Harrisburg University professor continues historical exploration of Gettysburg

For six years, Melissa Gettys and her research partner pored through historical documents to reconstruct the founding of Gettysburg, the famous Civil War town.

The historical expedition started as a genealogical journey – a way for Melissa to see if she was related to James Gettys, the man who started Gettysburg in 1786 when he bought 116 acres of his father’s land during a bankruptcy auction and awarded plots through a lottery.

Melissa found no connection, but the corporate faculty member at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology got hooked on Gettysburg’s story.

She marveled that regular townsfolk joined Gettys and invested their own time and money to build a courthouse, jail, and turnpike for the town.

That concept of teamwork has inspired Melissa’s written works about James Gettys, which include a new edition of a book exploring the founding of the town and an upcoming journal for the Adams County Historical Society. And it’s influenced her work at Harrisburg University, where she passes along her research skills to the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

“This country was founded by initiative and teamwork, which is why it is important to impart those skills on our students,” she said. “That’s how students will function in the new workplace.”

Digging into James Gettys’ life

Along with founding Gettysburg, James Gettys’ life included a host of achievements, including being elected as sheriff and state representative. Those details are covered in “James Gettys and the Founding of Gettysburg,” the book Melissa wrote with fellow researcher Amanda Howlett in 2012.

The authors are back with a second edition, with new research about James Gettys’ time with the Pennsylvania Riflemen during the American Revolution.

“We all see Pennsylvania rifles on the ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ and he was one of the original Pennsylvania Riflemen,” Melissa Gettys said.

The book is available on Amazon.

Those seeking more information about Gettys’ life as a soldier – which included a capture at the Battle of Brooklyn, a court martial and a rise to brigadier general – will soon be able to find that. Melissa covers his military service exclusively in a journal for the Adams County History Society due out in early 2017.

Teaching tomorrow’s researchers

At Harrisburg University, Melissa instills her research skills in students pursuing STEM careers. Her classes focus on writing, research, and communications; students learn how to identify reliable sources and how to craft their own arguments to improve existing standards.

Melissa is impressed with the abilities of her students, who one day may be sources for another author.

“Our students are leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “They are the scientists, technology experts, engineers, and mathematical geniuses who will create the history of tomorrow.”