Ohio Townships – Colonial Governments in a Modern Era

Washington Township handles fire protection in Dublin.(Photo: WOSU File photo)
Washington Township handles fire protection in Dublin.(Photo: WOSU File photo)

Ohio is the first state to have been carved out of the Northwest Territory after the American Revolution. Much of the state was subdivided into five and six mile square townships. I say “much” because a lot of the land west of the Scioto River was not measured that way – at least at first.

The Rectangular Survey set forth by the Land Ordinance of 1785 became the basis of a form of political organization as well as township governments were established across the new State of Ohio presided over by locally elected Township Trustees.

It was an interesting experiment in keeping government close to the people. In a new state with less than 100,000 people, a form of government was created for small rural places each initially with only a few dozen residents. The services provided were limited and so was the power of Township Trustees. But this was government literally at the grassroots.

In the early 1990’s, it occurred to me that no one had really published the story of each of the many townships of Columbus and Franklin County since Opha Moore did so in 1930. So I did just that with a series of brief articles about each township. I figured that once every sixty years or so, their story should be told.

I decided recently that waiting another sixty years probably did not make much sense – especially if I wanted to read the results.

So I set out once again to take a look at each of the townships in Franklin County and what had become of them in twenty years.

A journey like this quickly reminds one just how big Ohio’s counties really are.

People living near Columbus are more than a little influenced by the ease of travel in this part of the world. A wonderful series of interstate highways crisscross the county and the entirety of the county is encircled by Interstate 270 – The Outerbelt. Because we can easily travel to any place in the county in one short trip – at least off-peak we can- we tend to forget that the Outerbelt is fifty-five miles in circumference.

There is a lot of real estate out there if one takes time to look.

Some of it has not changed all that much. In many places –especially in the southern part of the county, one can still see a lot of open farmland from the Outerbelt.

But in many other parts of the county, the growth of suburbia – at least until quite recently has been relentless. At the time when I first wrote of the townships, only one of the townships as they were finally formed – the former Montgomery Township- had been totally swallowed up by a growing Columbus. Now there is little left of several more as the city continues its march toward – and occasionally across – county lines.

Some people have questioned the continuing need for this old and limited form of local government. In those parts of our counties with many people in a small space, other forms of government – villages, towns, cities – make more sense. But in those parts of this state and others – where the distances are great and the residents few – the best government if quite often the one close by.

 

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