Every Ohio resident today lives within a township — an area of land determined by 18th and early 19th century surveys.
These surveys were conducted as the United States expanded to the west, beginning with the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the formation of the Northwest Territory. According to the Ohio History Connection, surveyors such as a young George Washington fanned out across the area north and west of the Ohio River to plat these entities. The territory eventually was organized into five states – Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.
Townships, which surveyors aimed to survey as squares with sides 6 miles in length, helped the federal government to sell land and assisted with the establishment of local governments.
Each completed 36-mile square of land was divided into numbered, 1-square mile sections of 640 acres each. In what would become Ohio, Section 16 of each township was set aside for the use of the public schools. Certain sections also were reserved for veterans of the American Revolution as payment for their service during the war. The remaining sections were auctioned off at a price of at least $1 per acre.
In counties across Eastern Ohio, many of the existing townships are actually older than the state itself. Belmont County, for example, originally consisted of four townships formed in 1801 — two years before Ohio became a state. By 1804, the elected officials of a township consisted of three trustees, a clerk, two overseers of the poor, highway supervisors, justices of the peace and constables.
According to the Belmont County Recorder’s Office website, the four original townships of Belmont County — Kirkwood, Pultney, York, and Salem — were essentially strips of land running east to west from the Ohio River to the western boundary of the county. The western portions of them were ceded to form Guernsey County in 1810; all of the southernmost Salem Township went to help form Monroe County.
Harrison County has 15 townships: Archer, Athens, Cadiz, Franklin, Freeport, German, Green, Monroe, Moorefield, North, Nottingham, Rumley, Short Creek, Stock and Washington.
Monroe County’s 18 townships include: Adams, Benton, Bethel, Center, Franklin, Green, Jackson, Lee, Malaga, Ohio, Perry, Salem, Seneca, Summit, Sunsbury, Switzerland, Washington and Wayne.
In Jefferson County, there are 14: Brush Creek, Cross Creek, Island Creek, Knox, Mount, Pleasant, Ross, Salem, Saline, Smithfield, Springfield, Steubenville, Warren, Wayne and Wells.