How Townships Began
The Pilgrim fathers brought the township form of government to America in 1620. This unit of local government eventually spread as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Today, it is found in 20 states, known as the town or township.
In Ohio, the township predates our state government. The townships’ size and shape were determined by the Congressional Acts, which established the various land grants. Within each of the Ohio land grants, Congress set aside sections of land for the use of schools and the support of religious institutions.
As the Ohio territory became populated, it was only natural that the surveyed townships should become the basic unit of local government. In 1804, the elected officials of a township consisted of three trustees, a clerk, two overseers of the poor, and a sufficient number of supervisors of highway — in addition to justices of the peace and constables.
In the early years of statehood, Ohio township government cared for the poor, maintained the roads and preserved the peace.
Today, just as in 1804, the township is a political subdivision of the state. To keep pace with the demands of changing times, the functions, duties and obligations of the township have changed over the years. Demands for increased or different services have prompted the state legislature to grant Ohio’s 1,308 townships the authority to fulfill these changing needs.
Three trustees and a fiscal officer, each elected to a four-year term, administer our townships today. Additionally, some townships now appoint a township administrator, whose duties are defined by the Ohio Revised Code and the individual township. The township administrator typically helps plan, coordinate and implement township goals.
Elected officials fill their roles on a part-time basis. Their intimate knowledge of their community, its needs and its citizens enables them to offer more personal service than any other unit of government.