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The street sign reads 'Gettysburg SD, 1,410 Miles.' The two towns are closer by heart than by highway.
The street sign reads "Gettysburg SD, 1,410 Miles." The two towns are closer by heart than by highway.

The Three Gettysburgs

A dear reader recently visited Gettysburg, Pa., and came upon this street sign noting the distance from there to the town bearing the same name in South Dakota. We're delighted to see that the Easterners haven't forgotten their ancestors who came West in 1883 and staked out a town in Potter County. The Yanks camped at a place called Eagle Peak, considered by some to be the highest point between the Appalachians and the Black Hills. They plotted a town two miles south of the peak and named it Gettysburg after the site of their bloody victory.

Gettysburg defeated the neighboring town of Forest City for the county seat in 1884, but the Forest City folks wouldn't relinquish the government records. The feud ended when the old blue-coats armed themselves and stole the safe and papers at daybreak. Nobody challenged them and the rest is history.

There were just 200 settlers at the start but today Gettysburg, S.D. has grown to a population of more than 1,100. (The original Gettysburg has a population of about 7,000.)

The linkage and military heritage has continued into the 21st century with occasional re-enactments by South Dakotans of the Battle of Gettysburg. Even the Forest City neighbors come to celebrate.

Did you know that there's a third Gettysburg in the USA? It's a town of just 500 people in Ohio that was founded even before the Civil War. But it is also named after the city in Pennsylvania.

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