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The History of Ohio Townships

Townships were the “first form of local government” in Ohio and were laid according to a basic policy for the survey and sale of public lands that predates the US Constitution.  In 1785, under the Articles of Confederation, Congress enacted the Land Ordinance of 1785 that identified the Seven Ranges (land parcels west of the Pennsylvania border) and specified that these “ranges” or parcels be subdivided into six-mile squares called townships.  With the formation of the Old Territory under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, these township squares were used as the primary means of establishing local civil governments in the territory.  After statehood, in 1804, the Ohio General Assembly prescribed the form and powers of township government.

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 (3) trustees and a fiscal officer, each elected to a four-year term, administer the townships today.  Elected officials fill their roles on a part-time basis, however, their intimate knowledge of their community, its needs and its citizens enables them to offer more personal service than any other unit of government.  In contrast to other forms of local government, it has been said that the township form of government is the most productive. 

In addition, some townships now appoint a township administrator, whose duties are defined by the individual township.  The township administrator typically helps plan, coordinate and implement township goals. 

Richfield Township follows this model.