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Boone County Townships

Before the 1849 election, Boone County was sparsely settled except along the Des Moines River. The three civil townships—Pleasant, Boone and Boone River—that had divided the county into 8-mile wide sections from north to south were economical and convenient for elections.

Shortly after the election, the board of supervisors subdivided these townships, in part to avoid having them extend across the Des Moines River. The authorities also felt the name “Boone,” which appeared in Boone County, Boonesboro, Boone Township and Boone River Township, was too general and suggested that different names be adopted for the new subdivisions.

Previously, the boundaries of Boone Township had included the current southern halves of Jackson, Des Moines, Yell and Amaqua townships and the current northern halves of Beaver, Marcy, Worth and Colfax townships. In March 1852, those boundaries changed to include all of the current Des Moines Township, except the north tier of sections, as well as a large part of Worth Township and a large section on the west side of the river.

S.B. McCall, an ardent Democrat and Mexican War sympathizer who was county judge in 1852, was likely responsible for many of the townships being named after generals of the Mexican War and Democratic politicians.

The townships were ill-shaped and inconvenient. In March 1858, the Boone Township boundaries were again changed, and Des Moines Township was formed.

Des Moines Township

Except a small strip on the east that became part of Jackson Township and a small strip on the south that became part of Worth Township when those subdivisions were formed, the Des Moines Township borders are very close to those designated in 1858.

Des Moines Township contains the county seat and the attending financial, political and social influences. It also has wealth, population and resources that are not connected to the county seat.

By 1880, the township and its two towns, Boonesboro and Boone, contained about one-third of the county’s population and more than a third of its wealth, stemming from its well-improved farms, residences and important mineral resources.

The first post office was established under the name Boonesville in 1850 one and half miles south of Boonesboro. Samuel H. Bowers was postmaster.

Boonseboro was platted Sept. 1, 1851, and the first house was built by Wesley C. Hull. Hull’s building, a business and post office, was located east of the public square. The first general mercantile in Boonesboro was put up by J.A. McFarland in December 1851 directly east of the present courthouse. In 1854, Boonseboro had eleven log homes and one frame building. The first schoolhouse, presided over by teacher C.W. Hamilton, was hewn logs and stood on the same ground the west ward school later occupied. The schoolhouse also served as a church and courthouse. Mr. Montgomery, a local Methodist, was one of the first preachers.

Boone was laid out by John I. Blair on March 4, 1865. At the time, the town was known as Montana, and the post office was called Boone Station. More than 50 lots were sold on the first day of the first auction of lots, with prices ranging from $50 to $500 each. When the town was laid out, the only building was a two-story frame house used as a tavern. It stood in the center of Story Street, a little south of the railroad tracks.

The first school opened in 1865, and two teachers were employed. During the summer of 1865, the first religious service was held under some cottonwood trees outside the St. James Hotel by Rev. Snodgrass, a Methodist preacher. The roundhouse was also started in 1865 and completed the following year.

The town was renamed Boone in 1872.

Yell Township

When Yell Township was organized in 1852, it included what are now Amaqua, Grant and Pilot Mound townships. The township was named by Judge S.B. McCall for Colonel Yell of the Ark Calvary, who was killed at the battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War. The township began to be settled in 1851. Theodore Crawford was the first known person born within the township. The first death was that of a person named Kerg, who was buried in the Spickelmier graveyard.

In 1855, Jacob Daily laid out a town called Daily City in the north part of Yell Township. It didn’t succeed. Also in 1855, a town named Centerville was laid out on a bluff overlooking the Des Moines River valley and beneath the towers of various coal shafts. Its proprietors, Henry Fisher and James Corbin, hoped to make the town the center of trade and traffic for the surrounding county. This town also disappeared.

Ogden was twice laid out and was for a time without owners, as two different corporations claimed the site’s land. The River Company claimed it under the provisions of a grant, while the railroad company claimed it by virtue of another grant’s provisions. When the railroad was built through this section, John I. Blair believed that railroad company’s claim was equal to or better than that of the River Company. He secured the location for a depot and proceeded to lay out the town. The town plat was recorded June 6, 1866.

Litigation immediately ensued, and it was uncertain to whom the town belonged, so growth was slow the first few years. The courts, over the course of years, decided the land belonged to Mr. Litchfield of the River Company. Mr. Litchfield had his agent, Mr. Brown, resurvey and lay out the town. Mr. Litchfield also took possession of odd land plats with the help of the U.S. government. Many acres of land were still under Mr. Litchfield’s name in 1880.

The town plat with Brown’s addition was dated May 6, 1870. It was named after W.B. Ogden, a distinguished railroad man and capitalist. The town’s first residents were William Patterson, John Regan and George Stanley, all railroad laborers. Early in 1870, Patterson and Stanley had a fight, and Patterson went to Ames. Stanley followed and the fight continued until one was killed and the other sentenced to life in prison in the state penitentiary.

Dr. J.H. Noyes was Ogden’s first physician and started the first drugstore in town. Dr. Noyes disposed of his drug business in 1875 and devoted his attention to his medical practice. A.W. Bloomberg had the first general store and ran it until it failed in 1872; he then left for California. During Ogden’s early years, J.C. Soward and Co. ran a general store on a large tract of land purchased near town. The company failed and left for Nebraska, and a firm named Heath and Shaw began its general store. During this succession of failures, a certain number of reckless adventurers came in, spread themselves around, made great noise, quieted down and in a few months failed and moved on.

A second wave of settlement founded the permanent prosperity of Ogden. The town incorporated in 1878 without reliance on the accidental convergence of railroads or the excitement aroused by the discovery of mineral wealth.

A.W. Bathrick had the first child born in Ogden. The first couple married in town was Charles Soward and Jennie VanCuren. In 1877, a brick schoolhouse with five rooms and three teachers was completed. For some time after Ogden was laid out, the post office was three miles north in Williams and was called Yough Post Office. When the post office was moved to Ogden, William Lee was the first postmaster. The Scandinavian Farmers Society was incorporated in May 1879 and commenced business that August.

Marcy Township

Marcy Township was organized by Judge S.B. McCall and was named by him after William Learned Marcy, a Democratic politician. Marcy had been a farmer, lawyer, veteran of the War of 1812, a newspaper editor, associate justice of the New York Supreme Court, U.S. Senator, governor of New York, Secretary of War appointed by President Polk, and Secretary of State appointed by President Pierce.

Among the first settlers in Marcy Township was David Noah, who settled in the region before disposing of his claim and moving to Oregon. Noah’s Bottom, one of the most beautiful parcels of land bordering the river, was named for him. in 1849, Colonel John Rose settled there and renamed it Rose’s Bottom.

One of the most influential men who settled in the region was W.P. Berry, a man of restless activity, good business and more than the ordinary force of character. He raised a company and served with distinction throughout the Civil War. He was regarded as the most influential citizen on the west side of the river, and Berry Township, which included nearly a quarter of the county, was named for him.

William Sparks, the Shaws, J. Enfield and G. Allen were also early settlers in Marcy Township.

William McCall and Sarah Rose were probably the first couple married in the township, J.R. Rose was the first born on June 4, 1850, and the first death was that of an Irish member of a surveyors party who was well-liked by settlers he showed favors to. Those who had profited from his amiability rehearsed certain romantic stories concerning his life and death.

The first schoolhouse was erected of hard maple logs in section 2 by Messrs. Noah, Rose, Turner and Barkhurst. Samuel B. McCall was the first teacher, with 10 pupils. He received $10 a month and boarded and lodged throughout the county.

Because of its natural resources and especially its mineral mines, Marcy Township was the most densely populated in the county, with the exception of Des Moines Township.

Quincy

The town of Quincy was laid out in September 1854 by Jerome Gordon and Thomas Shaw in the eastern half of the northeast quarter of section 14, township 83, range 27.

Coal Valley

Coal Valley was laid out as a mining town by Amos Elliott in September 1857 on the west side of section 4 and east side of section 2, township 84, range 27.

Moingona

Moingona was laid out by the railroad company in June 1866 on the northeast quarter of section 12, township 83, range 27. Because of the location of coal, timer and building stone, the railroad later changed the direction of the road to run considerably south of the proposed line.

Union Township

Union Township was part of Berry Township until the name was changed on March 17, 1856.

Carson Wood was one of several settlers who visited the township and was the first to break land. Wood arrived in 1848, chose a location and broke up about 8 acres of land in section 35 with the intention of returning in a few months. He did not. John Moore and his family were the first settlers in Union Township, in section 35, in October of 1849. Two of his sons, John D. Moore and Charles R. Moore, settled with him. Within the next five years, James Carnes, Larsord Mills, John Carnes, George Burgett, John H. Moore, Isaac Moore and Abel Lum came to the area.

The first election of township officers was held April 7, 1856, at the home of James Carnes; 28 votes were cast. At this time, the township included 75 people among 17 families.

John Moore was the first physician in the county. The 1852 death of John Moore’s wife, Sarah Moore, was the first recorded in the county. Hannah Moore, daughter of Charles Moore, was the first birth, in 1853. The first person baptized in the township was Mary McKean in 1854. The first lawsuit was between Frances Johnson, plaintiff, and Jesse Petts, defendant, in 1856. The first couple married in Union Township was Samuel Weeks and Matilda Johnson in 1858.

On July 14, 1855, school officers for district 5 in Berry Township were elected at the home of James Carnes. Isaac Crable, James Longridge and James Carnes were elected as the board of school directors. Early in the spring of 1856, a 16-foot-square log schoolhouse was erected on James Carnes’ land in section 27. Each man who helped was asked to contribute 2 to 3 logs. The first school day commenced on May 5, 1856, and 15 pupils were taught by Miss Caroline Palmer at $1.75 a week for 12 weeks, board included. There were 20 pupils in the district.

The school district was changed to district 1 in Union Township on Aug. 22, 1856, and A.L. Sperry was elected school fund commissioner on June 14, 1859. The district was divided into two, and on June 17, 1861, the board of directors decided to build a new schoolhouse in each district. The contract was sold for $700 on July 1, 1861. Between the district 1 schoolhouse, named Lincoln, and the district 2 schoolhouse, called Douglas, the number of students was 50, an increase of 30 since 1856. By 1865, there were 85 pupils. In 1866, Jefferson schoolhouse in Peoples Township was built and in 1873, three more were erected. In 1872, the district was reduced to the township proper and contained five schoolhouses for 159 children between 5 and 21 years of age (according to the 1875 census).

In 1872 the township was reduced to 6 miles square. Because Union Township was the only one traversed by the Des Moines and Fort Dodge Railroad and a large majority of the people did their trading in Des Moines and Dallas counties, it interacted less with the rest of the county than other townships.

Peoples Township

This civil township was organized on May 12, 1871, and comprised congressional township 82 north, or range 27, west of the fifth principal meridian. Previously, the west third of the township was part of Union Township and the eastern two-thirds was part of Cass Township. Peoples Township was named in honor of one of the first permanent settlers of the township, David Peoples, who with his son-in-law, Hon. Levi Colvin, entered portions of sections 17 and 18 in 1855. A settler named Dart was the first within the new limits of the township, settling on section 33 in 1854.

The first township wedding was that of Enos Rhods and Henrietta Peoples, who were married by Rev. William Sparks on March 26, 1860. The first births were those of Albert B. and Alfred B. Wade, twin sons of W.W. and Lucy Wade on Jan. 12, 1857. Albert B. Wade was the first deatyh on Nov. 2, 1857. The first school was built on the southeast quarter of the southwest half of section 12 in 1856 or 1857. Rev. William Sparks, a Baptist minister, preached the first sermon in the township at the schoolhouse.

The first post office, called Prairie Hill, was established in 1867, with Alonzo Bettis the first postmaster. W.W. Wade was the first justice of the peace and Seneca Needham was the first constable in the township. The M. E. Church erected on the southwest corner of section 15 in 1875 was the first church building in Peoples Township. The first Sunday school was at the Union School, organized on section 24 during 1866. William Hutchings was the superintendent.

The first Independence Day celebration in the townships was held at the Peoples schoolhouse on July 4, 1868. The first general election was held at the Elkhorn schoolhouse on Oct. 19, 1871. At that time the township’s population was 300, and 82 votes were cast. The township officers first met at the house of J. B. Swain on section 16 on Feb. 3, 1872. There were nine sub-districts in the township, there being no independent districts.

Cass Township

The Cass Township area first included both of what are now Cass and Peoples townships, that part of the congressional township 82, range 26, that lies west of the Des Moines River. It was named after Lewis Cass, a distinguished statesman and politician.

For many years after the county was first settled, its people endured many privations and hardships. The nearest post office was in Des Moines, where residents also had to go for groceries and other supplies. The nearest mill was at the mouth of the Middle River in Warren County, and because it frequently was too busy, people had to go as far as the mills in Eddyville and Oskaloosa.

The first settlements in this township were in 1848, and Jonathon Bowles, John Woods, V. Preston, Crawford Coles and Jacob Rhoades settled in this region in 1849. I. H. Rhoades and William Noland followed in 1850, as did George Spurrier, Landa Hurst, Jesse Williams and Preston Barry. Samuel, son of Mr. and Mrs. V. Preston had the distinction of being the first birth and the first death in the township. He was born on Nov. 27, 1849, and died in December 1849. Samuel was buried on section 32.

The first school in Cass Township was a log structure in section 32. Classes were taught by Clayborn Wright in a log home where Orlow Oviatt’s barn was later located. The first public religious services were conducted by Rev. John DeMass at the home of Jonathon Bowles during the fall of 1850.

Beaver and Amaqua Townships

In the western part of Boone County, a beautiful stream flows almost parallel to the Des Moines River. This stream was known to the American Indians as Amaqua, which means “beaver.” The early settlers called the creek by its English name, and when the area was organized into civil townships, two of them were named for this natural feature.

The first settlers were Patrick Vaughn, John Vaughn, Cornelius Cronin and Patrick Cronin. They settled in section 10 in May 1867. They were originally from Ireland and came to the townships from Ogden in Boone County. The first marriage was that of Dennis Vaughn and Mary Mahoney on April 28, 1869. The first male child born, William Vaughn on Sept. 15, 1869, was also the first death in the township, on Aug. 25, 1870.

The first school was in district 2 and was taught by Patrick Coil, who later went to California. The first schoolhouse was built in 1871 in section 10. Pleasant Hill Cemetery is in the southwest quarter of section 16.

The first board of trustees for Beaver Township consisted of Enos Barrot, Patrick Mahoney and John Garlic. John T. S. Williams was the first township clerk, and Patrick Cronon was the first township assessor.

Amaqua Township was organized in January 1871 and its first board of trustees included George Wood, D. M. Girard and D. B. Carrey. John Smith was the first township clerk, and Gilbert H. Pardell was the first assessor. The first official meeting of the township board was held in Center Schoolhouse.

The M. C. Church of Center Schoolhouse was organized in 1869. Rev. Snodgrass was the first pastor, and there were about 25 members.

The town of Beaver was laid out June 30, 1879, on the south half of southwest quarter of section 32, township 84, range 28. As the only shipping point for people in western Boone and Green counties, Beaver became a trading center.

Grant Township

This township is in extreme northwest Boone County and was the last to be settled. In 1875, Grant Township, which was exclusively prairie, had a population of 411, a large portion of whom were foreign-born. An American Indian trail was the only road.

The first settler in the township was M. White, who came from Indiana and took a claim on section 15 in 1847. Solomon Tomlison came from Ohio the same year and took a claim in section 10.

In the summer of 1848, Pleasant Chitwood employed Thomas Sparks to break ground and prepared to move his family to his claim, which was reached by boat. To move his family, Mr. Chitwood brought his good and family on a wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen to the banks of the rain-swollen river. After unloading his goods on the near bank, Mr. Chitwood and his oxen were from some cause precipitated into the river. Although Mr. Chitwood could not swim, he clung to the ox yoke and was carried downstream by a strong current. He was able to catch hold of some branches projected over the river by a fallen tree and climbed to the bank. In the meantime, his wife, who was terrified almost to the point of desperation, jumped into the boat to rescue her husband. She did not know how to handle the boat and was borne rapidly down the river. Just as Mr. Chitwood was reaching dry land, he saw his wife carried past him. He immediately started in pursuit and was able to use a long pole to bring the boat and his wife to land. The oxen were drowned and the wagon was embedded in a drift; nearly a year passed before the wagon could be pulled out.

The first known marriage was that of John Akson and a lady named Peterson, who were married by Samuel B. McCall.

Rev. William Sparks, a Baptist, preached the first sermon in the township at the home of Mr. Carson. Sarah Scott taught the first school in a little log house on section 3. The first schoolhouse was built on section 3 and cost $50.

Pilot Mound was organized in 1858 on section 20, township 85, range 27. This is the highest elevation along the Mineral Ridge, and it is claimed that a bloody battle was once fought there between the Sioux, the Sac and the Fox Indians. By 1875, a post office had been established there, and the population was some 700. Both the town and the post office were named for the mound. The first board of trustees included Bethel Owen, A. Abercrombie and Peter Runyan.

In 1858, a cemetery was laid out in section 4, and six sub-districts for school and road purposes existed. The first schoolhouse was built on the east part of section 16. $850 was raised for schools and a tax of 5 miles on the dollar was levied for road purposes.

Worth Township

The portion of Boone County that became Worth Township was the first to be permanently settled and was for many years the center of activity and influence. One or two settlements had been made previously farther south, but claims taken, homes established and society formed in Worth Township took the lead and directed the movements that formed basis of the county’s prosperity.

It was here that the first schoolhouse was built, the first religious serviced conducted and the first official meetings of the county held. Although no seat of justice was officially selected until 1851, a practical county seat was located partly in Pleasant and Boone precincts in 1849 and 1850, and it continued until 1852 when part of Pleasant Township west of the river was removed.

Worth Township was first organized in 1858, with boundaries somewhat different than they are today (were in 1880?). The township was named in honor of William J. Worth, one of the soldiers of the Mexican War and a new commander at Monterey.

The first settlement was by John Pea on May 16, 1846, on section 2. This settlement was known for years as Pea’s Point. James Hull came about the same time, shortly followed by Uriah Hull and William Hull. Soon after came Jacob Crook, Henry Hoffman, William Dickinson, two brothers named Smith, Richard Green, William Holson, John Dobson and Samuel Luther. Dr. James Hull was the first physician in the county; he lived for many years in Worth Township where he carried hope and consolation into many homes afflicted with the malarial diseases common during early settlement. He died in 1872. The first marriages, births, deaths, schools and sermons in Boone County all occurred in Worth Township.

Fully half of the township was covered with timber, and although much of it was used for fuel, building and railroad purposes, a bountiful supply continued into the late 1800s. In April 1853, Daniel Parker laid out Parkersburg in section 2, believed to be the only attempt to build up a town in Worth Township. By 1880, the township was well-established with good roads, there being four road districts, and the best schoolhouses in the county.

Douglas Township

Douglas Township was formed at the same time as Worth Township. At that time, Douglas Township had some broken land along the river, which was well-supplied with both wood and coal. The eastern portion was very productive as it was made up of fertile, undulating bottom prairie.

In January 1846, Chas. W. Gaston, who located in section 34, was recorded as the first settler. In September of that year, Mrs. Anna Delander came directly from Sweden with a family of four sons and two daughters and settled at Swede Point. During May and June of 1847, quite a number of permanent settlers came in, including Jesse Hull, Ben Williams, John Hull, William Sawyer, John Dobson, Richard Green, and William Helston.

The first death in the township was that of Elsie A., the wife of Ben Williams, on June 10, 1847. She was buried on section 34, where a portion of ground was afterward set aside as a cemetery, the first in the township. The first marriage on record is the wedding of Henry Holcomb and Mary J. Hull in 1848. The township’s first birth was that of Henry Hull, son of John and Sophia Hull; this was also the first recorded birth in Boone County.

Dr. Rice, who came from Washington, was the first regular doctor in the township, and Judge Montgomery was the first regular minister. There were three churches: Christian, Free Will Baptist and Evangelical Lutheran St. John. The latter was organized in 1859 with about 15 Swedish families.

The township was mostly populated by Swedes, an enterprising class of citizens, most of whom had well-improved farms. Other settlers came from Indiana, North Carolina and East Tennessee.

The first two towns in Boone County, Elk Rapids and Swede Point, were located in Douglas Township. Elk Rapids’ chief feature was its mill. Swede Point was a sort of trading post and enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity even though it was not characterized by rapid growth.

Dodge Township

Dodge Township was formed out of Boone River Township when it was subdivided in 1852. It was named for General A. C. Dodge, who first became known to settlers of the West for his connection with the Black Hawk War.

Mineral Ridge, a curious geological formation, is located in the northern part of Dodge Township. This part of the township, with its uneven land and heavy bodies of timber along the river, was the first to be settled. Among the first settlers were M. White, J. Richardson, Joel Baker, W. L. Defore, W. R. Cole, Daniel Knight, M. Leininger, C. Casine, J. Crim, Orliz Hinman, H. Friendly, A. Swighart, J. C. James, Levi Emerson, J. Landon, T. J. Johnson, C. Manpin, I. C. Hull, J. B. Godwin, Alman Stinson, C. Stotts and J. M. Stotts. The area was well-adapted to agriculture and was one of the best settled in the county.

the first supposed marriage was that of John Baker to Elizabeth Lent, who were married by W. L. Defore in 1852. J. W. Lewis was the first regular doctor in the township. Rev. Rathburn, a Portugee who settled on a claim, was the first minister. The first school was taught in a house near the home of M. R. Cole by Z. J. Vontrees. The first school building was built in district 1.

Ridgeport was laid out by John Radpath and Absolom Kelly in May 1854. The first post office, called Mineral Ridge, was located there in 1864. A. T. Silvers (or one T. Silvers?) was engaged in general merchandise in 1856. The town had a general store, a drugstore, a blacksmith shop, two doctors and two churches.

Harrison Township

Harrison Township comprised mainly prairie and remained unsettled for many years. Squaw Creek, called Ewqua by the American Indians, is a tributary of Skink River. Squaw Creek is the only creek in Boone County that does not reach the Des Moines River. A German Lutheran Church was build on the farm of Mr. Lewis Ahrens in the summer of 1876.

Jackson Township

This township was organized in 1857, and its boundaries changed in 1858. The township was almost level and is the highest point of land in the county. The only timber was in the northeast corner. Much of the land was originally set aside as swamp land. The marshes were drained and cultivated, so that by 1880 it contained less wasteland than any other township. There was no station or depot along the roads within the township.

The first official meetings in Jackson Township were held at the home of Thomas Eads. Mitchell Grove Cemetery was laid out in 1854. The first schoolhouse was built in November 1858. Among the first settlers were Milan Zenor, who settled in section 12 in the spring 1851. The following year, J. Mitchell and Thomas Eads settled, followed by William Zenor in 1854.

In 1855, Michael Zenor was married at the house of William Zenor with Judge Montgomery officiating in what was probably the first marriage in the township. The first death was that of Mary J. Zenor in 1854. She was 11 years old and was buried in Ontario Cemetery. Sarah Patterson, daughter of Milan and Amanda Zenor, was born in 1853.

The first religious services held in the township were at the home of Milan Zenor and were conducted by Rev. Willis Reynolds, a United Brethren minister. The first doctor was Dr. Mathers from Polk City. William Bell taught 11 students in the first school, which ran for three months and paid $55 a term. the first schoolhouse was erected in 1856 by Mr. Bell and Milan Zenor for $25. These first settlers experienced all the hardships and endured all the privations incident to pioneer life.

Colfax Township

Colfax was formerly part of Des Moines Township and was organized into a separate township in 1871. Thomas A. Duckworth and Samuel A. Croy were the first settlers; Croy came from Ohio and settled on section 13 in the spring of 1860. When he first settled in the county, he was snowbound for about six weeks and used his fence rails for fuel.

The first religious services were held in a log schoolhouse by Samuel Croy, a Christian minister. The first school was taught by John T. Croy in the house of Samuel Croy with 16 pupils in attendance.

Garden Township

Among the last settled portions of the county was Garden Township. It was originally part of Douglas Township, located in township 82 east of the Des Moines River to the Story County line. A small creek halves the township from north to south and is in places skirted with small belts of timber.

Garden Township was created by subdivision in 1872, and the first township election took place at the district 8 schoolhouse in 1873. The Garden Prairie post office was located on section 4.

Among the early settlers in Garden Township were Holcraft Kiegly, Bagwel Irwin and Thrapp. Most settlers arrived in 1867 and were mainly Swedish. Most of the land was owned by nonresidents and cultivated by renters. Some of the soil was very fertile and well-cultivated, while other areas were very flat and marshy. As permanent settlers gradually took possession, the land began to be improved, and the township became a very desirable farming district.

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