This is a history on the forming of Knox County, Illinois, and it's government, townships, etc.
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Under the Constitution of 1818, the government of each county was committed to three commissioners, all being elected in August of every alternate year on a single ticket. The first chosen in Knox were: Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash, and Charles Hansford, who were elected July 3, 1830, when the county was organized. This Board was to hold office until their successors were chosen, the following month.
They first met at the house of John B., Gum on July 7 of that year, and after appointing John B. Gum Clerk, adjourned. Two days later they again met and appointed John G. Sanburn Clerk, Gum having declined to serve. That gentleman, however, was made Treasurer, and gave bonds conditioned in five hundred dollars. On July 17, the Commissioners met again, and divided Knox into two precincts for the coming election; one of these was known as “Henderson”, and included that portion of the county north of the north line of Township 10 North, Range 1 East; and the other as “Spoon River”, which embraced the rest of the county. Knox had been attached to Fulton County for governmental purposes; so the Commissioners addressed a memorial to the Fulton Board requesting the latter to furnish a tax list for the newly organized county and relinquishing to the former the right to collect its own revenues.
The election was held August 2, 1830, and the first Board of Commissioners for a definite, stated term was chosen; two of those elected the previous month being reelected, and Alexander Frakes taking the place of Charles Hansford, Stephen Osborn was elected Sheriff. This completed Knox County’s organization. It now had its regular officers, elected for full terms, and was duly empowered to levy and collect its own taxes.
Four times a year, on the first Mondays in March, June, September, and December, the Board held regular terms of Court, as the Commissioner’s meetings were called. Special terms were convened on the call of any commissioner. In this Court, the county business was transacted, and its variety was almost infinite. County finances, roads and bridges, suits to determine ownership of strays, the selection of jurors, filling vacancies in minor offices, the binding out of apprentices—all these things, and many more, called for discussion and consideration.
LOCATION OF COUNTY SEAT
One of the first important acts to be performed was the laying out of the county seat. A law, approved January 15, 1831, had set off for this purpose the southwest quarter of Section 28, Township 11 North, Range 2 East, now Knox Township. On March 12, 8131, the Board let the contract for laying out this land to Andrew Osborn, for fifteen dollars, and at the same time, awarded that for building the Court House. On March 26, President Jones was authorized to go to Springfield and enter, on behalf of Knox County, the land which the Legislature had designated to the county seat. On April 23 was held the first sale of lots in the new town, then called Henderson. Seventy-nine lots were disposed of at auction for twelve hundred and fifty-six dollars, Riggs Pennington paying the highest price, sixty-one dollars.
Roads and bridges occupied a large share of the Commissioner’s attention, forming, next to county finances, the most important question with which they had to deal.
Licenses were granted for nearly every kind of business; and perhaps their issuance ranked third in importance among the matters considered by the Board. In 1837, this licensing came to an end, and business was conducted as at present
HENRY COUNTY ATTACHED
By the same law which defined the boundaries of Knox and located its county seat, Henry County was attached to it for governmental purposes, and so remained until 1837. The first act in relation to Henry County seems to have been the licensing of Asa Crooks on June 1, 1835, for two dollars, to operate a ferry across Rock River. Before there were bridges, the demand for ferries was great, and with each one licensed, the Board established special tolls which the ferryman might charge.
At Crook’s ferry the rates fixed were:
Wagon with four horses or oxen…………….$1.00
Wagon with two horses or oxen…………….. .75
Wagon or carriage, with one horse………….. .50
Man and horse……………………………….. .25
Man…………………………………………... .12 ½
Each head of cattle, led or driven……………. .05
Sheep and hogs, per head……………………. .03
The first ferry in Knox was about one-half mile below the present Maquon Bridge over Spoon River, and was conducted by Simeon Dolph. In September, 1834, he agreed to build a boat for the county for forty-five dollars. It was completed in March 1835, and the Board, in consideration of the payment of two dollars, licensed Dolph to run this ferry for one year, upon his giving a bond to keep the boat safe.
Cattle and hogs were allowed to run at large, and each owner could identify his own by a private mark, which he might register in a book kept by the County Clerk for that purpose. Under this system, animals often strayed from their owners. To facilitate their recovery an “estray pen” was kept by the Sheriff of each country, where estrays were impounded. They were advertised for some time, and then, if no owner appeared to claim them, were sold by the Sheriff at public auction, to defray the expense incurred in keeping them, the balance, if any, being turned into the county treasury. Such a pen was built for seventeen and one-half dollars by Sheriff Osborn in 1832, on the Court House lot.
The foregoing gives an idea of the general character of the business transacted by the Commissioners. Let us now examine their method of doing it. They divided the county into districts, called “Justice Precincts”, each of these being a polling district. In the county seat precinct, four Justices and four Constables were elected at the regular August election; and in each of the others half as many. On July 17, 1830, only two precincts were established, as has been already said. In 1839, Galesburg had been started, and the Townships 12 and 13 North, Range 5 East, now the towns of Goshen and West Jersey, had been taken from Knox and made a part of Stark County, so that the Board redistricted the county as follows:
So the districts stood until September 5, 1842, when the present Salem was made a district by itself, called “French Creek”.
The county was also divided into road districts, in each of which a road supervisor was appointed by the Board to take charge of the road fund and expend it judiciously. In 1841, there were thirty-four of these districts; in 1840 there were sixty-three.
In 1838, the law requiring all the Commissioners to be elected every other year was changed. On August 6, 1838, John Jackson, Jonathan Rice and J.H. Wentworth were elected, and drew lots for one, two and three year terms. J.H. Wentworth drew the longest, John Jackson the two year term, and Jonathan Rice the shortest. Thereafter, one Commissioner was elected every year. At elections as then conducted, a citizen might vote in any precinct of the district for which the election was held, and the voting was all viva voce. For county officers a resident of Knoxville might vote in Galesburg, Victoria, or anywhere else in the county. For State officers he could vote anywhere in the State.
The government by Commissioners was both economical and judicious. The taxes were never higher than fifty cents on the one hundred dollars, and were usually much lower, often not exceeding twenty cents, as in 1841, and falling to ten cents in 1845. Yet by September 1834, so much money had been accumulated that the Treasurer was directed to loan one thousand dollars of the county money. Meanwhile, many roads had been laid out; expensive bridges freely built; a jail and Court house, costing nearly $25,000 had been erected, and not a dollar had been borrowed. The bills were met from the regular tax receipts, plus a sum received from the State under the provisions of a law approved February 27, 1837, known as the Internal Improvements Act. It provided for State construction of various railroads and canals, and also that those counties through which no railroad or canal was to be built by the State should receive the sum of $200,000 to be divided among them, according to population. Just how much Knox received cannot now be determined, but it was somewhere between six and fifteen thousand dollars. October 12, 1849, Merriweather Brown, Alfred Brown, and Amos Ward, then the three Commissioners, met for the last time. When they adjourned it was “until Court in course”, but they never reassembled.
By the Constitution of 1848, the offices of County Commissioners and Probate Justice were abolished, and the office of County Judge created. He succeeded to the duties and powers of the Probate Justice, and was to exercise such other judicial functions as the Legislature should prescribe.
The power of county government, previously exercised by the County Commissioners, was now vested in the County Judge and two Associate Judges, proved the Legislature should authorize their appointment, which it did. A plan of township organization was also authorized; to be applied to such counties as might adopt it by a vote of a majority of the electors. During the four years of this description of government, George C. Lanphere, of Galesburg, was County Judge. Alfred Brown, of Henderson, and James M. Hunter, of Salem, were Associate Judges. They were elected November 6, 1849.
Their method of government was substantially that of the Commissioners. Nothing of more importance than the usual routine business came before them. Their last meeting was held on March 4, 1853. The county, on April 5, 1853, adopted township organization and elected Supervisors. Before that there were two attempts made to change the system of county government in Knox. On November 6, 1849, seven hundred and twenty-eight votes were cast in favor of, and four hundred and twenty votes against, the new measure. The County Court declared the plan adopted, and appointed Joel Lee, M. B. Mason and John Arnold a committee to divide the county into towns. They constituted each congressional township one town, and Monday, January 14, 1850, was appointed as the day for the citizens living in each of these new towns to meet and select by ballot a name for their respective towns. The present names were chosen, except in the case of Cedar, Haw Creek, Copley and Elba, which were respectively called Cherry Grove, Ohio, Ritchfield and Liberty. These names the Secretary of State refused to register, on the ground that other towns in Illinois had already legally received the same. Accordingly, on June 6, 1853, the Supervisors gave these four towns their present names.
The first Board of Supervisors was elected in the Spring of 1850, and met on May 6 of that year. It transacted some unimportant business, and adjourned. Yet township organization had not been legally adopted. The vote on November 6, 1849, showed a majority of votes cast on that question to be in favor of the system, but not a majority of all the votes cast at that election. Soon after the first meeting of the Supervisors, the Supreme Court, in a case coming before it from another county, where the conditions were the same, held that a majority vote of all legal voters in the county was necessary to the adoption of the plan of township organization. In consequence, the Supervisors never met again and the County Court resumed its legislative and executive powers.
On November 5, 1850, another election was held, when six hundred and seventy-three votes were cast for the project and three hundred and seventeen against it. Under the decision referred to, this meant another defeat for the friends of township organization. But finally, in 1853, the plan was adopted.
Under this system, each town elected a Supervisor (and one Assistant Supervisor if the town contained eight hundred or more votes), two Justices, and two Constables, for a term of four years each; a Clerk, a Poormaster, and Assessor, a Collector, and three Highway Commissioners. In each town were held annual town meetings, for the transaction of public business, these meetings being, by statute, given some of the powers formerly exercised by the County Commissioners.
The duties and powers of the old County Court, not expressly given to the towns, devolved on the Board of Supervisors.
The first members of this Board, twenty in number, met for the first time on June 5, 1853, and organized by electing Daniel Meek chairman. By a subsequent law, the duties of the Poormaster were transferred to the Supervisor. By Act of 1873, the provision for the election of an Assistant Supervisor was changed so as to apply only to towns of four thousand inhabitants, with an additional assistant for every two thousand, five hundred of population in excess of that number. In January 1866, the Board divided the town of Galesburg, as it then existed, into the towns of Galesburg and West Galesburg, the line running through the city. Each of these towns was entitled to two Supervisors, but only once did the voters exercise their right, for the reason that in 1867 these towns were, by law, reunited. The city of Galesburg was taken out of their jurisdiction, and made a town by itself, town powers being vested in the city officers. It was found entitled to five Supervisors, the town of Galesburg to one, and an Assistant Supervisor was assigned to Knox. In 1891, on account of increase in population, another Supervisor was given to the city of Galesburg. In this way, the number throughout the county has grown from twenty in 1853 to twenty-seven at the present time.
The duties of the Board of Supervisors have been mainly those of routine, already described as having been performed by the County Commissioners. The care of the paupers and insane, the removal of the county seat, and the building of a new court house have been among the chief problems that have confronted the members.
During the War of 1861-65, the Board was fully alive to the responsibilities of its position, and met them without flinching. Large bounties were offered, and over $400,000 was expended in their payment and in aiding soldier’s families.
The affairs of the county have been well managed ever since the creation of the Board. The expenditures, while carefully made, have been liberal. The public buildings and bridges have been well constructed and well maintained. No county in the State has more generously or judiciously provided for its poor. The credit of Knox has always been unquestionable. Claims have invariably been promptly, yet carefully, considered and paid without delay, when found to be meritorious. No debts have been incurred, except for short periods, in anticipation of taxes levied to meet unexpected or extraordinary calls. Compared with surrounding counties, the rate of taxation has been light. Notwithstanding the long and sharp controversy growing out of questions connected with the county seat removal, the Board has been in other matters harmonious in its proceedings, free from personal difficulties; a Board of business men, usually chosen with little regard for partisan politics, and possessing the confidence of their constituents.
Generally speaking, the county may be said to have been fortunate in its choice of officers. In particular, the office of Clerk, the most important in many respects, has been held by a succession of honest and able men, especially qualified to discharge its duties.
Following is a list of County officers:
County Commissioners: Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash, Charles Hansford, Alexander Frakes, Thomas Maxwell, Humphrey Finch, John D. Roundtree, Eldert Runkle, Samuel B. Anderson, Amos Ward, James Ferguson, Alfred Brown, Joseph Rowe, Jonathan Rice, John H. Wentworth, John Jackson, Asa Haynes, Daniel Meek, M.B. Mason, Merriweather Brown.
County Judges: George C. Lanphere, 1850-54; H. G. Reynolds, 1855-58; Leander Douglass, 1859-62; A. M. Craig, 1863-66; Dennis Clark, 1867-86; P.H. Sanford, 1887-98; P.S. Post, 1899.
School Commissioners: William McMurtry, 1832-40; C.K. Harvey, 1840-47; T.J. Hale, 1847-49; William H. Whitton, 1849-53; J. H. Noteware, 1853-55; P.H. Sanford, 1855-61; J.H. Knapp, 1861-65.
In 1865, the office of Commissioner was legally changed to that of Superintendent, and the list below comprises the names of the Superintendents since that date:
J.H. Knapp, 1865-69; Frederick Christianer, 1869-73; M.A. West, 1873-82; W. L. Steele, 1882-85; G.W. Oldfather, 1885-90; S.C. Ransom, 1890-93; M. Andrews, 1893-98; E.S. Wilkinson, 1899.
County Treasurers: John B. Gum, 1830-33; Charles Hansford, 1833-35; George Newman, 1835-37; John Eads, 1837-43; Henry Arms, 1843-46; Zelotes Cooley, 1847; David Edgarton, 1848-49; 1852-53; Charles Rodgers, 1850-51; William H. Whitton, 1854-55; William McGowan, 1856-59; George Davis, 1860-61; T.A.E. Holcomb, 1862-63; John A. West, 1864-65; Thomas Harrison, 1866-67; Homer Gaines, 1868-69; Edwin T. Ellet, 1870-71; 1874-75; Francis M. Sykes, 1872-73; J.L. Burkhalter, 1876-86; Moses O. Williamson, 1887-90; Leon A. Townsend, 1890-94; J. M. McKie, 1895-98; H.M. Reece, 1899.
County Clerks: John B. Gum, 1830; John G. Sanburn, 1830-37; H.J. Runkle, 1837-47; Zelotes Cooley, 1847-56; John S. Winter, 1857-64; James S. Egan, 1865-69; John S. Winter, 1869-82; Albert J. Perry, 1883-90; Moses O. Williamson, 1891 to the present.
Circuit Clerks: John G. Sanburn, 1830-45; Achilles Shannon, 1845-46; Alex Sanders, 1846-47; T.J. Hale, 1847-52; H. T. Morey, 1852-56: Cephas Arms, 1857-60; John H. Lewis, 1861-64; John Aberdein, 1865-68; James W. Temple, 1869-72; George L. Hannaman, 1873-84; Josiah Gale, 1885-89; G.W. Gale, 1889; Charles G. Gibbs, 1889-90; S.V. Stuckey, 1890 to the present time.
Josiah Gale was killed in a railroad accident, August 29, 1899. The Court appointed G.W. Gale, who held the office through September and October, when Charles G. Gibbs was elected. He remained in office till his death, February 6, 1890. S.V. Stuckey was then appointed by the Court and chosen Clerk at the next election, since when he has held the office.
Probate Justices: John G. Sanburn, 1835; H. J. Runkle, 1836; R.L. Hannaman, 1837-39; 1843-49; William King, 1839-43. In 1849 the office was merged in that of County Judge.
Sheriffs: Stephen Osborn, 1830-35; Henry D. Bell, 1836-38; Peter Frans, 1839-47; Henry Arms, 1848-51; S.W. Brown, 1852; John Eads, 1853-54; Cornelius Runkle, 1855-56; George M. Enke, 1857-58; Andrew Thompson, 1859-60; Elijah C. Brott, 1861-62; J. C. Cover, 1863-65; James Soles, 1866; D.W. Bradshaw, 1867-68; Wilkins Seacord, 1869-70; S. F. Patton, 1871-72; A.W. Berggren, 1873-78; John A. Stuckey, 1879-86; James Richey, 1887-90; R.G. Matthews, 1891-94; O.J. Aldrich, 1895-98; R.G. Matthews, 1899.
State’s Attorneys: Thomas Ford, 1830-35; W.A. Richardson, 1836-37; Henry L. Bryant, 1838-39; William Elliot, 1840-48; R.S. Blackwell, 1849-52; H. G. Reynolds, 1853-54; William C. Goudy, 1855; James H. Stewart, 1856-65; J. A. McKenzie, 1866-72; J.J. Tunnicliff, 18783-92; E.W. Welch, 1893 to the present time.
Coroners: Joseph Henderson, 1851-52, 1855-56; J.W. Brewer, 1853-54; William Hamilton 1857-58; A.H. Potter, 1859-60; Reuben Bailey, 1861-62; Giles Cook, 1863-64; Levi Massie, 1865-70; J.W. Kimball, 1871-72; A.S. Slater, 1873-76; D.W. Aldrich, 1877-82; 1885-87; A.S. Slater, 1883-84; G.L. Knowles, 1887-92; G.S. Chalmers, 1893 to the present time.
Surveyors: Parnach Owen, 1830-38; G.A. Charles, 1838-42; David Kendall, 1842-48; A.A. Denny, 1848-51; E.T. Byram, 1852-53; 1856-57; 1860-61; 1874-75; R. Deatherage, 1854-55; Alexander Knapp, 1858-59; R. Voris, 1862-69; David Wilts, 1870-71; W.H. Robinson, 1872-73; Henry Vaughn, 1876-79; Ralf Voris, 1880-85; Mills G. Voris, 1885-92; C.S. Richey, 1893 until the present time.
Circuit Judges: Richard M. Young, 1830-36; James H. Ralston, 1836-39; Peter Lott, 1839-40; Stephen A. Douglas, 1840-43; Jesse B. Thomas, 1843-45; N.H. Purple, 1845-49; William A. Minshall, 1849-50; William Kellogg, 1850-53; H.M. Weed, 1853-55; John S. Thompson, 1855-60; Aaron Tyler, 1860-61; Charles B. Lawrence, 1861-64; John S. Thompson, 1864-66; Joseph Sibley, 1866-67; A.A. Smith, 1867-94; J.J. Glenn, 1877; G.W. Pleasants, 1877-97; H.H. Bigelow, 1894-97; George W. Thompson and John A. Gray, 1897.
One Judge was elected in each circuit down to 1877. Then the Appellate Court was created, and three Judges were chosen. A.A. Smith was Judge of the Knox County circuit and G.W. Pleasants for that of Rock Island County. These two circuits were consolidated, and J.J. Glenn was elected as the third Judge. In 1893, Judge Smith resigned, on account of ill health, and Judge Bigelow was elected to fill the vacancy. In 1897, the circuits were reapportioned by the Legislature, and Knox was thrown into a new circuit.
At the second meeting of the County Commissioners, held on July 9, 1830, it was ordered: “That the temporary seat of justice for Knox County shall be a the home of John B. Gum, in said county.” Mr. Gum’s residence was a two room, one story log cabin, on Section 32, in Henderson Township. This continued to be used as the Court House until October 22, 1831.
LOG COURT HOUSE
March 12, 1831, the county seat having been fixed at Knoxville, the Commissioners contracted with William Lewis to erect a log Court House, for seventy-eight dollars, and with Parnach Owen to finish it in consideration of the payment of the further sum of one hundred dollars. Extra windows, underpinning and furnishing brought the total cost up to $395.43. The site was the southwest corner of Lot 10, in Block 5, of the village of Henderson, the name of which has been since changed to Knoxville. The building was twenty-eight feet long by twenty feet wide, two stories high, and constructed of hewed logs, placed on stone pillars one foot high. It was finally finished, December 2, 1833, but it had been occupied since the previous October.
SECOND COURT HOUSE
This log Court House was soon outgrown, and on December 5, 1836, the County Clerk was ordered to advertise in the Peoria Register and Springfield Republican for bids for a new edifice. On March 24, 1838, the contract was let to Zolotes Cooley and Alvah Wheeler, for $15,450., they agreeing to complete the work by May 1, 1840. They afterwards added a cupola, at an expense of seven hundred and fifty dollars. This structure was of brick, sixty-two feet five inches long, and forty-two feet five inches wide. It had six rooms on the lower floor with a broad hall running through the center, from the north end of which a double stairway led to the court room. The court room, the jury room, and the sheriff’s office occupied the upper story. A wide portico, with heavy columns, ran across the front, or south side of the building. About thirty years afterwards, the building was remodeled under the supervision of Mr. Cooley, the stairs being placed outside, thereby considerably enlarging the court room. In all the buildings planned by this architect, the construction was thorough and in good taste. At the time of its completion, the Knox County Court House was justly regarded as one of the handsomest buildings in the State.
In 1854, after some agitation, the Board of Supervisors adopted a plan drawn by Mr. Cooley for the construction of a fireproof building on the Court House grounds, to contain two rooms, for the occupancy of the Circuit and the County Clerk. On January 27, 1854, Samuel Fox contracted to erect the building for $5,375, the Board naming Zelotes Cooley to superintend the work. After the removal of the county seat to Galesburg, the Supervisors relinquished to Knoxville all right to the Court House, Clerk’s Offices and Jail.
COUNTY SEAT CONTROVERSY
The original location of the county seat at first appeared a fortunate one. Although two-thirds of the area of the county lay to the east of it, the western portion contained the bulk of the population, and seemed likely always so to do. The topographical character of the county was such that no point nearer the center could be found equally accessible by highways. The location, a prairie ridge with timber coming close up on each side, was naturally beautiful. It gave every promise of permanency, a promise that would have been fulfilled but for the changes brought about by railroad construction.
Five years later, the near location of Galesburg aroused, in the breasts of the people of Knoxville, a spirit of rivalry, yet its situation, only four miles from the county line, seemed to rule it out as a competitor for the honor of being the county seat.
During the first fifteen years of Galesburg’s history, the political and commercial supremacy of Knoxville was unquestioned. But when the young and growing city had overtaken and passed Knoxville in population, and was seen to be rapidly gaining in trade, its growth aroused ambition on one side and apprehension on the other.
There followed a struggle for advantage in railroad location with Galesburg victorious, and becoming the railroad center of the county. Then it became apparent that Knoxville was confronted with a powerful rival, if she would hold her position as the county seat. The influence of this question became more and more potent every year in political conventions, and in the meetings of the County Board. In the Constitutional Convention of 1862, a proposition of W. Selden Gale, delegate from Knox, to give to County Boards the power to call elections for county seat removals was adopted, but left out in final revision, as possibly endangering the popular vote in some localities on the adoption of the proposed new organic law. The hope was that, by taking such action away from the Legislature, the question might be eliminated as a disturbing element in political conventions, relegating it to its proper place as a purely county issue. The “Knox Republican” editorially approved the measure. In the session of 1863, an act was introduced applying the principle to Knox County, but before final passage an amendment limited its operation to two years, thereby destroying its value to the people of Galesburg, since no one contemplated or desired an election at that time.
In the session of 1865, under the influence of some enthusiastic and sanguine citizens of Galesburg, an act was passed providing for the removal of the seat of government of Knox County, if such change were favored at an election to be held April 4, 1865. An active effort to carry the election was promptly put on foot. A gift to the county of $75,000, to be used in constructing a court house, was pledged, and secured by a bond, executed by many of the wealthiest men in Galesburg. A building site without cost was promised. Plans for an elegant building, with jail included, to cost not more than $75,000, were procured and exhibited. Liberal (and even irresistible) as the offer appeared to those proffering it, it met with a cold reception in the county. Every town except Galesburg and one other voted against it, most of them by large majorities.
At the same election, Mr. Gale, who had two years before left the Board after ten years service, was sent back, and Henry R. Sanderson accompanied him. They found only three of their associates who had favored Galesburg on the question of removal. The friends of Knoxville felt themselves in the ascendant, and were disposed to carry out a moderately aggressive policy, and planned to extend and improve the county buildings. The Galesburg members could only make themselves useful in the conduct of the county business, and cultivate the confidence and friendship of their brethren on the Board. At the last meeting of the year, an order was passed dividing the town of Galesburg into two towns, of about equal population, for the ostensible reason that the number of voters was too large for one polling place, and there could be found no authority for the division of a town into precincts by order of the County Board. If the far-reaching effect of the measure had been understood, it might have met with more opposition. As the law then stood, a town with eight hundred voters was entitled to two Supervisors; no town could have more. Care was taken in drawing the dividing line, so that eight hundred voters might be found on either side. Messrs. Gale and Sanderson came back in 1866, reinforced by A. C. Clay and L. E. Conger.....
To be continued when I get Kathy the missing pages... sorry for the inconvience.
PAGES 639-644 MISSINGLeft out 645 and half of 646
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 09:17:09 AM updated & uploaded
Created Saturday September 24, 2005 11a in the morning.