Other County Histories | Civil War | 1886 | 1913 Vol. 2 | 1916 | Depression |
Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History

by Major A. J. Roof. 1913

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Page 276

On the 7th of August, 1837, the county court, then in session at Joseph Cox's, took the first steps toward laying out and establishing the town of Chillicothe. On this day John Graves was appointed to "lay off into lots the county seat, where the commissioners appointed by the State Legislature shall locate it." It was also ordered that the county seat "shall be denominated and known by the name of Chillicothe." The town was named for Chillicothe, Ohio, the county seat of Ross county.

John Graves was appointed trustee for the county to lay off and sell lots in the town, which was ordered to be surveyed into twenty blocks before September 4, 1837; but on that day Graves resigned, and Nathan H. Gregory was appointed commissioner and trustee in his stead, giving bond for $5,000. The work of surveying and platting was done by Mr. Gregory himself, as he was a practical surveyor.

The first sale of lots came off October 16 and 17, 1837. Previous notice had been given by posting five written notices in different portions of the country and by advertisements inserted three times in the Missouri Republican, of St. Louis, and the Boone's Lick Democrat, of Franklin, Howard county. Every third lot in each block was sold, except in the block surveyed for the public square. The amount of all the sales was $1,082.62%, on six, twelve and eighteen months credit. The second sale of lots came off May 4 and 5, 1838, when the aggregate sales amounted to $1,807.

Commissioner Gregory was at this time ordered to enter the land, the quarter section, on which the town was situated, but did not do so; and notwithstanding lots were sold and titles made by the county from October, 1837, the town site belonged to the United States and was not entered until August, 1839, when it was entered by Wm. E. Pearl, county seat commissioner.

Not until July 15, 1839, was Chillicothe selected and designated as the county seat of Livingston county, although it had been virtually the county's capital for some time. On the day named, however, the commissioners, who were E. W. Warren, Samuel Williams and Geo. W. Folger, all of Carroll county, selected the southwest quarter of section 36, township 58, range 24, as the county seat, as being "the most eligible location for said county seat," and its site according with the provisions of the organizing act, in lying "within three miles of the center of said county."

On August 13, 1851, Chillicothe was first incorporated by petition of two-thirds of the inhabitants and the first board of trustees were W. Y. Slack, John T. Green, John Graves, J. H. B. Manning and W. C. Samuel. By an act of the legislature, approved March 1, 1855, the town was then incorporated as a city. February 26, 1869, by an act of the legislature the town was constituted a corporation by the name and style of the city of Chillicothe and declaring the original charter and all subsequent amendatory acts thereto amended.

With the certainty of the building of the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroad by way of Chillicothe its trade and prospects increased, and its condition was largely improved. From 1852 to 1856 there were flush times. In 1855 the business directory of the place was about as follows:

Lansing & Yager, dealers in dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc.

Jesse Hoge, dry goods, boots, shoes, etc.

L. & W. Humphrey, drugs..

R. R. Mills, stoves and tinware.

T. J. Winn and J. J. Eberly, tailors.

A. & B. Small, shoemakers.

Carpenter & Clark, plowmakers.

John Garr, plowmaker.

Clark & Turner, livery stable.

J. Fitzmorris, Grand River Hotel.

G. W. Clarno, eating house.

Lawyers, W. Y. Slack, J. H. B. Manning, W. C. Samuel, E. Bell.

Physician, Dr. W. W. Woodward.

Grand River Chronicle, E. S. Darlington

In 1858 the Livingston County Agricultural and Mechanical Association was organized and held an exhibition on its grounds, near Chillicothe, the first Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in October. The officers of the association were R. C. Carr, president; Jere Hutchinson, vice-president; L. T. Collier, secretary; Benjamin Berry, treasurer. Directors: R. E. Holland, B. B. Gill, James Hutchinson, George H. Liggett, Jere Hutchinson, Asa T. Kirtley, John Barnes, Spence A. Alexander, and Benjamin Edrington. Marshal, E. S. Darlington. Musicians, Chillicothe brass band.

In March, 1841, the citizens were allowed to use the old log courthouse, the first one built, for a public schoolhouse and the first school in the town was taught here.

From 1,200 in January, 1859, the population increased to 1,800 or 2,000 by January, 1861. Schools and churches were established, business enterprises were inaugurated, and a full tide of prosperity set in and was fast bearing the town on to permanent fortune. In 1858 a branch of the State Bank of Missouri was established, with John B. Leeper as president and Jas. A. Shirley cashier. This institution continued until 1866, when in November of that year it was succeeded by the People's Savings Bank.

Immediately after the Civil war a tide of prosperity set in. The population was greatly increased, business interests were advanced, industrial enterprises were established, and the city flourished. It became the center of a large trade. People came from off the Iowa line to buy goods. The public square was thronged with teams. Additions to the city were laid out and rapidly settled. In 1870 the population was nearly 4,000, while in 1865 it had been only about 1,500. But now a sort of paralysis struck the business affairs of the city and for years it stood still.

At the close of the war a system of graded schools was established under a special charter from. the state, and in 1875 the present magnificent building was erected at a cost of $35,ooo. This was not effected without opposition, however, which all public enterprises expect to meet. The bonds issued to build the school finally came into the hands of one Mr. Hazelton of New York, who generously gave, in the settlement of a compromise, a considerable sum for the establishment of a library, which now comprises several thousand volumes. Many of these have been donated by citizens. Two of the most efficient friends of the school and library have been the late Hon. Chas. H. Mansur and A. McVey. The architect was C. B. Clarke, of St. Louis; J. A. McGonagle, contractor, and the board of education was T. R. May, president; J. S. Funk, secretary; R. F. Dunn, A. McVey, M. H. Smith and C. H. Mansur.

The city hall, a two-story brick structure, erected in 1869, at a cost of $20,000, was destroyed by fire in March, 1876. On the site of the ruins the present city hall was erected the following year at a cost of $25,000.

People who live here know of no place so attractive - none with greater possibilities and have heard of no city whose immediate future looks so bright as that of Chillicothe, the railroad center and coming factory city of North Missouri. Speaking of Chillicothe and Livingston county the author has endeavored rather to underestimate than to exaggerate, knowing that so much can be said of the possibilities, that the plain, unvarnished truth would seem to many an exaggeration. In the past, in spite of some circumstances that have been disadvantageous, Chillicothe has steadily grown, while other cities have stood still. Those who have selected Chillicothe and Livingston county as the best place in all the world to find a home, have used mature judgment in choosing this place above all others as a permanent home for themselves and families. Chillicothe stands today as the ideal town of the country, with all the advantages and environments that go to make life happy and prosperous.

Chillicothe is the home of nearly three hundred traveling men. This is a significant fact and is as important to the manufacturer as to the man who must have many trains in many directions from him home town.

The first thing that strikes the stranger on his tour of the city is the fact that almost every street boasts its beautiful residences. These, however, do not detract from the cozy and slightly, yet pretentious cottages which everywhere impress the visitor with an air of substantial comfort and plenty.

Her streets are broad and well paved and bordered with great trees and each householder takes pride in keeping lawn and parkway up to a high standard. The city of Chillicothe has six miles of vitrified brick and Hassam street paving, more than thirty miles of granitoid walks and twenty-five miles of public sewerage.

The plant of the People’s Gas and Electric Company is located in the eastern part of the city and is one of the most efficient plants in Missouri. It furnishes power and light at a figure lower than St. Louis or Chicago and is equipped to supply manufacturers with all the power needed.

Some idea of the volume of business done in Chillicothe is shown by the receipts of the local postoffice, which are the largest in this congressional district. The postmaster is John L. Schmitz, and the assistant is Preston Randolph. There are five clerks, five city carriers and seven rural carriers employed. The rural routes traverse 167 miles and there are 13,000 patrons of the postoffice, The government has recently purchased a site at the corner of Clay and Locust streets for a postoffice and federal court building. Congress has voted an appropriation of $135,000 for the building.

In 1886 L. J. and Louis Jarrett obtained a twenty-five year franchise from the city of Chillicothe permitting them to erect a telephone plant. This was started with sixteen ‘phones. Five years later it was sold to Col. W. B. Leach and Dr. A. W. McArthur. At this time all patents were owned by the Bell Telephone Company and a few years later Colonel Leach was one of the first telephone men to break away and purchase independent apparatus, putting in a new board of the American Electric Company. The growth of the plant continued steadily and in 1903 the switchboard was again renewed, Leach and McArthur purchasing a Stromberg-Carlson visual signal board. In December, 1904, Dr. McArthur's interest was sold to W. H. Ellett and C. L. Waite. A company was organized and the property incorporated for $40,000.00. F. Romeiser was elected president; B. N. Stevens, vice-president; W. H. Ellett, treasurer; and R. L. Rawlins, secretary. A new departure was then made by this company toll lines being acquired to all points in the county and every effort made to enlarge and improve the service in the city and surrounding country. So successful was the effort that in order to meet the demands and needs of the increased growth, the capital stock of the company was again increased in Decem ber, 1908, to $50,000.00 and bonds issued to the amount of $35,000 and C. L. Waite was selected as manager. All of this capital has been furnished by Livingston county people, the company now being represented by nearly fifty of the leading business men and farmers of this community. With this new capital the plant was completely overhauled and office building erected that met the further needs of the company. A full multiple common battery Stromberg-Carlson switchboard of an ultimate capacity of 2,400 lines, with dynamo and engines to furnish their own power and light, was installed. The outside construction is a full cable multiple distribution. The telephones are of the Stromberg-Carlson's new metal type. Everything has been put up in first class condition and no expense was spared to make this the best independent plant in Missouri. The Bell Telephone Company, a corporation owning and controlling most of the telephone lines in the state, purchased the stock of the People's Telephone Company a few months ago.

The city of Chillicothe is well supplied along all lines of commercial and professional business, including abstractors, attorneys, auctioneers, bakeries, banks, barbers, bicycle stores, billiard and pool rooms, blacksmiths, boarding houses, books and stationery, bottling works, candy factories, business colleges, carriage dealers, chili stands, cigar manufacturers, cleaners and pressers, clothing dealers, literary clubs, coal and wood yards, confectioners, contractors, dentists, draymen, dressmakers, druggists, dry goods, express companies, factories, feed stores, flouring mills, furniture stores, garages, grocers, gunsmiths, hardware, harness shops, horseshoers, hotels, ice dealers, insurance companies, jewelers and opticians, ladies' furnishing goods, laundries, livery and feed stables, loan companies, lumber yards, lunch counters, marble yards, meat markets, milliners, music teachers, newspapers, nurses, oculists, osteopaths, painters and paper hangers, photographers, physicians, piano dealers, plumbers, produce merchants, real estate agents, restaurants, second hand stores, shoe repairers, shoe dealers, tailors, ten cent stores, theaters, tinsmiths, transfer companies, undertakers, veterinary surgeons, wagon makers and wholesale houses.

U. S. Pension Examiners. - The U. S. pension examining board of Chillicothe consist of Dr. W. A. Swope, president, Wheeling; Dr. Reuben Barney, secretary, Chillicothe; and Dr. B. N. Stevens, treasurer, Chillicothe.

Chillicothe Board of Health.-The Chillicothe board of health consist of Dr. W. M. Girdner, Dr. A. J. Simpson, Dr. R. Barney and Dr. R. L. Dowell.

Board of Public Works.-The Chillicothe board of public works, who now have charge of the Municipal Electric Light and Power Plant, are men of the highest business qualifications and consist of C. F. Adams, president; P. J. Dixon, secretary; John A. Ryan and Adam Saale.

Board of Education.-The board of education of Chillicothe consist of John McBride, H. B. Hogan, Chris Boehner, John H. Taylor, J. D. Brookshier, and W. G. Keath, the officers of the board being, John H. Taylor, president; J. D. Brookshier, treasurer; W. G. Keath, secretary and A. R. Coburn, superintendent of schools.

The location of the several school buildings follows: High-school building, Third street, between Vine and Elm; Central building, Ann Street, between Vine and Elm; First Ward building, corner Polk and Dickinson streets; Second Ward building, corner Polk and Eastin streets; Fourth Ward building, corner Graves and Jameson streets; Garrison building (colored), corner Henry and Violet streets. The Garrison school building is in the Third ward, but the white children of that ward attend school at the Central building.


For four years the city of Chillicothe was in darkness for lack of funds to pay a private corporation, then owning and operating a plant in the city. People who had occasion to leave their homes after dark carried lanterns. This situation was alleged to have been the result of the town voting out the fifteen saloons then running and thus cutting off the revenue necessary to defray the expense of lighting the streets of the city. On the 23rd of December, 1909, however, an election was held for the purpose of bonding the city in the sum of $50,000, for the erection of a Municipal Electric Light and Power Plant, which carried by an overwhelming majority. The bonds were sold at a good premium, but the local corporation filed an injunction to prevent the registration of the bonds. The matter was fought through the courts and the city won out. Then in June, 1911, the contract for the erection of the plant was let to the Fuller-Coult company, of St. Louis, and on November 13, 1911, the lights were turned on. A second bond issue for $10,000 was also voted a year later to be used in the further extension of street lights.

The power house is located in the southwestern part of the city, between the Burlington and Wabash railroad tracks, and is equipped with the latest inventions in electric machinery. I'here are three 150 H. P. boilers, one 300 H. P. engine, one 150 H. P. engine, one K. V. A. generator and one 125 K. V. A. generator and all other equipment necessary for a first class electric light and power plant. The white way, installed in 1913, is said by visitors to excel in brilliancy any metropolitan city the country.

The municipal plant is a success financially and will pay out in a few years.


In the past few years four new additions have been platted and made part of the city. The largest of the three known as Weston Heights, in the western part of the city, contains 120 acres and was platted, streets graded and otherwise made attractive and beautiful, by John A. Stewart, of Columbia, Missouri, who purchased the old Williams farm. It is a most desirable residence district and many of the lots have been purchased and homes erected.

Villa Park, in the northeast part of the city, containing thirty acres, was platted and put upon the market by Thomas B. England. Streets have been graded and the grounds beautified in a most attractive manner. This too is a desirable residence district.

The Adams addition, platted some five years ago by Douglas Stewart, is located in the southeast part of the city, and embraced twenty-five acres in all. The Jenkins Hay Rake and Stacker factory is located on the northern limits of the addition.

The John H. Taylor addition, containing fifteen acres, and lying immediately west of Edgewood avenue, was platted three years ago and is very desirable as a residence district.

Chillicothe Water Company. On October 16, 1886, the city of Chillicothe granted to Comeges & Lewis, of New York, a twenty years enfranchise for the construction of a water plant of sufficient capacity to supply the city with a liberal fire protection. The pumping station was located some two and one-half miles south of the city on Grand river and a stand pipe 155 feet in height erected on the Curran lots in Gravesville. At present the owners of the plant are Street, Wykes & Co., of New York. Recently the stand-pipe system was abolished and direct pressure substituted. The water company is capitalized at $100,000.


The officials of the city of Chillicothe who were elected to office in May, 1911, and whose terms expire May, 1913, were as follows: Chris Boehner, mayor; J. T. England, councilman-at-large; John Burch, councilman first ward; R. W Strehlow, councilman second ward; C. E. Murphy councilman third ward; Ed. L. Bargdoll, councilman fourth ward; B. F. Thorp, city clerk; John H. Taylor, city attorney; Maurice Dorney, chief of police; Charles Spooner, city treasurer; Frank E. Riley, police judge; Robert L. Bruce, city auditor; D. A. Taylor, city assessor; Jo Broaddus,, city engineer. In addition to the chief of police there are two day and two night patrolmen and one merchants' police.


The Northwest Missouri Poultry Fanciers' Association was organized in Chillicothe in 1905 with a few members, nothing but enthusiasm for its capital and the improvement of poultry in the county, its only aim.

Each year they held a show and each year there was a marked improvement in the quality of the poultry until when the world's greatest poultry show was held in Kansas City in 1910 (the Missouri state poultry show) Livingston county fanciers sent a special car load of fine birds to this show and each breeder entering won at least one premium. This year the local show was surpassed only by the state show in numbers and the quality was equal to that displayed in any show. The boosters from the beginning to the present have been Frank Bayles, Lulu May Weston Ott, Frank B. Norman, Geo. Walker, Jesse B. Ott, Ed Bargdoll, B. J. Mallory and Tommy Anderson. They are all well-known in poultry work all over the state and have placed Livingston county ahead of any county of equal size in the United States in one of the enterprises that leads the finance of the state. Breeders are shipping birds and eggs for hatching to every state in the Union, Mexico and Canada. The present officers of the association are Dr. J. E. Callaway, Chillicothe, president, and Frank R. Smiley, Wheeling, secretary.


The fire fighters of Chillicothe before the construction of the water works, like most other small towns, consisted of a hand engine, rubber buckets and a few ladders. Today Chillicothe has the best equipped and fastest fire fighting company in the world. This is a broad assertion, but it is true and the present fire company of this city stand ready to accept a challenge from any town, village or city in the United States or Europe. The Chillicothe fire company carry the "Belt" and they propose to hold it. From the tap of the bell they have hitched and made a run of 580 feet, laid 100 feet of hose, attached the nozzle and had water on a fire in thirty-six seconds. No record on earth has ever beaten this. They defy boasted Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky, who is nearest their record; they laugh at Paris, France, London, England, and all the big metropolitan cities of the eastern hemisphere. The Chillicothe fire company solicits a challenge from any town or city on the globe. At the time the Chillicothe fire company was organized, H. O. Meek was chief. Today H. E. Pringle is chief; A. J. Roe, assistant; R. D. Black, driver; H. J. White, assistant; Harry McCormick, George Eastman and Jack Smith, hosemen. The equipment consists of one hose wagon costing $900; one hook and ladder truck, costing $1,200; two five gallon chemicals and two two and a half gallon chemicals. The hose wagon carries 1,000 feet of hose and another 1,000 feet is kept in reserve. "Joe" - Chillicotheans all know "Joe" - the most intelligent fire-fighting horse in the state, was retired a short time ago on a pension for life. He is now twenty-five years old, after serving the Chillicothe fire department faithfully for twenty years.

History has heretofore failed to chronicle a name familiar to the memory of a man whose national popularity is on the tongue of every music-loving American as well as in several countries of Europe. We refer to the composer of the music to the words of the song "Ben Bolt." A reference to the last resting place of the famous composer by. a former Chillicothean, Mrs. J. T. Bradshaw, of Kansas City, must occupy a place among the historical reminiscences in this volume: "Oh, don't you remember Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt, Sweet Alice with hair so brown?" lies buried at Chillicothe, Missouri, in Edgewood cemetery in "a corner obscure and alone."

Credit is given Thomas Dunn English for the beautiful words of the most popular song ever written, although it now differs from the original lines composed in 1842. There is no disputing authentic records that Nelson Kneass, a wandering minstrel, composed the air of the plaintive melody. But before the story is told I wish to quote an interview I had some years ago with Mrs. Renfrow of Dayton, Ohio, daughter of Nelson Kneass. She is the wife of a theatrical manager and declared that her father was never a "strolling" actor, nor an actor of any sort, but a musical genius, and that her family was a musical family, singing after the style of the family quartets of the present day. He composed the musical lines of "Ben Bolt," she said, twenty years before his death, and the version was accepted by the "Queen's Court Circular," in the reign of Victoria.

He was crowned with laurels throughout England and coming to America the song spread into immediate popularity, being as famous as "Home, Sweet Home." Mrs. Renfrow says her mother did not become an actress until after her father's death and then only played with such high class attractions as Morrison's "Faust." On the occasion of this interview she was making preparations to remove her mother's body from Dayton to be placed beside her famous singer husband at Chillicothe.

Nelson Kneass, was always accompanied by his wife and she was with him when he was taken ill at Cameron, MISsouri, in September, 1869. Although a very sick man, he came on with his company to Chillicothe, which was a village, and where the Nelson Kneass company was billed for a theatrical engagement. He stopped at the old Browning house, now the Henrietta hotel, but became rapidly worse soon after his arrival, and was attended by Dr. S. M. Beeman, now of Denver, Colorado. The stranded singer had an illness of only a few days. The company "went broke" on its arrival in Chillicothe. But the warm hearted people of the little town came to the assistance of Kneass and kindly hands administered to his last needs, and generous hearts saw that he had a decent burial. Prominent among those friends so kind to a stranger in distress was Captain A. McVey, one of Chillicothe's most prominent and wealthy citizens who is still in the mercantile business there. Colonel W. B. Leach, now dead took charge of the Kneass funeral and proved of great assistance to the widow. These two men with Z. B. Myers, until recently manager of the Luella opera house there, afterwards formed the committee of the Kneass Monument Association, Captain McVey being president.

Kneass was buried from Grace Episcopal church in Edgewood cemetery, and Mrs. Kneass after the funeral held the company together for a while though it was completely discouraged by the death of its manager. A benefit was given her in Chillicothe and she played neighboring towns of North Missouri until she obtained enough funds to take her to her Ohio home.

The body of Kneass was buried in an obscure part of the cemetery where for years only a small slab marked the spot. When a few years ago "Trilby" revived the popular song, attention was called to the almost forgotten grave of the singer who made the song so famous. A local committee was formed and tried to get Mrs. Kneass's consent to the removal of the body to a better part of the cemetery. She was persistent in her refusal, but after her death negotiations were entered into with the son and daughter, who consented to the plan. But meanwhile the widow revisited Chillicothe and placed a headstone at her husband's grave. The inscription on the little marble slab eight by fourteen inches read:

Nelson Kneass

Author of Ben Bolt

Relic hunters chipped this little headstone piece by piece till the inscription in a short time became scarcely discernible. This lot is three feet by eight feet, in a crowded part of the cemetery. A tall tree stands at the head as if a grim sentinel and on the tree was tacked a wooden marker. The accompanying picture was taken by a former Chillicothe photographer, J. B. Hoffman, and is so far as known the only one of the first marking of the grave of the musical composer of one of the world's favorites. Later when the Kneass Monument Association was formed the cemetery association offered a fine lot for a granite column with the inscription:

Erected to the Memory of Nelson Kneass,

Musical Author of Ben Bolt,

By the Citizens of Chillicothe, Mo.

Mute in death are both, the poet and the musician, and how applicable are the words that made the poor strolling minstrel famous: "In the old churchyard in the valley, Ben Bolt, in a corner obscure and alone."


From judge A. M. Johnston's wonderful scrap book we glean some of the exploits of the famous Empire BallTeam and the victories they achieved in several states. The club was an aggregation of ball players that held the championship of several states in the early seventies when the great national game was in its infancy. Chillicothe was the home of this noted club, the members and their positions on the team being as follows: Guerin, short-stop; Jacobs, second base; Hicks, left field; Darlington, first base; Graves, center field; Eastin, pitcher; Johnston, third base; Barker, right field; Waples, catcher.

Judge Johnston officiated most of the time as the official scorer for the team, and the scoring in those days was some job. At other times "Gus" would serve as umpire, and at other times would don the nobby uniform of the club and "subbed" on the diamond or in the outfield. Sarge Braden was the financial agent of the club.

When the Empires were in their prime, the club had the reputation of being not only the strongest team in this section, but the finest looking set of men, collectively and individually, who ever appeared on a base ball diamond.

Padded gloves, masks, breast protectors and other modern equipment of ball players were unknown in the early seventies. It was nothing for the Empires to make thirty or forty hits and like number of runs in a single game.

The first game of the best-two-in-three for the silver mounted bat, held for three years against all comers by the Empires of Chillicothe, was played on the fair grounds in St. Joseph and resulted in a crushing and overwhelming defeat for the Haymakers of that city. The tally at the end of the ninth inning stood 31 for the Empires and 16 for the Haymakers.

One of the trips of the Empires was taken in August, 1871, and included games at Hannibal, Missouri; Quincy, Jacksonville, Springfield, Illinois; and Pana and Keokuk, Iowa. The Empires had an easy game with the Nationals at Hannibal, winning by a score of 66 to 16. At Quincy the Empires defeated the Occidentals by a score of 53 to 23. The Empires made something like a dozen home runs in that one game.

The only defeat on the trip was two days later when the Empires played the Alerts at Jacksonville, Illinois, where a close and exciting game was lost by a score of 52 to 54. The Empires got revenge on another team the following day by defeating the Springfield Eckfords by a score of 34 to 19.

Eastin pitched all of the games on the trip, and there were few changes in the line-up of the team. No extra players accompanied, and if a player was temporarily disabled the official scorer would take his place.

In announcing the final victory and the return of the victorious ball players, the Chillicothe Journal got out an extra. The Campaign Ended. Four Games Played and the Empires Win Three!!! The Boys Will Be Home Tonight at 9.40. Turn Out and Give Them a Grand Reception!!! And thus ended a grand "campaign" of the Empires.

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