn people and our Pratt Creek folks – gave us farewells and presented us with gifts.

Our house in Vinton was in the south part of town near the Chautauqua grounds at 1315 B Avenue.  Life was most interesting.  We brought our “letters” into the Methodist Church May 10, 1910.  Dad joined the Masonic Lodge, and spent much time carpentering.  Our house soon became a mecca for young people for in no time, we belonged to clubs of one sort and another.  I think mother was the chief drawing card for she loved them and they loved her.  Most called her “Mona” or “Monie.”

The young people came to our house by day and by night, walking the eleven blocks from downtown, to see who was here, to play and to fellowship together.  They made caves, had tents in the back yard, even studied around our dining table.

War came and mother wrote long letters by the dozen to the boys in Service and they in turn wrote to her.  Through her, they kept in touch and once in awhile could get together one with the other overseas.

Time passed and mother died at 63 on May 12, 1926 when Virginia was almost six months old.  Dad lived on until June 24, 1942.

I could write on and finish this up, but no, I’ll just quit, and now write a bit about my sisters and me.




Now I come to writing something about me.  This will be the hardest of all – what to write and what not to write is the big question.

I was born on a farm south of Mt. Auburn on April 22, 1897, the daughter of Henry E. and Emma Whitcomb Welton.

I grew up very much as other children.  A sister Ruth was born just 1-1/2 years later than I was so I had someone to play with.  We had many of the same toys, the same play things and in general the same everything, so we grew up together; however, Ruth had many of the childhood diseases which I escaped.  Our house many times carried a quarantine sign because of her.

We never went to a country school as our sister Bernice did, but always to the Public School in Mt. Auburn which was just one mile north through the field from our house.

We moved to Vinton on February 25, 1910 after a farm sale on December 22nd, into a house our parents chose at 1315 B Avenue in the Chautauqua Park area.  This was in the south part of town.

Probably out of curiosity, many young people came up to get acquainted and learn what they could about the new family who had moved in.  Soon many of these, once strangers, became close and lasting friends.  And some of these I write to even now and some others belong to a bridge club with me even now in 1985.

In those early years the girls and boys walked the eleven blocks up here and our house became a mecca for so many – a sort of Youth Center some people called it.  They came day and night to visit, to play games, etc.  They put up tents.  They made candy, or possibly to play with our pony “Teddy.” Some of the boys dug a cave with steps going down into it.  They used our lamps and small table; however they wouldn’t let us girls go down into it.  During Chautauqua, since most had season tickets, we would go across the street to the musical preludes, then back to our house, maybe for watermelon or some other treat.  Then I might add that during school oftimes some would even study around our dining room table.

I remember the little clubs – the Pickwick, the N.F.C., and even the Ignatz Club, which club lasted all through our High School days.  There were picnics, parties and functions of all kinds.  House parties were a delight and all school activities were “special” to me.

I remember so many of the High School  “get togethers,” some of the teachers, the ballgames, and the like.  I remember, too, of being the only girl on the High School Council and of the all school play “Tommy’s Wife” which seven of us gave, not only in Vinton but to some towns round about.  The Junior-Senior banquet was such fun when we all dressed in our best and went with our beau’s to dinner, etc.

I graduated third in my class and I took Latin all four years.  Because of that, I went up to Teachers College in Cedar Falls (U.N.I. they call it now) to obtain a teaching certificate.  I might mention that I sold books in the summer.  After this I taught school for five years before marrying my high school sweetheart, Milo Harper.

Following a honeymoon trip to Chicago, I became a part of the church and the community and did what I could in town.

By nature I was an active person, loved to go and do, so I was always willing to assume responsibility. If I were to mention all of my activity, the list would be long, so I’ll write about only a few things.

Sunday School and Church have been a priority of mine.  I’ve been in charge of the Standard Beavers, taught many classes, Circle chairman many times.  Altar Guild, secretary to W.S.C.S. and then was its first president and even now, I’m the membership chairman of the Church.  This is 1985.

I’m a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, The Eastern Star, New Century Club, the Red Cross, the Historical Society, Republican Club and in all of these I’ve been the president or chairman except the Historical Society and in that a trustee.  Of course a few social clubs like the South Park and bridge clubs which have continued these many years and at this writing I’m still a Red Cross worker and I’ve served for more than 20 years.

We’ve raised two beautiful daughters.  Virginia, now Mrs. Robert Heppe of Cedar Rapids, and Carol, now Mrs. Paul Manley of Des Moines.  Virginia was born in 1925 when my mother was still living and Carol was born in 1929 during the depression.  Possibly I’ll write a little later of them.  I’ll only say here that they are our pride and joy and have been always.

In speaking of the depression, we were fortunate, for during those years Milo was in the Courthouse or we had a Grocery and Market.

Besides the gratis things, I worked in the Courthouse in the Treasurer’s office and in the Engineer’s office for almost 18 years and served under seven Engineers.  This was about the time when Carol started to school in Cedar Falls.

In spite of the above, I kept a diary and too I’ve filled many a scrapbook really for my own pleasure; however, the scrapbooks have been a pleasure to others.  I remember a dinner party I had some years ago and actually they spend the whole evening looking at those books searching for pictures of themselves or some special article they hoped to find.

Our travels, though not extensive, have taken us north and south as well as east and west.  We’ve been to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans so we have seen many interesting sights inbetween.  We’ve been in Canada, Washington D.C., Annapolis, West Point, Gettysburg, Virginia, Virginia William and Mary college through Kentucky where we saw many southern mansions with their picket or iron fences – so picturesque and beautiful.  We’ve been to Churchill Downs and stopped at the birthplace of Will Rogers as well as the neighboring Ozarks.  Of course to California to see and visit our grandchildren then home through the southwest.  We’ve gone by bus, airplane and car. ...  It was a marvelous outing when we saw many of the unusual formations of the West as we drove along.  We saw Mt. Rushmore with its presidents carved in stone, Mt. Hood, the Badlands, the working oil wells, Yellowstone National Park, the breath-taking Rockies through which we drove, the Mormon Temple beside seeing so much more – all just wonderful.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve done some writing.  I’ve written up the History of Vinton and given it to many audiences.  I’ve written the History of the Church (Wesley United) from 1900 to 1983.  And I’ve also researched, written, and given the “Life of Christ” in our church, in and around town, plus many places away from Vinton.  The last time was to a joint Lions and Kiwanis dinner meeting at Easter time 1985.

The people of Vinton, and the church, have all been very kind to me and have shown it on several occasions.  The church honored me for my many years of service.  The Cedar Valley Times made me their first “Citizen of the Month” and back in 1969 I was chosen “Woman of the Year.”

Since I’ve been in health most of my life, I’ve loved everything I’ve done.  I’ve been thankful and I’ve counted my blessings. ...



Though Milo doesn’t belong to the Welton-Whitcomb family, he is my husband, so I’ll write a bit about him.

He was born November 17, 1896 in Vinton, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Patterson Harper.  He was one of five children born to this union: Blanche, Earl, Cathryn, Milo and Genevieve.

He graduated from high school, then took a business course at the old Tilford Collegiate Academy.

Since school days, he worked at various establishments, all easy for him to come by.  He was the possessor of a good personality.  He was honest, fair and square and he numbered his friends by the hundreds.  Most people called him “Pete” and a good many still do.

Milo served his country in World War I, mostly in France.  He left Vinton from the local post office.

He married Helen Leona Welton on August 17, 1922.  Both were Vintonites. ...

Milo was always an active person from little up, and continued so to be during all of his working days.  He participated in athletics – was on the basketball team, took part in most all of their plays and was the President of his Senior class.

Milo was an early Commander of the American Legion in 1924 having served since its inception.  He was Worshipful Master of the Masonsic Lodge AF&AM #62, a member of the Greater Vinton Club besides being a member of the Country Club in the early days, and too, he was a staunch Republican.  He held various offices in the Courthouse:  Auto Clerk, Deputy Treasurer, and Auditor of Benton County.  Milo was also co-owner of a Grocery and Meat business and finally for many years, he was the bookkeeper in Vinton’s John Deere store.

The church (Welsey Methodist) has always played a large part in his life.  He was regular in his attendance at Sunday School and when he became older, he was treasurer of that body for twenty-five years.  He was also the head usher in church for that long, also he was President of the Methodist Men, chairman of the Official Board (now they call it the Administrative Board), and of course served in many other capacities.

The Cedar Valley Times once honored him in their “Whose Who’s” column and too, the church gave him a “stand up” ovation for his many years of service and his love and loyalty to all that’s good in life.  This was on his 89th birthday.  Emory Williams gave the remarks.

Another occasion of note was the 50th anniversary of Milo’s membership in the Masonic Lodge AF&AM #62 when that body gave him a public celebration.  A dinner at their Temple in his honor, speeches and presentations of one kind and another and even an album of pictures – they said “to help him remember.” Nine members of Milo’s family, along with him, sat at a special table and were served a bounteous meal before the program began.  In closing the evening, Jim Russell, the emcee who is also the W.M. of the lodge said, “a spirit of fellowship and god will seems to permeate this place and the many of us who are here, will go away with love in our hearts.”




Bernice Merle was born in Des Moines, Iowa, August 3, 1892.  She was the first child of Henry E. and Emma Whitcomb Welton.

When yet a wee child her parents were called by her grandfather Whitcomb and urged to leave Des Moines and come to the farm south of Mt. Auburn and take over the work which he said he felt unable to do any longer.  They obliged, so very soon they found themselves as farmers.  Her mother had been born on that very farm years before, for she was Grandpa Whitcomb’s daughter.

Pictures show Bernice to have been a beautiful child and a pretty little girl with long brown wavy hair and hazel eyes.

As I before stated, she was the only one of the Welton children to have been born in a city and, too, the only one who ever attended a country school.  She must have been an apt child for she knew all of the multiplication tables and could read and write before she ever went to school.  Her teacher was amazed at her ability.  Of course, her mother and dad must have encouraged her to learn and learn she did.  Her lessons were always easy for her.

Bernice was always fascinated by the out of doors so spent much time with her dad and helped too as she grew up whenever and wherever she could.

She loved the animals, especially the houses.  She rode them and even “broke” the colts to ride before her parents thought she could.

She too had a knack for drawing.  Her pictures of horses, any kind, were particularly fine.  People would say that they looked as “real as life” when they saw pictures of them on paper.  Later on, her father bought a pong, part Shetland and part Indian, called Teddy, which they even brought to town when they moved.

The young people who came up to the house enjoyed riding or driving him as much as the family members.

Bernice finished school in Mt. Auburn then went on to graduate from Vinton’s Tilford Collegiate Academy in both the academic and commercial courses.  In those days, one who graduated had to give an oration.  I remember her subject was “The Panama Canal.”  After finishing T.C.A., as they called it, she found employment in the Eagle office (a Vinton newspaper) where she worked for a number of years.

Finally she went to Cedar Rapids and became a stenographer for several different attorneys for another length of years.

Tiring of that she became a hair dresser and worked at that for awhile; however, during this time she took a course in real estate after which she bought and sold houses when many others would have retired.  During her last years she ran a rooming house.

Finally sickness and imminent death overtook her and after a brief stay in the University Hospital in Iowa City she died at the age of 86 as Mrs. Ralph Mettler.  Mr. Mettler preceded her in death.  Death came December 30, 1978 to Bernice and she was buried in Linwood Cemetery when the thermometer stood at 18 degrees below zero.  This was January 2, 1979.  Dr. Eugene Hancock of St. Paul’s Methodist Church, of which she was a member, was the minister in charge.

Bernice had made full arrangements for her funeral.  She had purchased the lot, bought a marble tombstone, had even planned the dress she was to wear at her last rites.  She was a business person all of the days of her life.

Following the committal at the cemetery, her niece and nephew, Virginia and Robert Heppe who live in the northeast part of Cedar Rapids, served a lunch and had a brief visitation period for friends and relatives who had been to the services.

So endeth a full and active life of sister Bernice.




Ruth was born November 5, 1898 on the home farm south of Mount Auburn.  She and I were so near the same age, though she was 1-1/2 years younger, that we did many of the same things – the same playmates and many times the same little chores or errands to run, etc.

Even after we moved to Vinton the same friends like Hazel Kruse, Doris Miller, Adelaide and Josephine Plattenburg, Margeret Nichols, etc.

Our mother use to say that when one of us had some kind of ailment, we both cried and she couldn’t tell which really was the sick one though Ruth had many of the children’s diseases and our house was sometimes quarantined (sign on the door) because of her.

Our clubs were pretty much the same.  The first one was the Pickwick Club – each a secret club, and probably the one we liked best was the “Ignatz” group which remained intact all through high school.

Ruth was in Declamatory Contests in school.  I remember Jean Val Jean from Victor Hugo.

She took the Teaching Course in high school and after graduating taught school, mostly in Shellsburg.  In 1928 she married Howard Hagan, a prosperous farmer, who lived south of Shellsburg.  To them were born four children, two sons and two daughters. ...

Ruth was more or less a homebody; yet through her life we find much activity.  She was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Shellsburg, and was active in all branches of it:  the missionary and aid societies, she taught Sunday School classes and was also the Superintendent of the Sunday School.  She was a member of the Rebekah lodge, the Happy Twenty and Canton Homemakers group.  She was also a Past Matron and 50-year member of the Order of Eastern Star.  She also served on the Benton County Farm Bureau Board as well as on the Extension Board.

Ruth was a good business woman and managed the farm well after her husband’s death on September 22, 1959.

In later life she wasn’t always well, so spent time in hospitals undergoing various surgeries and the last, nearly four years, she lived in the annex of Vinton’s Virginia Gay Hospital.  In spite of everything, Ruth was a proud person to the end of her days.

When death came, it came suddenly.  She, like the others of us, was the daughter of Henry E. and Emma Whitcomb Welton.  Hers was a beautiful memorial service just as she would have had it.  She was buried in Parker’s Grove Cemetery south of Shellsburg beside that of her husband on Thursday, January 24th.  Her death was January 20th, 1985 at the Vinton Annex.




Audrey Mildred, the youngest of the four Welton sisters, was born July 21, 1902 on the farm south of Mt. Auburn, Iowa, she being the only one of us born in this 20th century.

She was “my” baby from the start, or so I always called her.  She differed from the rest of us in that she was the only blue-eyed and fair-haired one.

She didn’t start to school until the family had moved to Vinton in 1910.  Mother must have been a natural born teacher for each daughter had absorbed considerable book learning before entering the public school system.

Sister Audrey was well liked, even popular in school.  She was a good student and graduated as salutatorian of her school class.  She took an active part in most of the schools activities and was the Editor of her high school paper “The Vinton Arrow.”

Her friends were many and her special “400 Club” friends were :  Eleanor Luckey, Dorothy Bickel, Emma Janet Ray, LaVonne Houlihan, Katherine McElroy, Bernice Christianson and Virginia Whipple were the ones closest to her heart.

After high school she attended Iowa State University at Ames, where she met and married Harry King Lowry.  Immediately after their marriage, they left for Minneapolis where H.K. had accepted a position as Civil Engineer with Minneapolis Moline Plow and Implement Company. ...         

During their early years of marriage, the Lowry’s found much pleasure traveling.  Audrey also visited several countries in Europe, the Holy Lands and places of Biblical interest in Egypt as well as Egypt’s great sphinx and towering pyramids.  In these later years she and her family spend part of each summer month at their lake place in the Chippewa National Forest of Northern Minnesota.  For the last few years she and her daughters have also taken a number of interesting trips throughout the United States and Canada.

Her church and Bible studies have always been a first priority with Audrey.  She is a member of the Colony Park Baptist Church in Edina, a Minneapolis suburb.  She has been a willing worker whenever or wherever needed.

Before retirement, Audrey was employed for 15 years by the American Optometric Association in the Minneapolis headquarters as office manager and assistant editor of its national magazine.  The next fifteen years were with the Apache Corporation, Inc., a gas and oil exploration company as executive secretary to the corporations first vice-president.  A few years after her retirement in 1970 she was called to work in the Minneapolis headquarters of the Billy Graham association.  She found this experience to be most rewarding.  In each and every phase of employment, Audrey proved to be knowledgeable and efficient.  Her fellow workers sought her out for counsel, information and advice on many occasions.

To Audrey, her life has always been, and still is, exciting.  She seems to enjoy living more and more as the days go by.  Somehow, everybody who knows Audrey loves her, for she possesses that certain “something” that many of us seem to lack.

I know I love her dearly and I still claim her as my own.




It has taken a lot of thinking, a lot of writing and a lot of time to write this what I like to call “The History of my Grandparents, my parents and my children besides including my sisters and, too, my husband” but I’m glad I’ve done it.

Now I hope that sometime somewhere somebody (if they read this) will be glad too.

Submitted by Tierney Lynch Ratti, April 2006

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