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Deal made with ND company to protect SD cemetery

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A North Dakota agriculture company has agreed to a land swap that will preserve a pioneer cemetery in central South Dakota.

The unmarked Meers town site cemetery is in the middle of property owned by Fargo, N.D.-based RDO Equipment Co., which manages farmland in the area under the name of Gunsmoke Farms.

Offutt last week transferred the cemetery property to Stanley County for $10, the Pierre Capital Journal reported.

"It's a done deal," said Brian Scott, a history enthusiast and Stanley County commissioner who led the effort to protect the site. "I just think it's the right thing to do. I guess if I was under that dirt, I'd want someone to think of me."

The Stanley County Planning and Zoning Board and Stanley County Commission earlier this summer approved the plan to trade three lots of county-owned land near the cemetery.

Scott and a member of the Verendrye Museum in Fort Pierre surveyed the area when the land swap discussion was started and found few signs of a cemetery. Since then, Scott said, crews have marked the corners of an area where several dozen settlers are believed to be buried.

Meers was once a site on the Fort Pierre-to-Deadwood freight route, traveled by mule and ox teams pulling wagons to and from the Black Hills. Railroads and then highways put the town out of business.

The cemetery is about a mile north of the defunct town.