Talk:Township (United States)

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The size limitations this article mentions for townships are not entirely accurate. In New York, a lot of townships are larger than 54 square miles. On Long Island alone, I can think of several that exceed that size by a fair margin - Huntington, Brookhaven, Oyster Bay, Hempstead, Islip. 36 square miles may be the norm in areas surveyed under the township and range system, but I don't know that any other areas can be said to have a "norm" with regard to township size. 19:42, 13 June 2007 (UTC)Lloyd Spivak

I realize that the current links to Survey township and Civil township main articles makes no sense. In the future I intend to either expand those stubs or to adjust the links. If anybody would be intersted in helping to sort this out please send me an email or use my talk page. Thanks, Lou I 20:57, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)

"Range from 6 to 54 miles" ??? I live in the town of hempstead on long island, according to wikipedia, the TOH is 191.3 sq mi (495.5 km²). Town of Brookhaven (also on LI) is 531.5 sq mi (1,376.6 km²). I think the range should be changed. (talk) 16:06, 16 June 2008 (UTC)

Indiana only state entirely divided into civil townshipsEdit

I'm pretty sure this came from a Census Bureau document. I reverted changes that indicated that the entirety of Illinois belongs to a civil township, as that is not true. For example, Alexaner County does not have townships. And cities are not part of any civil township. olderwiser 18:00, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

Are they not? Champaign and Urbana, if I remember right, are (or were) coterminous with the townships of City of Champaign (distinct from adjacent rural Champaign Township) and Cunningham respectively. —Tamfang (talk) 04:10, 27 December 2014 (UTC)

I suggest confirming that Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania should be added to the list civil township states. I have been to township board meetings in these state. Mark Perry

Iowa's townships are still functional in most places. Also, Nevada and Utah have areas called townships that have a small degree of self rule, mostly in terms of land use planning. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:09, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

By "entirely divided into civil townships" for Indiana, do you mean there are no "Unorganized Territories"? For Iowa's townships they do provide some government services, but not necessarily as separate governments. They are subordinate agencies of the county. In most states with the county/township system, the township operates independently from the county in terms of some local services, road maintenance, for example. In Iowa, the civil townships are a branch of the county government, so the services as provided by the county through the townships.Census document on township governance, top of page 8. Also Chapter 8, Page 12 of the Census Geographic Areas Reference Manual.

Iowa: Through an agreement between the State of Iowa and the Census Bureau, all townships are classified as nonfunctioning geographic subdivisions of the county and are not governments. Iowa townships can, and some do, perform a limited governmental function, but the township officials for the most part are administrative adjuncts of the county government.

I'm not that familiar with other states, but I know New Jersey, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all have civil townships, Michigan also having "Charter Townships", or townships that operate like cities. Where the distinctions come in are in how the governments operate. But they are all the same kind of administrative division, being one step below the county level and not part of any incorporated city (with the exception of New Hampshire, where the town (township) is the primary local government unit instead of the county).DCmacnut<> 14:04, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm not sure what the question is. My original note from 2005 was in regards to this edit. The statement that Indiana is the only state where every portion of the state is part of a township government, regardless of other municipalities is correct. In other states that have civil townships, other municipalities exist that are not part of the civil township. olderwiser 02:52, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
"Regardless of other municipalities" is a very important caveat. I must admit when I first saw the fact on the main page, I was a bit confused. Perhaps, another way to put it into the article would that townships are another layer/level of local government apart from that of municipal incorporations. For instance, townships and cities here in Michigan are on the same level/layer/plain of local governance if even having different responsibilities and powers. That means when a city annexes in a township, it also annexes the land of the township; the annexed land ceases to exist as township land. It does seem Indiana is unique, but it'd require a rather qualified comment to make this clear. The way the fact is currently structured, it would make sense to Indianans but could confused anyone from outside the state, even those familiar with the concept of civil townships. Actually, now that I think about it, isn't Ohio the same way? I believe that while they may lose their local government when fully incorporated by cities, all of Ohio's townships still exist. Is the qualification here that active township government still exists in every part of Indiana? --Criticalthinker (talk) 10:30, 24 December 2014 (UTC)
Vermont is that way, as well. Most states surely allow city participation to override lower forms of organizations, such as towns. Otherwise, the effect would be confusing. Student7 (talk) 01:02, 31 December 2014 (UTC)
Actually, that's not the case in Indiana. In Indiana, townships serve a different purpose than city, so their powers don't clash. Townships while active across the entirety of the state seem to have very basic powers regardless of whether they are covered by urban or rural area. It seems to me that townships as practiced in Indiana are probably the purest form of the idea: a way to administer/decentralize county government at a more local level. This is quite a bit different than my home state of Michigan, where townships are more competing local governments to incorporated cities; they are essentially cities in all put name. --Criticalthinker (talk) 09:32, 31 December 2014 (UTC)

Kentucky TownshipsEdit

To my surprise I didn't see anything in this article about Kentucky townships, as South Central Kentucky has several counties with these statistical areas. Barren County has several townships, such as Austin, KY. Many of the areas around here are unincorporated areas, such as Eighty-Eight, KY, but I'm not for sure how many of them are actually towns. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:59, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

No townshipsEdit

Survey Townships exist in some form in all states other than the original 13 colonies, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vermont, and Maine.

This is unsourced. It is also probably wrong. I see KY is challenged above; on the other hand, townships do not exist in Maine, because Maine was always either part of MA or a State on its own; but the same should apply to West Virginia. Likewise, when were Louisiana, Texas, or Hawaii given survey townships? They were annexed as going concerns. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:49, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm not sure of the specifics you mention, but it is possible for a state to have townships without them being survey townships (at least not done under PLSS). The statement about the original 13 (including territories at the time) appears to be more or less consistent with this, this and this (big pdf). Not sure about Hawaii. On the map of principal meridians, Hawaii is not shown at all -- the map was probably made before statehood. And Texas is also shown as not being surveyed under PLSS. olderwiser 21:54, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Pretty sure survey townships exist in northern Maine in a variant PLSS-like form. This forum page seems to say so, at least. Pfly (talk) 07:29, 14 December 2013 (UTC)
Yes Maine has Township-Range in the North Woods, but not the new-territory GLO PLSS per se. See [1] [2]. Some areas are aligned other than on cardinael axis, and rather more irregular since fit in between incorporated towns and aligned with colonial land grants. Furthermore, the grid was established by Massachusetts before Maine's admitance to the union, so it was done by an Original 13. See also [3] and [4]. (talk) 21:03, 22 August 2015 (UTC) Bill N1VUX

Paper townshipsEdit

Does anyone think that the concept of paper townships special to Ohio bears mention? --Criticalthinker (talk) 10:30, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

"As urban areas expand, a civil township may entirely disappear—see, for example, Mill Creek Township, Hamilton County, Ohio." I'm not sure if this was added after my above comment, but this needs a bit of clarification, too. It should be noted in the sentence that while a city can annex all the land of a township and thus wipe out its local government, that the civil township does't legally disappear; it's local government simply becomes dormant. I think Ohio is a special case, and that the idea of "paper townships" should get special treatment, here, just like Michigan's charter townships and Indiana's townships. Illinois also seems to have a unique set-up. --Criticalthinker (talk) 09:34, 23 August 2015 (UTC)


Hello from France : our article (about township) is a stub... I'll improve it soon : could someone tell me which is the biggest township in USA and also the most populated. I'd also know about the smallest and less populated township... If you have information or better, a link, i'd appreciate !! Thanks to all of you and a big french kiss  ... sorry for my poor english. Sg7438 (talk) 10:05, 4 May 2018 (UTC)

a very big township ==> Cedar Township, Boone County, Missouri  ;-) Sg7438 (talk) 11:26, 5 July 2018 (UTC)

So, a township actually is--what??Edit

These things don't exist in the U.S. South, and I have never been able to get a handle on exactly what they are. 'A hunk of a county with a town somehwere in it' is the best approximation my poor brain has been able to come up with. Is that close to reality?

Yeah, so you can read the article if you're interested. A township is an administrative subdivision of a county in some states. --Criticalthinker (talk) 02:26, 14 August 2018 (UTC)
Did read it; it sorta assumes one knows the basic definition beforehand.
Alabama, at least, has survey townships as I have seen them on maps. Those are mostly useful for deed descriptions ("Being the northwest one-fourth of the southeast one-fourth of section 5 of Township 8 East, Range 5 North"). I don't think it has any civil townships, however. There would be an argument for having an article on civil townships in each state which has them, like "Township (Ohio)", "Township (Pennsylvania)", etc., because what they can and cannot do varies so much from state to state, just as it varies from state to state whether every square inch of a state lies within one or not. As for what they are generally, civil townships are a level of government below the county level (in the states which have county-level government) and above the municipal level (city, town, village). They are "creatures" of the state, created and defined by it. Whatever powers they have are "devolved" from the state, which in effect means that they can only do what the states permit them to do, rather than do whatever they want that doesn't conflict with state law. Apparently some townships in some states have a measure of "home rule", meaning that they can exert certain powers without the necessity of the state legislature having to pass a "Private Act", applying only to that township. (These are in contrast to "Public Acts" which are more typical legislation and apply statewide except for places which may be specifically exempted from them.)
As for what they are generally, civil townships are a level of government below the county level (in the states which have county-level government) and above the municipal level (city, town, village).
Is not necessarily true and it depends on the state. In places like Michigan and Wisconsin, civil townships are on the same level and municipalities. To further complicate things, in Michigan (and I believe New York) a village is a level or half-level below the level of a civil township, that is to say that a village is considered to be "within" a civil township if even partially administratively seperate. BTW, please sign your comments so we know who we are talking to. It's the icon in the upper-left hand corner of this field (third icon from the left that looks like a signature). --Criticalthinker (talk) 08:42, 14 January 2020 (UTC)

Town(ship)s and countiesEdit

The lead of the article should clarify that not all states have the divisions it describes, and that some states call them something else.

In particular, you have to get to the final section of the article ("Usage by state") to understand that not all states have townships, and that the terminology varies.

The article also makes the incorrect statement:

Counties are the primary divisional entities created by U.S. states

which makes it sound as though towns are subordinate to counties. In Massachusetts, at least, county government was abolished some years ago, and towns depend directly on the state. The county is just a grouping of towns. --Macrakis (talk) 15:00, 27 April 2020 (UTC)

I do not see how that sentence says or even implies anything such thing. It's not speaking to administration, rather, legally, towns/townships are "primary divisional entities." Primary literally means most states. In any case, counties still legally exist in MA and towns are a division of counties even if most of the powers of the county have been devolved to the towns. --Criticalthinker (talk) 09:18, 28 April 2020 (UTC)