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John Ramsey Denty, the second son and third child of John and Susannah, was born on 24 Aug 1807 in either Wilkes or Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The family moved from Georgia to Mississippi Territory when young John was only six or seven, so his first truly vivid memories would have been life on the very raw, rugged frontier that became Madison County, Alabama; a life of log cabins, camp meetings, toil, cotton fields, and slavery.
Like his brother Thomas Jefferson Denty, John was obviously not without both intelligence and charm, and perhaps good looks. We have our first glimpse of him in a letter he wrote on 13 Feb 1831 to Thomas, then an overseer on the Clifton plantation in Giles County, Tennessee. That year, John was living on his own and working in Athens, the county seat of Limestone County, Alabama.
I confess I have neglected writing to you before this tim and am ashamed of it. I have not sold your horse and for that reason put off writing as long as what I have. Agreeable to your request I had the horse setup on Monday the 3d January and their was only 68$ bid. Their were several persons who admired the horse but they were afraid he was not sound. Provided their had been no appearence of disease I could have sold him for more than 100 dollars.
Father was in town on that day and Mr Hill advised me to send the horse home by Father, that he did not think I could sell him to an advantage in the presant situation and accordingly I don so. I have not seen any of them from that time until last Tuesday William H. was in town and told me the horse appeared to be perfectly sound. I hope I shall be able to sell him in a short time. Their are several persons at this time wanting a fine horse in this place and I will send for him and try to sell him to the best advantage.
Dear Brother I received your letter on the 17th January and with pleasure read its contents. I was glad to hear that you were in high spirits. I have enjoyed reasonable health since I saw you last. William tells me Father has been very unwell since we left his house. The rest of the family have enjoyed reasonable health. I have had the pleasure of being at 2 very splendid weddins since I saw you.
Dear Brother I wish you to write to me as quick as possible and let me know how Milton is doing. I remain your affectionate Brother.
John R. Denty
Although he purchased fifty acres from his father on 1 Jun 1832, it's highly unlikely that John ever actively farmed in Alabama. The purchase may have been intended to keep the tract safely in the possession of his debt-ridden father, or perhaps simply as an investment farmed by younger brother Milton. John himself chose town life. His first known employment was clerking in an Athen's store owned by Mr. Hines. In 1876, one old citizen of Limestone remembered a practical joke played on a customer by fellow clerk Sheldon Davis. While its exact nature remains unknown, the result was an enraged customer who rode "back to the store throwing his dripping saddle bags on the pavement, saying Denty take your d____d produce, and such a general cursing was seldom heard in our town". John wrote Thomas about his clerking duties for another storeowner, Major Fitten, in 1833, shortly after returning from a visit to the newly married Thomas.
Athens Wednesday 29th May 1833
Dear Brother and Sister,
You have no doubt been looking sometime for a letter from me in answer to your last but sircumstances would not admit of my writing any sooner, in the first place when I received your favor of the 29th March I had nothing of importance to communicate, neither had I time to write for I had been sick of the Influanzy almost from the time I returned home until about the time I received yours, consequently the books in that time were verry much behind, and then the reception of our new goods kept me busy in the day opening & selling, and at night writing and worse than all the indisposition of Major Fittins health which has been verry bad ever since some time in April and still continues bad. He was taken with a bleeding of the lungs which reduced him verry much so that he was unable to speak for 10 or 12 days, though he has gained some little strength so that he thought he would be carried to Chunns Spring in Morgan County and on Monday the 13th inst he was taken in a carriage about 10 miles on his way but was so weak that he could go no further, so he remained there until last Saturday he was put in the carriag and carried over and I was told by the Gentleman Mr Fisher who went to the springs with him, that he was some little better and that he expected to remain there the greater part of the summer provided he was able to receive any benefit from them. So you may guess what my chance has been the goods to open and mark as I receive them, the sales to attend to, the books to keep and no person only myself to attend to any of it. You could ask what do I do, or what am I about on Sunday so as to prevent my writing. Why sir, I assure you that I thank my God wen Sunday comes so that I can take some exercise, for I am quite stupid and dull in consequence of not taking more exercise than what I do. I have not been to Fathers since I left your house though I see some of them occasionaly. Father was in town the other day. It was the first I had seen him since he came home from Kentucky. He said they were all well. Neither have I been anywhere else only Sunday before last I went down to Parson (Donnell) to see Major Fitten on some business before he went on to the springs as he could not talk any during his illness. My health is something better than what it has been since I left Giles and I hope when thes lines reach you they may find you both in good health. Give my respects to Mr Abernathy & family (all), Buckner and to Miss Elizabeth & Mary, and also tell sister Elizabeth that it will be out of my power to comply with my promise as it respects a visit this summer which I promised to pay. Please write to me on the reception of this and by so doing you will much oblige your affectionate Brother
J R Denty
On 1 Sep 1836, at the age of twenty-nine, John married Matilda C. Johnston, the sixteen year old daughter of Joseph and Mary Darden Johnston, in Limestone County. Like brother Thomas Jefferson Denty's marriage, it could be considered "upwardly mobile", for Matilda was the daughter of an affluent and influential family. As the union marked the beginning of a Denty-Johnston association that was to last more than one hundred years and result in two more Johnston brides, a brief history of that family is relevant.
Matilda's grandfather was Samuel Johnston, a wagon-maker, blacksmith, and farmer; her grandmother Elizabeth Ballenger, whose quaker ancestors had come to the Colonies with William Penn. Sam and Elizabeth settled in Henry County, Virginia, spending more than two decades there, but moved to Warren County, Georgia in 1799 with their eight children. In Warren County, their oldest son Joseph Johnston married Mary Darden, daughter of a large planter, on 6 Jun 1809. When the majority of the family moved to Madison County, Mississippi Territory about 1810, Joseph and "Polly" remained in Warren County, where Joseph was the guardian of Mary's two younger brothers and their lands. They finally moved to Limestone County, Alabama about 1819. There, Joseph served as a Justice of the Peace, and was twice elected to the State Legislature. Despite his success in Limestone County, he purchased the first of three sections (1,920 acres) in the newly formed Desoto County, Mississippi on 13 May 1836. Part of the Chickasaw Session, Desoto was located just south of Memphis, Tennessee, with the Mississippi River on its western border. John Ramsey Denty and Matilda probably married just before Joseph and six of his children moved to Mississippi, but the newlyweds remained behind in Athens, Alabama. In Desoto County, Joseph was once again elected to serve in the State Legislature. When he died on 9 May 1845, he left a substantial estate that included forty-two slaves. His widow Polly Darden Johnston continued to live on the plantation with her eldest son Stephen Darden Johnston and his family, and next to her second son Samuel. Like his father, Stephen served in the Mississippi Legislature, being one of the signatories to the Ordinance of Succession on 7 Jan 1861. While never quite as prosperous as his older brother, on the 1860 Census Samuel listed real and personal property estimated at $12,000 and $32,000 respectively, and was the owner of forty-four slaves. We shall meet all of these Johnstons again.
Only six weeks after his marriage to Matilda Johnston, John Ramsey Denty purchased two lots in Athens for $575. This purchase may indicate that John was establishing his own "mercantile business", perhaps with the financial assistance of his new father-in-law. Certainly Joseph Johnston greatly contributed to the young couple's comforts. We have Joseph's own record of his loans and gifts to them attached to his will: "October 19, 1836 then gave to them a small negro woman Biddy, lazy but honest, about 32 years old, Brister a small boy 10 years old, Milly & Elbert small children not likely, the four at one thousand dollars and at sundry times up to January 1st 1839 amounting in the whole to sixteen hundred and thirty eight dollars $1638."
Now we abruptly and consistently encounter a Denty as the plaintiff in suits for debt. On 20 Feb 1839, when John bought four more lots in Athens, they were described in the deed as "the same on which John R. Denty now lives". It was in 1839 that niece Rebecca Denty, Thomas' daughter, lived with them while attending school in Athens. In the 1840 Census, John and Matilda were enumerated with their daughter Mary Susannah and two female slaves, presumably Biddy and Milly. In the 1840 Tax List "J.R. Danty" was assessed for one poll and one slave.
On 16 Mar 1840, John wrote from Athens to sister-in-law Elizabeth Abernathy Denty:
Yours of the l3th by the politeness of the Hon. F B Nelson was this day received; with much pleasure and satisfaction we read its contense. It found us all enjoying a reasonable portion of health. You mention in your letter that you have sent to the post office frequently for letters but found none which I confess was treating you with a great deal of indifference, and I hope you will please excuse me this time and I will try and do better for the futer. It affords me much satisfaction to hear that you are all enjoying good health, for I look upon health as one of the greatest blessing with which mankind are blessed. I was quite sick a part of last week and week before with violent cold, caugh, soar throat and breaking out which verry much resembled measles, though not the measles for I had them when six or seven years old. Matild was sick some time in February with a pain in her head which continued some ten or twelve days verry bad. Mary has been generally well since you saw her with the exception of cold. She was verry sick one night last week from eating some of the early flowers. She got in the garden and ate the evening before we discovered it next morning when she had vomited. Father was down last month and was to have written soon after he returned home but has not done so as yet. He has not moved to Athens, neither do I expect him to move. I do not know where he is living nor what he is doing. We received a letter from Brother William some time since which states they were all well, and that he had quit the man he lived with last year and has moved on the west side of the Tombigby River and is doing business for Capt. Talafarer at 600$ for the year. Matilda sends her love to you and Rebecca and that she wants to see you verry much. You must come down this spring without fail. Give my respects to the Family. I remain your affectionate brother til death.
In 1841 John and Matilda sold their lots in Athens and finally moved to Desoto County, Mississippi. (See map, Counties Significant to the Southern Dentys.) Very possibly they wanted to be closer to Matilda's family, but there were undoubtedly economic incentives as well. Northern Mississippi was being heavily advertised as "cotton's last empire". John no doubt had read such advertisements, heard glowing descriptions from his Johnston in-laws, and had probably seen it with his own eyes on visits. And in his father-in-law, John had a benefactor; the quarter section on which the young couple settled was given to them by Joseph Johnston. According to Joseph's accounts:
January 1st 1842 then permitted John R. Denty to settle on the North West quarter of Section thirty six in Township two of Range seven West whereon he now lives and I do by these presents give the said quarter Section of land to my daughter Matilda and her children forever as seven hundred dollars to be deducted from her share on the final division of my estate. January 1st 1845 then received back the above named quarter Section and paid John R. Denty six hundred dollars for his improvement on the same, a short time before the arrangement was made I then gave J. R. Denty five hundred dollars and took a bill of sale to his negro woman Lizzie and I made a deed of gift of Lizzie to Matilda. Denty not being willing to have property belonging to his wife and not him, he proposed to pay therefore Lizzy and I took his note for thirty dollars a year hire if I called for it which I do not intend to do but instead that Matilda shall have Lizzie forever & that John R. Denty shall have no power to Sell or otherwise dispose of Lizzy making the amount given to Matilda first $1638 & five hundred dollars which is $2038. 
Joseph's accounts are terse regarding his own children, so one shouldn't conclude that relations between Joseph and John were strained on their wording alone. Subsequent events, however, do reinforce that impression.
John sold the quarter section back to his father-in-law on 1 Jan 1845 because he had purchased a parcel in neighboring Marshall County to the east on 18 Nov 1844. His new tract was located on Pigeon Roost Creek, not far from the Desoto County line, due north of Chulahoma and due west of Holly Springs, towns that were experiencing their heyday as centers of the thriving cotton culture. In May 1845, only months following John and Matilda's move, Joseph Johnston died; and between May and November, Matilda Johnston Denty also died at the age of only twenty-five. John and Matilda had had three children: Mary Susannah, later known as "Marie", born on 5 Jan 1838; John Joseph, born about 1840, who died in childhood; and Elizabeth, who died on 25 Mar 1842. Although John was named as the children's guardian, the fact that he had to establish his guardianship in court and that no Johnston even stood security on the bond, again may indicate tense relations between John and his former in-laws.
On 13 Jul 1846 John married Mary Ann Irvine in Marshall County. Little is known about Mary Ann, born in Tennessee about 1823-1825. Presumably her parents resided in Marshall County, but their identity has never been discovered. On 31 Jul 1847, Mary Ann gave birth to their only child, a son.
In the 1850 Census, we find John owning real estate valued at $6,000 and the owner of fifteen slaves on the accompanying Slave Schedule. The next decade saw him accumulating more slaves, and buying and selling parcels of land at an almost dizzying rate. During those ten years he purchased eleven parcels in Marshall County, and even obtained patents in Drew County, Arkansas. These were purchased in conjunction with Jacob Prewitt, whose wife Nancy was Matilda Johnston Denty's sister. The Prewitts did move to Drew County, but whether John ever entertained that thought is anybody’s guess. By the 1860 Census, he described himself as "planter" rather than farmer, owned real and personal property worth $10,000 and $31,500 respectively, and the number of his slaves had grown to twenty, with four more that were "hired".
Several transactions during that decade speak volumes about John's values. On 21 Oct 1852 he deeded a quarter section to the School Fund Treasurer for $1.00 with a second forty acres transferred "upon the express condition for the use and benefit of Nathaniel Winningham as principal". Obviously, his association with Winningham was a long and close one, for John had named the son born in 1847 Nathaniel Winningham Denty. John also deeded one acre to the Methodist Episcopal Church South. According to his daughter Marie, he'd "made a profession of religion" while still in Athens, Alabama, "connecting himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which church he lived for more than fifty years, filling at various times some of its highest offices . . . his life-long precept and example set before his children was to have faith in God". He was also a Master Mason, attaining the "higher degrees".
That his respect for learning and religious faith did not deter him from owning slaves may seem incomprehensible to modern minds, but of course, John was only too typical of his time and place. Was he a kind slave owner, perhaps showing more compassion because of his religious faith? In 1860, when he was listed as the owner of twenty-four slaves, four were marked "hired". Of these twenty-four human beings, whose names are unrecorded, there were eleven males ranging in age from two to forty, twelve females from two to thirty-six, and one, gender and age not noted, described as "a fugitive from the state". They were housed in four cabins, presumably because they constituted, in fact, four families; but we as yet have no way of verifying that. In 1856, a newspaper in Hernando, the county seat of neighboring Desoto County, had run the following notice:
"Was committed to the jail of Desoto County, Miss, on the 20th day of Jan 1856, a Negro man, who says his name is James, and that he belongs to John Denty, living in Marshall County, Miss, 10 miles west of Holly Springs, near Hunt's Mill on Pigeon Roost Creek and near a post office at Tarrill's. Said Negro is 5 feet 7 inches in height, dark complexion, long thin face, protruding mouth, high forehead, and will weigh 160 or 165 lbs, 33 years of age, sore on his left leg, which he says was occasioned by the bite of a dog. His clothing consists of kersey sack coat and pants, brogan shoes and palmetto hat. The owner is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take him away, or he will be dealt with as the law directs. Seth Wollard, Jailor".
What became of James isn't recorded. After the Civil War, several former slaves in Marshall and Desoto Counties took the surname of Denty, but that may betoken convenience or proximity rather than affection.
However seemingly comfortable John's circumstances were before the Civil War, they were to change drastically during and after it. Marshall County became a battleground, with Holly Springs changing hands from Confederate to Union, and back again, more than fifty times. Raids were so frequent and government so impossible that the county seat was dubbed "the Republic of Holly Springs". During one period of Union occupation the county courthouse was burned by Union troops in retaliation for having had their stores destroyed by the Rebels. And federal troops so burned Chulahoma that the town never regained its former size or prosperity. But Confederate control wasn't much better. After Union gunboats had captured Memphis, the governor ordered all planters in Marshall County to burn their cotton crops to prevent them falling into enemy hands. In the midst of this chaos, there was yellow fever - and personal loss. In March 1862, wife Mary Ann Irvine Denty died of unknown causes. Only six months later, with what some might construe as unseemly haste, John married a widow with property, Mary Garth Sumner. We have a written portrait of John during that autumn through the eyes of Captain James Abernathy, husband of Rebecca Denty Abernathy. On 23 Nov 1862 from a "camp near Chulahoma", James wrote:
My dear wife,
The fortunes of war has brought me here in eight miles of your Uncle John Denty's. Soon after we arrived at this place as it is not far from the Desoto line, I inquired of citizens if they knew of such a man living any where in this section and soon found a man that knew him well and learned that he was now living in this county & in a few miles of this place. I had to go to a mill near his house on the first day after we arrived here and I made it convenient to stay all night with him. He has been lately married to his third wife, his last having died last spring. He married a widow Sumner who also has her third husband and had moved to this place which was but a short distance from where he formerly resided. Your uncle has the character of being an excellent man. He rec. me very cordially and my visit was a very pleasant one. He is a feble looking old man & is complaining of his health. I see that you favour him but very little except across the eyebrows. He spoke very affectionately of Mother and you and inquired of all Mother's brothers. He had heard from Thos Eldridge several years ago that you were married. His wife is the widow of a brother of Mrs. Mag Bass. She is a Virginia lady and her maiden name was Garth ‑ has no children and is one of the neatest old ladys I have met with. She is a fine housekeeper and had the best table I have met with down here. She is a pert little chunky woman & puts me a little in mind of Aunt Sucky. They are living in good style in quite independent circumstances. Your Unkle John says she is more like his mother than any woman he ever saw. I suppose she is about 50 years old. 0 how I wished that you and Mother had been with one there: But they are living, outside of our outpost and in twenty miles of the enemy and are looking every day for the occupation of their county. Your uncle says that he will remain if they come & risk their chance with the enemy. His daughter is married & living near Hernando, has no children. He has one son about 16 years old ‑ a very delicate child. He has a handsome face, very fair skin & light hair, has a fine forehead & a very sprightly boy.
I expect to go up there this evening. He was very anxious to see your picture & I will take it with me . . . The country that he lives in is exposed to the Yankees too. It
seems that you are doomed to disappointment in finding a safe home from the Yankees among your relations . . .
From 1862 until 1870, the information on John is sketchy. We know that in 1867 he stayed briefly with the Abernathys in Giles County, Tennessee, where his sister Susan Kent Denty was also visiting. His son Nathaniel Winningham, called "Dock", married cousin Nancy Johnston in 1868 and moved to Desoto County. Otherwise, we have only deeds. In June 1870 the federal census taker found him living in Holly Springs, age sixty-five, with no entries for any real or personal property. Instead his wife Mary, age fifty-eight, had real and personal property estimated at $3,500 and $250. His occupation was described as "Clerk in Store". This may simply have referred to his helping Edward Nesbit, his son-in-law’s brother, at his store in Desoto County for several months. But it's also quite possible that he was employed in Holly Springs, and that he needed the money. Later that summer John wrote to Rebecca Denty Abernathy:
My Dear Niece & Relatives
I recvd yours of recent date a few days ago, and should have answered it before this time, but having just returned from Desoto Cty. Nesbits Station where I had been selling goods for Ed. Nesbit (Brother to my son in law) during the fall, winter & spring months. Then spent some 2 or 3 weeks with each of my children, Mary S. Nesbit & N.W. Denty. I returned to Holly Springs July 28th. Mary is in common health, no children. N.W. was married Dec 23rd 1868, rented land of his brother in law W.T. Nesbit. Last year boarded there, he and his wife who is cousin to Mary. He made 9 bales cotton & about 40 barrels corn. This he done within himself, except 87 dollars paid for extra labor. He has bought a small place of about 137 acres of land & has about 90 acres in cultivation this year. Nannie his wife has a fine son 4 months old on the 11th inst, name Irvine Leonard, its grandmothers maiden names. Dock is a tolerable business boy. He is about 1½ miles from Billie Nesbit (who appears to take great interest in his welfare), and is much beliked by all who know him. I am truly sorry to hear that O'Riley is about cheating Sister Susan out of her property after her doing and thinking so much of them as appeared to think and do. I would go to Huntsville and see about the business or inquire into it but have not had the money to pay my way. You will please find more about the matter if possible and let me know how it is that he can have any claim to any particle of her property whatever. My health is tolerably good with the exception of rheumatism which was caused from exposure last winter at Nesbit.
My wife's health is about as usual. Our little Kentucky girl is still with us but wants to go back to Ky. Very much I would like to visit you all if it was convenient. Write soon.
Once again, there are few glimpses into John's life for the next dozen years, only census returns and deeds, the legal residue of a life. They rented out Mary's farm, had a niece residing with them. No letters written by John during those years were preserved. Instead we have comments about him, for he'd become, by sheer longevity, the Denty patriarch. On 18 Jun 1877 his daughter Marie Denty Nesbit wrote that John's health was "moderately good", that he'd "just commenced a business that requires his undivided attention. He will be 70 years of age the 24th of August & is as energetic (if not as active) as ever". On 15 Jul 1882 niece Alice Denty Dean, daughter of William Harrison Denty, mentioned that: "Uncle John" was still living in Holly Springs, that "he wrote he would leave there in a short while for Ark to live with his son Cousin Dock. . . He lost his wife in Dec last". John and Mary Garth Sumner Denty, the woman "most like his mother", had been married almost twenty years. But if he was lonely after her death and if he consequently toyed with the idea of moving in with son Nathaniel Winningham Denty, to all appearances he never did – at least not for any lengthy period. According to his daughter, he simply liked Holly Springs better "than anywhere else". On 17 Jan 1884 Alice Denty Dean commented that he was in "good health & I think one of the happiest men I ever saw. He has a contented mind & this alone is happiness." Considering a life in which he lost three wives, two of four children, and considerable material wealth, John's outward contentment must be seen as a major accomplishment, and perhaps a tribute to his faith. And finally, on 20 Jul 1885, only shortly before his death, daughter Marie wrote that he was "78 the 24th of Aug but still holds his identity & when I saw him last was hale and hearty".
"After a brief but painful illness" John Ramsey Denty died on 28 Jul 1885. He was buried in the Dodson plot next to third wife Mary in Hillcrest Cemetery in Holly Springs, Mississippi. After his death daughter Marie wrote a tribute to him that was published in the Holly Springs newspaper:
It has long been my custom and my greatest pleasure on Aug. 24 (his natal day), to communicate with my dear father, JOHN RAMSEY DENTY, by letter; he regularly expected it, and it gave him pleasure to receive my letter. But upon this anniversary I am admonished that he is far beyond material communication, resting peacefully and happily in his home in heaven; his life‑long precept and example set before his children was to have faith in God, the only solace, and we shall see his dear, kind face again. He was born in the State of Georgia, Aug 24, 1807. When quite a young lad he moved with his parents to Madison County, Ala., in the neighborhood of Huntsville, and afterward settled in Athens, Ala., where he engaged in the mercantile business. He made a profession of religion there, connecting himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which church he lived for more than fifty years, filling at various times some of its highest offices. He was thrice married. He left two children, N.W. Denty, of Donaldson Ark., and myself. In the primitive days of this country he again yielded to the bent of his inclination, and following up the tide of emigration to the new West he located in Marshall County, North Mississippi, in the town of Holly Springs and it's vicinity, where he lived for over forty years. Being bereft of my mother in early childhood, my kind and generous father was, for a time, my constant companion. He was ever mindful of his little orphan girl, and at all times would lend a listening ear and a helping hand to my many childish whims. It was he who taught my infant tongue to lisp the name of Jesus, and directed me in ways of truth and right. In his palmy days, and even in the long, dark siege of civil strife, his heart and home were ever open to the destitute and afflicted. He fed the hungry and clothed the naked. The orphan and widow found shelter under his hospitable roof. His was a ripe old age, full of Christian honors. As he went tottering to the grave, leaning on his staff, I have often heard him say: "I have passed the age allotted to man, and am only waiting for the summons to go hence." In the language of one of old, he had finished his life, and was ready to be offered up. In his home at Holly Springs, at 8 o'clock on the evening of July 28, after a brief but painful illness, while kind friends ministered to him for the last time on earth, and while the angel sentinels were waiting on the watchtowers of heaven, the spirit of my beloved father passed through the everlasting gate into the beautiful city of light. Fondly and affectionately his daughter,
Of him, Alice Denty Dean commented: "I did love Uncle John and know that he was a good man". And perhaps she was commenting on John and all of them when she wrote "The Dentys were always said to be proud but about this I know but little. I know my Pa was and all I knew of them".
Research Notes: John Ramsey Denty, Matilda Johnston Denty, Mary Ann Irvine Denty, and Mary Garth Sumner Denty
John's birth date: 24 Aug 1807. [Tribute by Marie Denty Nesbit; Old Timer Press, Cemeteries of Marshall County, Mississippi, p. 29]
Matilda’s birth date: 10 Apr 1820. [Emmye Simmons: Copy provided by Louise Rourke]
Marriage of John and Matilda Johnston: 1 Sep 1836. Ceremony performed by F.G. Fergus. [Limestone Marriage Record 1832-1862, p. 159, #1418]
"J.R. Denty [married] to Miss Johnson" ["Old Times About Athens", Athens Post, 2 Jun 1876: Transcript provided by Jackie Leonard]
1 Jun 1832: Purchased 50 acres in Limestone Co ("of the South and of the East ½ NE ¼ S12 T2 R3W) from John Denty for $275. [Book 4, p. 268]
9 Feb 1834: "John R. Denty", along with Mrs. Catherine A. Fitten, turned over list of cash and debts due the estate of James Fitten in Limestone to Executors Aaron Redus and James W. Hill. [Will Book 4, p. 309]
10 Apr 1835: In schedule of debts for the estate of Richard Brickell in Limestone was listed: " Amt of John R. Denty . . . afc . . . $3.00" [Will Book 4, p. 478]
22 Apr 1835: Thomas Jefferson Denty: "Brother John was to see me a few days since . . ." [Copy provided by Rebecca Abernathy]
12 Oct 1836: Purchased Lot #16 plus part of Lot #18 in Athens from John M. and Mary Slaughter for $575. [Book 5, p. 188]
17 Sep 1838: Purchased 40 acres in Limestone Co, E ½ NW ½ SE ¼ S32 T2 R4W, from John and Mary A. Lane. Price is left blank. [Book 5, p. 422]
20 Feb 1839: For $900 John purchased Lots #101-#104 in Athens, described as "the same on which John R. Denty now lives" from George S. and Mary S. Houston, Napoleon Beaty, Cornelia F. Beaty, and Glorvinia Beaty. [Book 5, p. 547]
According to letter from Wm H. Denty, John apparently played host to niece Susannah Rebecca Denty in the autumn of 1839 while she attended school. Rebecca was apparently back home in Giles, TN by 6 Mar 1840 when in another letter Matilda Johnston Denty sent her love to both Elizabeth and Rebecca. [Copies appearing in Abernathy and Smith, Descendants of Thomas Jefferson Denty and Elizabeth Abernathy Denty]
1840 CENSUS, Limestone Co, AL: 1 male 30-40, 1 female under 5, 1 female 20-30; 1 black female under 10, 1 10-24. (John Abernathy Smith lists the white male as 20-30.) [Pg 157]
14 Jun 1840: John R. Denty vs Elbert H. English "for use of Thomas L. Malone plaintiff" in Limestone County. Court found for plaintiff in amount of $65.19 plus $4.76 in damages and costs. (This case may have been filed on 19 Oct 1840 and settled on 14 Jun 1841.) [County Court Minutes 1838-1843, p. 142-143: Copy provided by John Abernathy Smith]
7 Nov 1840: Bought Lot #83 in Athens at public auction for $45.50. (Had defaulted from Thomas G. Tyus for debt.) [Book 6, p. 154]
18 Nov 1840: Sold the eastern part of Lot #18 in Athens to William C. Rice for $30. [Book 6, p. 73]
31 Jan 1841: Wm L. Wimberly and John C. Spotswood were in debt to John for $30.06. The decision was apparently for John in amount of $15.06 plus damages of $1.43. [County Court Minutes 1838-1843, p. 210: Copy provided by John Abernathy Smith]
13 Jun 1841: John R. Denty vs Wm L. Wimberly in Limestone Co. The court found for plaintiff in the amount of $100 plus $11.34 in damages.
1841 Desoto Co Tax List: "J.R. Danty" = 1 poll, 1 slave, taxes $1.25. [Pg 5]
15 Sep 1841: In Desoto Co, John loaned James W. Dupuy $400 with Dupuy offering slave Jacob as collateral. Payment due within 12 months with Jacob working for Denty until latter paid. (Dupuy had borrowed money the previous year from Joseph Johnston.) [Book F, p. 358]
19 Nov 1841: John R. and Matilda C. Denty "of the County of Desoto and State of Mississippi" sold their remaining seven lots in Athens, Limestone Co, AL: Lot #14 to R.W. Vasser for $400; Lots #102-#104 to Thomas A. Nelson for $275; Lot #16 for $250 to George R. Peck; Lot # 13 for $345 to Jacob D. Armstrong. [Book 6, p. 241, 266, 307, 576]
29 Dec 1841: Loaned $400 to James W. Dupuy with slave Jane being offered as collateral. Payment due 25 Dec 1842. (See 30 Jan 1843) [Book F, p. 359]
In Feb 1842 was ordered to contribute hands to work on road from Solomon's to the Camp Creek Bridge in Desoto Co. Also working: "William Denty, Jacob Prewitt & hands, Joseph Johnston & hands, Jesse Johnston". [Board of Police Minutes 1838-1843, p. 198: Copy provided by J.P. Bell]
1842 Desoto Co Tax List: "J.R. Denty" = 1 poll, watches valued at $7, 5 slaves ages 5-60, taxes $4.28 ½.
30 Jan 1843: John rec'd confirmation of two bills of sale in Desoto Co with all conditions removed for slaves Jacob and Jane from James Dupuy. John did agree to sell the slaves to Dupuy for $800 if latter could pay between 25 Dec 1843 and 1 Jan 1844. Witnessed by Joseph Johnston. [Book E, p. 408]
1843 Desoto Co Tax List: "John R. Denty" = 1 poll, clocks worth $10, 4 slaves ages 5-16, taxes $3.55.
1844 Desoto Co Tax List: "J.R. Denty" = 1 poll, clocks valued at $10, 4 slaves, state tax of $3.60, county $ .90.
In Oct 1844 "J.D.Dentz", Samuel Johnston, and J.W. Blanton were appt to appraise the state of Joseph Eckford Mudge. [Desoto Genealogical Society, Desoto Descendants, v. 12, n. 3, p. 127/Orig: Probate Record 1843-1845, p. 226]
18 Nov 1844: Purchased S5 T4S R4W in Marshall Co from Colbert and Frances C. Moore for $2,800. The parcel was located north of Chulahoma, the original county seat, on Pigeon Roost Creek. (Both buyer and sellers are described as "all of Desoto County".) [Book L, p. 632]
Through 1 Jan 1845 John and Matilda had rec'd $2,038 from Joseph Johnston, in both land and slaves. [Desoto Probate Record, June Term 1845, p. 478-479]
In 1845 purchased ¼ of S4 T4 R4W in Marshall Co from Bacon. [Index/Orig: Book M, p. 248]
4 Aug 1845: In inventory of the Joseph Johnston estate "John R. Denty" appears twice on the list of "Notes Supposed to be Good", one for $225 due 25 Dec 1845 and one for $216 due 1 Jan 1846. [Desoto Probate Record, Aug Term 1845, p. 507]
24 Nov 1845: Was appt guardian of his minor (under 14) children Mary Susannah and John Joseph Denty. Posted bond of $4,000 with Thomas Wilson and James Milam as securities. [Probate Minutes, Vol 3: Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
1 Jul 1846: Sold W ½ SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W to John Tyler Jr for $363, of which $225 was in cash and $138 was in the form of a note payable 1 Jan 1848. [Book N, p. 268]
Marriage of John and Mary Ann Irvine: 13 Jul 1846. Ceremony performed by James Scott, M.G. [Marshall Marriage Record, Vol. B, p. 137]
In 1848 was involved in mortgage of horses and mules from Sims to Peterson in Marshall Co. [Index/Orig: Book O, p. 112]
10 Jan 1849: Purchased 3 acres for $60 from John and Elizabeth Tyler; parcel described as part of south east corner of the southwest corner S4 T4 R4W, adjoining Denty's 50 acres tract. [Book R, p. 33]
1850 CENSUS, Marshall Co, MS: Farmer age 43, born in GA with real estate estimated at $6000; Mary Ann age 25, born in TN; Nathaniel W; "farmer" John Nisson (Name is almost illegible). [Pg 186] On the accompanying Slave Schedule, John is listed as the owner of 15 slaves.
In 1850 sold 30 acres, SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W, "by collection to Cunningham". [Deed Index]
28 Nov 1850: Along with wife Mary A. Denty, sold S ½ S5 T4 R4W to N.J. Benson for $2,500. [Book Q, p. 58]
Was a Master Mason, attaining "the higher degrees" in Tallaloosa Lodge #128 (chartered 1851) in Marshall Co, MS. [Henry, Abstradex of Annual Returns, Mississippi Free and Accepted Masons 1819-1849, p. 103]
25 May 1852: Purchased 30 acres, west part of E ½ SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W, from James Cunningham for $25. [Book R, p. 319]
21 Oct 1852: Deeded NW ¼ S5 T4 R4W to the School Fund Treasurer for $1 as a result of a note for $500 executed by John R. Denty due twelve months hence. Securities: N. Winningham, Henry Parker. [Book R, p. 496]
26 Oct 1852: Deeded NE ¼ S5 T4 R4W to the School Fund Treasurer for $1 "upon the express condition for the use and benefit of Nathaniel Winningham as principal" in return for note of $500 executed by Nathaniel Winningham due twelve months hence. Securities: John R. Denty and William C. Wooley. [Book R, p. 495]
14 Feb 1853: Bought 70 acres, the west side of SE ¼ S8 T4 R4W, from Planters Bank of Tennessee for $400. [Book W, p. 561]
In 1853 sold E ½ and W ½ of SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W to Wooley. [Index/Orig: Book S, p. 119]
24 Mar 1854: Purchased part of NE ¼ S18 T4 R4W from John C. Whisett for $210. [Book U, p. 186]
10 Apr 1854: Purchased NW ¼ S17 T4 R4W from Planters Bank of Tennessee for $340. [Book U, p. 186]
In 1854 he purchased 154 acres, SE ¼ S29 T3 R4W from Caruthers. [Index/Orig: Book T, p. 377]
1 Jul 1854: Along with Mary A. Denty, sold part of NW ¼ S 17 T4 R4W (except one acre "previously given" to the the Methodist Episcopal Church South) to Nathaniel Winningham for $1,400. (In 1889, Goodspeed, Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Central Arkansas, p. 333, reported that John R. Denty had been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Presumably this info had come directly from Nathaniel Denty, subject of the brief bio. According to Marie Denty Nesbit, John "made a profession of religion" in Athens, Limestone, AL, "connecting himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which church he lived for more than fifty years, filling at various times some of its highest offices . . . his life-long precept and example set before his children was to have faith in God". Alice Denty Dean wrote that: "He was a good Christian and a Methodist".) [Deed Book U, p. 72; Tribute by Marie Denty Nesbit: Copy provided by Rebecca Denty Abernathy; Alice Denty Dean, 16 Feb 1890: Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
The Probate Docket of Marshall Co shows John R. Denty, #1002, as Admns in the autumn of 1854. [Probate Docket, Vol. 2, 1846-1858]
8 Nov 1854: Purchased NW ¼ S13 T4 R5W from James J. and Caroline J. Millam for $300. [Book U, p. 187]
4 Apr 1855: He and Mary A. Denty sold W ½ SE ¼ S8 T4 R4W (except 10 acres in south previously sold to Cornelius Brumley) to William C. Wooley for $600. [Book U, p. 202]
8 Jun 1855: Along with wife Mary A. Denty, sold E ½ SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W plus 3 acres in west half of said quarter to Thomas J. Synco for $1,000. [Book X, p. 162]
24 Jan 1856: The newspaper in Hernando, MS carried following notice: "Was committed to the Jail of Desoto County, Miss, on the 20th day of Jan 1856, a Negro man, who says his name is James, and that he belongs to John Denty, living in Marshall County, Miss, 10 miles west of Holly Springs, near Hunt's Mill on Pigeon Roost Creek and near a post-office at Tarrill's. Said Negro is 5 feet 7 inches in height, dark complexion, long thin face, protruding mouth, high forehead, and will weigh 160 or 165 lbs, 33 years of age, sore on his left leg, which he says was occasioned by the bite of a dog. His clothing consists of kersey sack coat and pants, brogan shoes and palmetto hat. The owner is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take him away, or he will be dealt with as the law directs. Seth Wollard, Jailor" [Editor's Accounts, p. 50: Copy provided by J.P. Bell]
7 Jan 1856: Stephen Darden Johnston applied for and was granted guardianship of Mary S. Denty, "minor heir of Matilda C. Denty". No mention of father.
In 1856 bought S ½ SW ¼ S16 T4 R4W from Brumley. [Index/Orig: Book V, p. 301]
In 1856 he sold 100 acres (NE ¼ S14 T4 R5W) to Mackey and part of N ½ S5 T4 R4W to Winningham and part of NE ¼ S18 T4 R4W to Mear and and part of NE ¼ S14 T4 R5W to Flack. [Index/Orig: Book V, p. 186, 279, 313, 317]
He may have sold previous properties in order to raise cash to speculate in land in Drew County, AR for on 1 Sep 1856 he rec'd two patents from Helena Land Office there: 1) #5882 for 80 acres in S36 T11S R5W; 2) #5887 for 40 acres in the same S36 T11S R5W. [AR Land Records: ancestry.com]
8 Nov 1856: Sold S12 and S24 T12 R5W in Drew Co, AR to Jacob M. Pruitt, husband of his former sister-in-law Nancy Johnston Pruitt. Recorded 5 Jan 1857. Yet these patents weren't rec'd until 15 Jan 1858. Had they been entered earlier? [Index/Orig: Book C]
12 Jan 1857: For $3,675, purchased S ½ S5 T4 R4W and W ½ SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W in Marshall from N. Jasper Benson. [Book W, p. 44]
11 Dec 1857: Sold two parcels in Marshall Co; one in W ½ SE ¼ S29 T3 R4W to James Baxley for $1,800 and one in E ½ SE ¼ S29 T3 R4W (except 6 acres in the southeast corner formerly deeded to George Thompson) to William Bizill for $630. There were apparently taxes due on both parcels from 1 Jan 1855. (Mary Denty also signed both deeds.) [Book X, p. 356, 357]
15 Jan 1858: In partnership with Jacob Prewitt, he rec'd two joint patents in Drew County, AR: 1) #371B as assignees of Ok-Ah-Che-Ah for 160 acres in S12 T12S R5W and a part of S1 T12S R5W with 0 acres specified; 2) #665 as assignees of Tis-Ah-To-Nah, rep of Taush-Ok-Chiak, for 340 acres and 0 acres in S1 T12S R5W AND five separate pieces, each with 0 acres specified, in S2 T12S R5W. Thus the total number of pieces was nine. Were those with 0 acres town lots? [AR Land Records: ancestry.com]
24 May 1858: As assignee of James Baxley, bought 100 acres in Marshall Co on west side of NW ¼ S4 T4 R4W from F.W. and A. Murdock for $400. (There were taxes due from 16 Jan 1854.) [Book X, p. 359]
14 Dec 1858: Along with wife Mary, sold 20 acres in Marshall Co (the east part of S ½ SW ¼ S16 T4 R4W) to Moses Echols for $200. [Book X, p. 163]
15 Dec 1858: Purchased part of NW ¼ S8 T4 R4W (except 40 acres on east side deeded to James M. Strickland) from Thomas J. Synco for $1,200. [Book X, p. 227]
4 Jan 1859: Sold N ½ NE ¼ S17 T4 R4W (except 1 acres previously deeded to church) to Cornelius Brumley for $900. (There were apparently taxes due from 1 Jan 1853.) [Book X, p. 240]
26 Nov 1859: Sold 5 parcels to William Chisum for $10: S ½ S5 T4 R4W and 77 acres of SW ¼ S4 T4 R4W and 100 acres of NW ¼ S4 T4 R4W and 50 acres in NE ¼ S5 T4 R4W and 120 acres on west side of NW ¼ S8 T4 R4W. This was actually a mortgage to cover John's debt to B.S. Fant in the amount of $6,857.15 [!] per note dated 15 Nov 1859. The principle was due 12 months from date. [Book X, p. 493]
18 Jul 1860 CENSUS, Marshall Co, MS (Tallaloosa): "Planter" age 53, born in GA with real and personal property valued at $10,000 and $31,500; Mary A age 37; Nathaniel W; and Rufus K. Byrd, a schoolteacher. [Pg 10] The number of slaves enumerated has grown to 24, of which 4 were marked "hired". (Eleven were males ranging in age from 2 to 40; 12 were females from 2 to 36. All 24 were housed in 4 cabins. One slave was listed as a "fugitive from the state".)
In 1861 John purchased part of NE ¼ S17 and part of SE ¼ S8 T4 R4W from Brumley. This was John's last purchase. Now he only sold. [Index/Orig: Book Y, p. 352]
In 1862 sold part of SW ¼ S16 T4 R4W to Ragsdale. [Index/Orig: Book Y, p. 550]
Marriage of John and Mary Ann Garth Sumner: 8 Aug 1862. [Marshall Marriage Record, Vol. F, p. 58]
Mary Garth Sumner’s birth and death dates: 13 Dec 1804 – 16 Dec 1881. [John Abernathy Smith]
In 1867 sold W ½ NE ¼ and E ½ NW ¼ S7 T4 R4W to Johnson. (Was this also recorded in 1860?) [Index/Orig: Book 27, p. 178]
Along with his wife, John sold a part of S7 T4 R4W to Dodson in 1867. (Was this also recorded in 1868?) [Index/Orig: Book 27, p. 568]
John apparently visited Elizabeth Abernathy Denty in Giles County, TN in Sep 1867. Susan Kent Denty, 22 Sep 1867: "I arrived home safe the same evening we left your house. Brother John stopped in Athens until Sunday and then cum on to my house and on Munday morning left for home". In another letter dated 7 Feb 1869 Susan wrote that she'd heard "from Brother John but once since we were at your house". (Who was John visiting in Athens?) [Copies appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
In 1869 Mary S. Denty and John R. Denty sold Lot #204 and part of Lot #203 in Holly Springs to Potts. [Index/Orig: Book 30, p. 568]
3 Jun 1870 CENSUS, Holly Springs, Marshall Co, MS (Ward 5): "Clerk in Store" age 65, born in VA with no entries in real or personal property estimates; Mary S age 58, born VA, with real and personal property of $3500 and $250; Lizzie F. Piper, born KY abt 1857. [Pg 14]
20 Nov 1871: John and his wife sold part of E ½ S1 T5 R3W and E ½ SE 1/4 S36 T2 R3W to Gray. (See 24 Jun 1873) Also in that year Mary Denty and John R. Denty sold SE ¼ S7 T4 R4W to Parker. [Index/Orig: Bk 32, p. 153, 343]
In 1873 John bought personal property from Mayer. [Index/Orig: Book 38, p. 155]
1 Jan 1874: Mary S. Denty "and husband J.R. Denty" sold E ½ E ½ S1 T3 R3W and E ½ SE ¼ S36 T2 R3W to Jacob Morley for $1,502 with a payment schedule. [Book 36, p. 53]
20 Feb 1877: Along with wife Mary S. Denty, sold E ½ E ½ S1 T3 R3W and E ½ SE ¼ S36 T2 R3W, "the farm of the said Mary S. Denty", to E.S. Hammond for $1 plus rent of said farm for 1877 = 4 bales of cotton, 500 lbs each. This was the result of two promissory notes from Mary S. Denty to O. Davis, one for $100 that she in turn advanced to farm's lessee Jacob Mosely, and the second for $100 dated 22 Apr 1876 to carry on her farm operations in 1876. Both were due 1 Dec 1877. Note written in margin: "Satisfied in full Dec 15, 1877". [Book 41, p. 77]
Marie Denty Nesbit, 18 Jun 1877: John's "health is moderately good . . .He has just commenced a business that requires his undivided attention. He will be 70 years of age the 24th of August & is as energetic (if not as active) as ever". [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
Marie Denty Nesbit, 1 Dec 1877: "We heard of Pa only once during the war (yellow fever). He stayed in Holly Springs safe & sound. He is in fine health." [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
17 Dec 1877: Mary S. Denty "and her husband John R. Denty" sold E ½ E ½ S1 T3 R3W to Eben N. Davis for $1,280, $480 in cash and the remainder in mortgage to Dentys. The signatures of both "M.S. Denty" and "J.R. Denty" appear in the left margin with notation of lien being paid in full 28 Jul 1880. [Book 41, p. 516]
1 Jun 1880 CENSUS, Marshall Co, MS (East Holly Springs): Farmer age 72, born in NC; M.S. age 70, born in VA; niece S.A. Garth age 44. [Pg 400]
Alice Denty Dean, 15 Jul 1882: "Uncle John was still living in Holly Springs, Miss when I heard from him last which was about the latter part of May. He wrote he would leave there in a short while for Ark to live with his son Cousin Dock . . . He lost his wife in Dec last . . ." [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
Alice Denty Dean, 17 Jan 1884: "He is . . . in good health & I think one of the happiest men I ever saw. He has a contented mind & this alone is happiness". [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
Marie Denty Nesbit, 20 Jul 1885: John "met a commercial traveler in Memphis" in the fall of 1884 who told him about the Fairfax Dentys and provided him with the address of Silas Denty. She continued "Pa keeps in pretty good health . . . He is still living in Holly Springs, seems to like it much better there than anywhere . . . he is 78 the 24th of Aug but still holds his identity & when I saw him last was hale and hearty." [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
Alice Denty Dean, 15 Sep 1885: "I did love Uncle John and know he was a good man". [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith"]
Alice Denty Dean, 16 Feb 1890: "The Dentys were always said to be proud but about this I know but little. I know my Pa was & all I knew of them". [Copy appearing in Abernathy and Smith]
Date of death inscribed on tombstone in Hillcrest Cemetery: "28 Jul 1885 . . . Aged 77 years 11 months". He's buried with third wife Mary (13 Dec 1804 – 16 Dec 1881) in the plot belonging to Dodson family, Section F. [Old Timer Press, p. 29]
"In his home in Holly Springs, at 8 o'clock on the evening of July 28, after a brief but painful illness." [Tribute by Marie Denty Nesbit: Copy provided by Rebecca Denty Abernathy]
 Youngest brother William Harrison Denty, who was eighteen or nineteen in 1831.
 John's brother Jonathan Milton, age twenty-one that year.
 "Old Times About Athens", Athens Post, 2 Jun 1876: Transcript provided by Jackie Leonard.
 He did not, because on 9 Feb 1834 John R. Denty and Mrs. Catherine A. Fitten turned over cash and debts due the James Fitten estate.
 The Dentys continued to be in contact with their Mississippi Johnston relatives until well into the 1940s.
 But soon to become Madison County, Alabama.
 Desoto Probate Record, June 1845 Term, p. 478-479.
 Deed Book 5, p. 547.
 The second female slave in the 1840 Census was under ten. It may be that such a young child was not taxed.
 William Harrison Denty had become an overseer like his older brother Thomas Jefferson Denty.
 McAlexander, A Southern Tapestry: Marshall County, Mississippi 1835-2000, p. 11.
 Desoto Probate Record, June Term 1845, p. 478-479.
 Deed Book R, p. 495.
 Tribute by Marie Denty Nesbit: Copy provided by Rebecca Denty Abernathy.
 Editor's Accounts, p. 50: Copy provided by J.P. Bell. A newspaper notice was standard practice whenever runaway slaves were discovered. It was expected that the owner would see and respond to the notice.
 The effects of war certainly had a horrific economic impact, but they may not have been the only reason for John's post war difficulties. On 26 Nov 1859 John was forced to mortgage five parcels in the amount of $6,857.15.
 McAlexander, A Southern Tapestry, Marshall County, Mississippi 1835-2000, p. 66.
 Where Mary Ann or first wife Matilda were buried hasn't been discovered, but it's quite probable that they were buried in a family graveyard at the farm on Pigeon Roost Creek.
 John had turned fifty-five on 24 August.
 Elizabeth Abernathy Denty.
 If the inscription on her tombstone is correct, she was actually fifty-eight, although an age of fifty in 1862 would agree with her stated age of fifty-eight in the 1870 Census.
 Marie Denty Nesbit, daughter of first wife Matilda Johnston Denty. See Chapter 9.
 Nathaniel Winningham Denty, son of second wife Mary Irvine Denty. See Chapter 10.
 The O'Reillys were boarders of Susan Kent Denty in Huntsville, Alabama. The story is related in Chapter 16.
 Dock had moved to Donaldson, Hot Spring County, Arkansas in 1880.
 Marie Denty Nesbit, 20 Jul 1885.
 Alice Denty Dean, 15 Sep 1885.
 Alice Denty Dean, 10 Nov 1889.
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