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In which part of the U.S. did this rule apply? East midwest west south?

countys once had to be small enough for someone to be able to reach county seat from any part of that county in a day (on horseback

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This rule initially applied to Georgia which is roughly in the U.S. South, though to be precise its in the South East. This may also explain why Georgia has the second largest number of counties of any state in the country.

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