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An Historical Sketch of The Town of Scituate, R.I


THE ANGELL TAVERN AND OTHER PUBLIC HOUSES.

Thirty-five years ago there stood very near the geographical centre of Scituate, in a place latterly known as Richmond Mills, an antique and somewhat grotesque edifice of a century and a quarter's date, looking very much the worse for time, with its red paint nearly all washed off, and looking dingy enough, and a little awkward with its south-east corner projecting very near to the junction of two roads.  That was our old "Angell Tavern," built when the stumps in the road, and the wide-spreading forest around, indicated a country just beginning to be cleared up.  When it was raised, so few were the inhabitants around, that they had to send to Providence for men to assist; there was a great gathering of the region for many miles in circuit, and a merry time they had of it, and also when the tavern sign was elevated and the house opened for public entertainment.  A curious and entertaining history is belonging to that old house, for town meetings were held there, and the news of the day proclaimed, and politics discussed, and strangers found there a good supper and a night's lodging.  It was two stories high, with the eaves of the front extending a few feet, forming a little shelter in stormy weather.  On the western end was a very huge stone-chimney, forming a wall for that end of the building.  There was also back of the main building, an addition sloping down from the main roof to form a kitchen, closet and bed-room, one story high, which being old and out of repair, was taken down in 1823.  The house had three narrow windows, with small panes of glass on the lower front, and four of the same description above, with one at the east end.  The front door was at the western extremity of the part facing on the road.  As you entered, a door on the right hand of the passage opened upon the bar-room, a large square rom, and leading out of it, the entire length of the remaining fore part of the house was a sitting-room, used in later years, if not before, for a bed-room.  Back of the bar-room was a kitchen, a large square room, which had been as large again before the addition was removed.  A bed-room was at one end of it, nearly corresponding in size to the sitting-room, directly behind which it stood.  The only pair of stairs to the upper rooms, ascended from the kitchen at the west end.  Three bedrooms were on the east end, and all the rest of the second floor, with the exception of a sleeping chamber over the front entry, was a hall for dancing and public meetings.

I have been thus minute and full in this description, as this tavern is often referred to in the doings at Scituate -- a sort of town hall, exchange, eating and lodging house, real estate office, and place of resort for young and old, day and evening, where bargains were made, balls were held, and a general news-room established, or what was equivalent to it.

Capt. Thomas Angell, who built this house one hundred and sixty-six years ago, that is, in 1710, if a stone, taken out of the chimney, gives the correct date, was a large owner of property in the vicinity, and had built his first house of much smaller dimensions and in simpler construction, near where Pardon Angell's house stands, a quarter of a mile north.  His land lay on both sides of the Ponagansett river, and his second house was erected near a fall of water, improved of late years for a factory, but might originally have been used for a saw and grist mill.  Immediately before the tavern the river makes rather a sudden bend, rounding with a graceful sweep through woodlands festooned with vines, which still grow in the region.  Before the house, on the opposite or southern side, the land sloped down to a very beautiful intervale on the sides of the stream.

The parties taking possession of this new house were the family of Capt.  Thomas Angell.  He was the son of John and Ruth Angell, of Providence, and was born March 25, 1672, and was married April 4, 1700, Sarah Brown, daughter of Daniel Brown and Alice his wife.  Sarah was born at Providence, October 10, 1677.  It must have been very soon after their marriage that the young and adventurous couple took up their line of march for the thousand acres of wild land, of which Thomas had become the proprietor.

In 1730 Scituate was taken out of the limits of Providence and made a separate town.  The first meeting it was voted to hold the town meetings in the new house of Capt. Thomas Angell.  Three years afterwards he was appointed to represent the town in the General Assembly.  He contracted with the town to build a bridge over Ponagansett river in 1734, and about the same time he petitioned with one or two others to have a pound near his dwelling, and leave was granted that they might do it at their own expense, which they did, building it of stone.  It stood two or three rods east of the tavern, and continued to be the only pound in the town until 1810, when the place being wanted by Mr. Charles Angell, the then proprietor of the tavern, to put up a new and spacious house upon the spot, it was removed and a new one built on the opposite side of the road, a little west of the old spot.

The town meetings continued to be held at Mr. Angell's tavern for many years, until the building of the Baptist Church a mile east.  The large hall in the second story was improved on these occasions.  By far the largest use of the hall was for dancing.  This tavern became quite noted among the traveling community, and what is remarkable, continued in the hands of the family until quite recently, except a period of ten years, during the ill health of Mr. Andrew Angell, when it was leased successively to John Manchester, Nathan Manchester and Mr. Hazard.  Mr.  Charles Angell then resumed it on the old hereditary line.

Many eminent men have been entertained at this tavern, as well as a multitude of more humble travelers.  Gen. Washington has stopped there.  Gen. Lafayette encamped his regiment on the pleasant intervale in front of the house while marching through the town during the Revolutionary war.  They continued there until the troops had finished their washing in the river.  The old people used to speak often to their children about the fine music of the band, as in the morning and evening they played in the camp.  Lafayette lodged in the tavern, and another French officer of high rank had accommodations in a house near by, where lived Mr. Abel Angell.  Mr. Angell's wife, who died thirty-five or forty years ago, used to speak of making porridge for this officer, whom she called General, while he was sick at her house.  This house stood for a long period, and Mr. Richard Angell, son of Abel, pointed out to myself and other visitors the small bed-room back of the kitchen which had been occupied by the officer.  Gen. Lafayette, on his last visit to this country, passed up the same road, recognized the old places, and enquired particularly for a spring at the foot of Cranberry Hill, some three or four miles west of the Angell tavern on the turnpike, at which spring he and his troops had refreshed themselves on their dusty and weary march.  Many were then alive to greet him, of his old companions in the war.  Dr. Owen Battey, residing within a mile of the tavern, on the same road, remembered seeing Lafayette and his soldiers as they passed along, and also of walking into the camp-ground on the intervale, led, while a child, by one of his father's men.
It being fall of the year the river was high, and one of the soldiers having drunk too freely tried to drown himself, but other soldiers jumped into the river and pulled him out.

Some things remain of the old tavern.  The well which faithfully served other generations abides to moisten the lips of several families in the neighborhood, and gives a good supply for all household uses.  The old stone steps, as good as new, upon which so many feet alighted from travelers' carriages, and the ponderous iron shovel for the use of the oven, are still in use.  A hatchet which once belonged to Jeremy Angell, and marked February, 1755; an iron square, bearing the date April 2, 1770, and formerly the property of Andrew Angell, and a gauge of still greater antiquity, for measuring the contents of barrels, are still preserved, or were up to twenty years ago, when I saw them; but the hatchet, once so indispensable in a household, for the preparation of flax for use, is no longer wanted.  The large old clock that clicked in the bar-room has been swapped away for a smaller and more modern measurer of time.  A chest of drawers belonging to old Capt. Thomas Angell, who first occupied the tavern, was burnt up forty-five years ago in the house of Mr. Stephen Peckham, which was destroyed by fire.  One or two tables of ancient form are left, but time and accident have swept away other articles of furniture.

In a field back of the house is a burial place containing the graves of some of the ancient household.  Mr. Andrew Angell who died about 1791; his wife, Tabitha, who survived thirty years and deceased Dec. 10, 1821; Gideon Angell, son of Andrew, who was born June 21, 1773, and died unmarried, May 14, 1829; Abigail Hopkins, brought up by Andrew Angell, and who married a Sanders.  The last named grave, with that of him who brought her up, is without an inscription.

Capt. Angell seems to have made his tavern the great centre of business and amusement in the town.  The militia musters were held in the vicinity, and the pound drew all the stray cattle, and their owners to reclaim them; there, too, the blacksmith shop adjoining the pound, under another line of Angells, brought customers, and there also, we must not forget to mention, was the "stocks," a machine consisting of two heavy pieces of timber rounded so as to enclose the legs of criminals, and in which ludicrous and painful condition they had to sit out their time.  Here, too, those who got into scrapes during the trainings and at other times, were put; and the pole of the tavern sign was used as a post to fasten those unfortunate gentlemen who were sentenced to be whipped, an operation they were not likely very soon to forget.

Other taverns sprung up, as the town increased, in different places.  Matthew Manchester was licensed as an inn-keeper in 1769, and Thomas Manchester and Levi Colvin at the same time.  Stephen Smith and Zebedee Hopkins were licensed in 1762, and Col. John Potter and Christopher Potter in 1760.  Some of these persons lived in Foster, then a part of Scituate.

Peter Cook, 1755; Joseph Kimball, 1745; Jeremiah Angell, 1758; Elisha Hopkins, jr., 1758; William West, 1758; John Hulet, 1745; Thomas Brown, 1749; Samuel Cooper, 1745; Henry Randall, jr., 1748; William Jackson, 1758, were among the licensed.

"Tavern Ale House and Victualling House" is the term employed in licensing many of the above.  Only a few of these persons could have done much business.

An old house on Bald Hill, marked on the chimney 1710, or 1740, was built by John Hammond, who lived in it; also Jeremiah Baker lived there, and died about forty years ago.

The license to Joseph Knight runs thus:  "License to keep a tavern, or house of public entertainment, and to retail strong liquors in said town, and hath given bond for maintaining good order and conforming to the regulations of the law respecting taverns and public houses.  Provided, that he suffer no unlawful game or games, drunkenness, or any other disorder, in said house, or in any place in his possession, but that good government, rule and order be kept therein according to law."  The license is dated Feb. 12, 1803, and is signed, John Harris, Clerk.

Thomas Wilmarth, who was a tavern keeper and clothier, kept an old tavern, still standing.  His son, Stephen Wilmarth, of Glocester, married Nancy, daughter of James Aldrich.

The first tavern in Providence, and the first in the State, was in May, 1638, in charge of William Baulston.

Two taverns in each town, in early legislation, were allowed, and leave was granted to add one more if they saw fit:  this was in 1655.  Very full laws were enacted regulating the sale of liquors.  The tavern bars were to be closed at 9 o'clock in the evening.  Tavern keepers, when they trusted any one for liquors beyond twenty shillings, were barred an action at law.

We are very liable to undervalue country taverns in hose days of their decline.  In a newly settled country they are pioneers, and the house of the first settler becomes of necessity the inn or lodging place of the traveler.  As the settlement increases and the traveling multiplies, the tavern becomes a real estate office, where land is bought and sold.  Inasmuch as there were no newspapers in circulation, and no post office, the tavern became the centre of information for those who were shut out by a residence in the woods, from tidings of the world.  Macauley, in his History of  England, says that tavern keeping was most flourishing as to patronage and being well kept when the roads were in the poorest condition and traveling slow and laborious.

Daniel Webster's father, building his house on the farthest line of civilization, in New Hampshire, could not well help being a tavern keeper, and his son Daniel was favored with more avenues of information by reason of it than the boys not so privileged in new settlements.

The old Angell tavern is well represented to-day in Mr. James B. Angell, the popular president of Michigan University.

Capt. Thomas Angell's children were Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jonathan, Thomas, Martha and Sarah -- all Scripture names.  Every one but Jonathan married and had children.  Dividing his lands, he gave large farms of two hundred acres to each of his sons, and built handsome houses of two stories high for four of them, and a smaller house for Jonathan.  Two of these houses remain.  The daughters, no doubt, received gifts.  At their father's death in 1744, Martha inherited by his will a negro girl called Phillis, and Sarah a negro boy named James.

Thomas, the youngest son, was the executor of his father's will.  Jeremiah followed his father in the keeping of the tavern and was a highly respectable man.  He as a Justice of the Peace as early as 1741, and afterwards Town Treasurer.  His first wife was Mary Mathewson, his second Abigail Graves, and his third Elizabeth Stow.  He died in 1786, aged seventy-nine years, having been born January 29, 1707.  His widow survived till December 10, 1821.

Nehemiah Angell, second son of Thomas, married Mary Hopkins, sister to Elder Reuben Hopkins.  He had three sons, Pardon, Nehemiah and Abraham, and his daughters were four, namely Zilpah, Martha, Mercy and Mary.  A grandson, Mr. Pardon Angell, became the owner of the farm, and soon after took down the old one-story red house, and put up a new one.  Isaiah, the third son married Miss Wilkinson, and had only one daughter, named Prudence, who married Gideon Austin, and had a large family.  Thomas Angell, jr., married Mercy, and had one daugher, Sally, who married a Sterry.  Mr. Angell sold out and removed to Providence.

Martha Angell married Mr. Knight, and Sarah married Jeremy Mathewson, on the very day the Angell tavern was raised.  The children of Jeremiah were brought up with their father in the tavern.  Daniel, born August 16, 1748, went to sea unmarried, and did not return.  Andrew, one of his sons, married Tabitha Harris, daughter of Gideon Harris, Esq., and carried on the tavern after his father.

SCITUATE IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR

From the character of the men who settled in Rode Island it might be expected that they would be quick and energetic in resisting all encroachments upon their liberties, and such was the case.  The taking of the Gaspee was the earliest resistance by arms to the power of Great Britain in any of the colonies.  Great sympathy was awakened for the people of Boston, under the vexations and vindictive treatment of England, and supplies were voted in all the Rhode Island towns, and sent for their relief.

When the news of the battle of Lexington arrived at Providence a thousand men were on the march the next day for the scene of conflict, but were contermanded by expresses from Lexington.
The Rhode Island forces, incorporated with the grand army before Boston, were placed under the direction of Washington.  Rev. William Emerson, of Concord, chaplain in the army, who saw them at Cambridge in 1775, describing the military camps there,  from various places, and noticing the want of tents and arms and apparel of many of the companies, says of some proper tents and marquees:  "In these are the Rhode Islanders, who are furnished with tent equipage and everything in the most exact English style."

But it was not always so.  Two years later, Aug. 27, 1777, Col. Israel Angell writing from the camp to the Governor of Rhode Island, declares that "pure necessity urges me to write you of the wretched condition of my command, as to their clothing and equipments.  Only one half of the men are fit for duty, and many are barefoot."  At another time, of some companies, it was said:  "There are not two in five who have a shoe or stocking, or other apparel to make them decent.  But they rendered good service at Brandywine a month afterwards, contributing to a very important victory.  Washington said of them:  "The gallant behavior of Col. Angell's regiment on the 23d of June, at Springfield, reflects the highest honor upon the officers and men:  they disputed an important pass with so obstinate a bravery that they lost upwards of forty in killed and wounded and missing -- nearly one-fourth of their number, before they gave up their ground to a vast superiority of force.

Job and Joseph Angell, twin brothers, born January 19, 1745, were out in arms during the whole of the Revolutionary war.  Job commanded a company but did not go out of the State.  He has a son Job living in Scituate.  Joseph Angell continued a private soldier, refusing offers of promotion, and distinguished himself in the war.  He was with Washington the greater part of the war and fought in many battles.  The old people that knew him had memories very quick to remember "Uncle Joe," the old soldier, who made a good impression on their minds.  He used to relate tales of the war and events in the battles of which he was one of the actors.  At the battle of Monmouth the day being very hot, the men after the action flung themselves down by the river to drink, and many of them died in consequence, and indeed many were so faint that they died where they laid down, without drinking.  Capt. Boss, Joseph's captain, laid down completely exhausted, until some one came and raised him up to drink spirits.  Gen. Washington rode in among the troops ordering them not to drink without first tasting some spiritous liquor.  Joseph said he always kept a little in his canteen for such a purpose, and he had so reserved some for himself in that battle.  In the fight at the Red Bank on the Jersey shore, when the Hessians unsuccessfully attacked Fort Mercer, and were so cut up by the fire of the Americans, Joseph loaded and fired his gun for forty minutes as fast as he could, and without a moment's cessation until his gun became so hot that he could not hold it in his hand.

At a time during the war, when an engagement was about to commence, a cannon-ball from the enemy struck an apple tree in the road, taking off a branch.  Washington, who was near, pleasantly remarked:  "That was a good shot."  Accounts agree that Joseph really loved the soldier's profession, that he engaged in it with his whole heart, and conducted himself bravely during the whole war.  When peace was declared he returned to Scituate to take up once more the plough.  He selected a daughter of John Edwards for his wife, and had two sons, Jonathan and Israel, who both married and removed to the State of New York.

Joseph Knight acted an important part in the Revolutionary war.  His father, Jonathan Knight, executed to him the lease of his far for six years, April 4th, 1763, Jeremiah and Andrew Angell witnessing the same.  He appears to have used his teams extensively in transportation for Hope furnace.

From papers in the possession of his descendants, which have been kindly loaned me, we get much information of Revolutionary times.  He seems to have had a taste early for military life, having received from. Gov.  Samuel Ward, June 16th, 1766, a commission as Ensign of the First Company, or Trained Band, of Providence.  He was made Lieutenant of the same company, in 1769, and in August, 1774, he was created Captain.  April, 1775, after the news of battle of Lexington, a company was formed in Scituate under him as captain, the roll headed thus:  "We do enlist ourselves as Volunteers in the present emergency in defence of our country and Right of Privileges and Liberty."  Four new companies were chartered in Scituate, Dec. 5, 1774, and one of them was called "Scituate Hunters."

A letter from Gov. Cooke to Joseph Knight, dated Providence, Dec. 19, 1775, directed to him as captain of the second company of minute men in Scituate, says:  "You are hereby directed to gather together the company under your command with all possible expedition and march them to this town in order to be transported to Rhode Island for the defence of that island.  You are to be careful that the men are properly equipped with arms, ammunition and blankets fit for immediate service. I have advice from Gen. Washington that eight large transports, with two tenders, having on board one regiment of foot, and three companies of horse sailed from Boston last Saturday, and I have no doubt that your officers and men will exert themselves upon this occasion with their usual ardor."

Gov. West sends an order from head-quarters to Capt. Knight, Jan. 12, 1776, for nine privates with a commission officer and sergeant or corporal, upon fatigue duty. Ten days afterwards Gen. Lippitt directs him, from Prudence, to send ten men up there to go in a scow down to the Pearl.  The men sent were in the fight at Prudence.  According to the record they were, Joseph Knight, captain:  William Brownell and Simeon Wilbour, sergeants; Abraham Angell, corporal; and Joseph Turner, Stephen Leach, Oliver Leach, Oliver Fisk, Zebedee Snow, Christopher Edwards, Joseph Wight, Moses Colvin, and Christopher Knight.

Providence was threatened by the enemy and Scituate was called upon to assist in its defence.  Gen. Sullivan writes to Mr. Knight, who has been promoted to be Lieut.-Colonel, to march immediately with his regiment to their aid:  "Pray, delay no time, for by the delay of one hour we may lose the town of Providence; let each man take three days provision, and wait there for further orders."

About this time, March 18, 1777, Elizabeth Knight writes from Scituate to her husband, who was with his troops at Warwick:  "These lines are to let you know that we are all well at present.  I want you to come home soon as you can, to see about getting some flax, for it is very scarce to be had.  There are some men who want to be boarded at your house, and I want you to send to me whether you are willing to board them or not.  So I remain your loving wife, Elizabeth Knight."
There you see a woman of the old heroic time, -- quiet, diligent, deferring to her husband, subjecting herself to the circumstnces of the time, and heartily embracing the good cause.  In talking of the men of the Revolution we should never forget the women, whose sacrifices were great, and whose zeal and courage in the patriot cause was abounding.

Rufus Hopkins, who seems to have been especially active and efficient in the good cause, writes Major Knight from Cranston, July 27, 1780, saying:  "By express from the Governor I am requested to direct you forthwith to muster together the regiment under your command, completely equipped with arms and ammunition and six days provision; you are therefore hereby directed accordingly, and rendezvous at Providence as soon as possible, where you are to be ready to receive further orders, the reason is said to be in consequence of Gen. Clinton's coming from New York with eight or ten thousand troops to attack the French army and fleet at Newport."

Scituate was not invaded, but she was called upon, and responded nobly to the call, to march her troops to the port.  The British, on Sunday, Dec. 8, 1776, landed and took possession of Rhode Island, and remained there until Oct. 25, 1779, during which time the inhabitants were greatly oppressed.

In a list of Capt. Knight's company, April 2, 1775, the day after the Lexington battle, are found the following names:  Joseph Knight, captain; Samuel Wilbor, Benjamin Wood,  Isaac Horton, John Hill, Nathan Walker, James Parker, John Bennet, jr., Jeremiah Almy, Joseph Remington, Nathan Ralfe, John I. Kilton, Jonathan Knight, jr., Joseph Briggs, David Knight, Joseph Collins, William Taylor John Manchester, Edward Bennett, Thomas Parker, John Edwards, jr., Simeon Wilbor, Isaiah Austin, Samuel Eldridge, Christopher Knight, Samuel Hopkins, Benajah Bosworth, Obadiah Rolfe, Ezekiel Wood, Caleb Fisk, doctor, Jolin Phillips, Constant Graves, Stukely Thornton, James Andrews, jr., Christopher Collins, Joseph Bennet, Thomas Knight, Peleg Colvin, Eleazor Westcott, Caleb Steere, Collins Roberts, Daniel Fisk, William Knight, Nathan Franklin, Uriah Franklin, jr., Ephriam Edwards, Stephen Edwards, Francis Fuller, jr., Benjamin Whitmore, William Stafford, Daniel Angell, Furmer Tanner -- fifty-two in all.

Another list, dated Feb. 5, 1776, gives the following additional names:
Daniel Dexter, Peter Pierce, Alexander Lovell, Ebenezer Handy, Joseph Turner, John Gunnison, Isaiah Ashton, Benjain Bacon, Nathan Mathewson, Christopher Edwards, Knight Wilbor, Abraham Angell, Moses Colvin.

An order of Capt. Knight to Aaron Fisk, one of his corporals, dated Dec.  8, 1774, directs to notify every enlisted soldier to appear in arms complete, to appear at the new dwelling-house of Lieut. Samuel Wilbor, Jan. 16, 1775.

Lieut.-Col. Ezekiel Cornell, of Col. Hitchcock's regiment, Providence, writes to Major Knight, dated Warwick, July 20, 1777, informing that he has just received an express telling him that forty sail of square-rigged vessels were off Watch Point standing towards Newport, last evening; also, desiring me to send an express to Col. Colwell, which I have done, ordering him immediately to warn the militia to be in readiness.

Return of the Scituate Light Infantry company, Benj. Boss, captain, and Richard Rhodes, clerk, gives captain and two lieutenants, one ensign, four sergeants, three corporals, four drummers and fifers, thirty-eight rank and file -- total fifty-four.

The return of Capt. Nathan Worker's company gives Lieut. Joseph Carpenter, Ensign Samuel Wilbor, seventy-two men, eight all equipped, and twenty-nine guns.

Capt. Coman smith's company had Lieut. Fabel Angell, and Capt. Herenden's company had Lieut. Isaac Hopkins, and Ensign James Wells.  Timothy Hopkins, jr., was adjutant.  Jos. Kimball's company had Gideon Cornwell, lieutenant.  Capt. Edwin Knight's company had Ensign Daniel Baker.  Capt. Herenden, Lieut. Wm. Howard, Ensign Reuben Read.

The small pox prevailed much in the army at different times causing alarm, and the town of Scituate voted that the house of widow Mercy Angell and the house of Peleg Fiske, Esq., be opened as hospitals for the innoculation of the small pox.

Capt. Joseph Kimball, by vote of the town, Nov. 15, 1777, was appointed to supply the families of officers and soldiers, in the continental service, with the necessary articles of life, according to a late act of the General Assembly.

The returns of the Third Regiment, made to Major Knight of eight companies, are as follows:  Capt. Potter, 75 men, Capt. Dorrance, 67 men, Capt. Smith, 123 men, Capt. Paine, 109 men, Capt. Wilbour, 76 men, Capt. Howard, 64 men, Capt. Medbury, 32 men, Capt. Rolfe, 67 men.
We get some idea of the imperfect equipments of the soldiers in the return of three companies of two hundred and seventy-two privates.  Of these, without bayonets, one hundred and one, with bayonets, twenty-six, and cartouches of the same number only forty-three.

The Rhode Island soldiers in our civil war received much praise for their brave and effective service, and their fine appearance.  A Massachusetts man, writing for a newspaper, at the commencement of the rebellion, from Washington, July, 1861, says:  "Three cheers for Rhode Island rang along the avenue to-day, as the quota of that gallant State marched proudly along, the first battalion escorting the second, which had just been landed.  Cheers were given for the continental color carried by the second battalion and for the ladies who marched bravely with the file-closers of two companies rivaling Florence Nightingale.

A baggage train brought up the rear." Another writer says of them:
"This is the finest and best furnished body of men in the field."


From "An Historical Address, delivered in Scituate, Rhode Island, July 4, 1876 by C. C. Beaman" and published by PHENIX: Capron & Campbell, Steam Book and Job Printers, 1877.

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