Yes, there was a Gettysburg before the 1863 battle
Adams County has a rich history that begins more than four score and seven years before the Battle of Gettysburg.
Throughout the world, Gettysburg is known for its role in the American Civil War and President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Far fewer know what our area was like before the battle or even further back, when the first European settlers arrived.
The land that now comprises the center of Adams County was purchased from the Iroquois Indians by the family of William Penn in 1736. At the time there was no official Gettysburg, Adams County, state of Pennsylvania or United States. Within a few years 150 families had "leap-frogged" over the English Quakers and Germans, who had settled to the east of here, to this area, then known by the name of its main tributary, Marsh Creek. Many of these settlers were Scots-Irish who had left Northern Ireland to escape English persecution.
One early settler, Samuel Gettys, established a tavern in 1761. By 1786 his son James had laid out a town of 210 lots with a central town square on the land surrounding the tavern. This town would become known as Gettysburg.
At that time, a trip to the county seat of York took an entire day and the differences in nationalities and religions of the eastern settlers were producing difficulties.
With the first Pennsylvania Frame of Government in 1776 and the Constitution of the United States in 1787, the growing population of the area decided they wanted to separate from York County. A new county was approved by the state legislature in 1800 (the year 2000 will be our bicentennial) and was named after the President at that time, John Adams. Gettysburg was chosen as the county seat.
By 1860 the town of Gettysburg had grown to 2,400 inhabitants with ten roads leading into the town, helping to create a few small but thriving industries. These roads and businesses would lead two armies into the county in 1863. At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, there were about 450 buildings housing carriage manufacturing, shoemakers and tanneries as well as the usual merchants, banks and taverns of a county seat.
Many artifacts of this early period are on display at the Adams County Historical Society. The museum and archives are open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Thursday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. They can be contacted at 111 North West Confederate Avenue, Gettysburg (717) 334-4723.
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