Lake County Ohio GenWeb

A Short History of the Townships of Lake and Geauga County

by Herbert M. Turk

This article details the formation and genesis of the townships of Lake and Geauga counties. The primary source of information was the History of Geauga and Lake Counties, Ohio, published in 1878 and reprinted in 1973 through the sponsorship of the Lake County Historical Society.

There are two meanings of the word township, which may be called the surveyed township and the civil township. The surveyed townships are the five mile by five mile areas of land laid out east of the Cuyahoga by Moses Cleaveland and party in 1796 and west of the Cuyahoga ten years later, after the Treaty of Fort Industry. (Most of the Northwest Territory was laid out in six mile by six mile townships, but not the Western Reserve.) The civil townships, on the other hand, were administrative districts established by the county which frequently consisted of several surveyed townships when the individual surveyed townships did not have sufficient population to support the cost of such government. As the population increased, the county commissioners further split the civil townships until by 1840 the civil townships pretty much corresponded to the surveyed townships.

The surveyed townships did not have names initially, but were referred to by the intersection of their township number and their range. They were numbered from east to west according to range from the Pennsylvania line (range I) to the western line of Erie and Huron counties (range XXIV). Ranges XX through XXIV were the Firelands, reserved for Connecticut residents who were burned out by the British in the Revolution. From south to north the township numbering went from 1 on the southern border of the Western Reserve (41 North latitude) to whatever number occurred at the shores of Lake Erie. (This varied from 6 in the west to 14 at the Pennsylvania line.) When we refer to townships by number, we will use the nomenclature [surveyed township, range]. For example, [9, VIII] refers to surveyed township 9 of range VIII which became Chardon Township.

There were two dates for both counties and townships which must be explained. The civil entity was established when the governing entity (Territorial Governor or state legislature for counties, county commissioners for townships) decided that it should be formed. But the entity did not exist until it was organized - that is, the officials of the entity were elected. Cuyahoga County, for example, was established by the Ohio Legislature in 1808, and organized in 1810.

The Northwest Territory was established by act of Congress in 1787. In 1788 the county of Washington was organized; it included that part of the Western Reserve east of the Cuyahoga River, the older Portage Path, and the Tuscarawas River. In 1795, Wayne County was established, including the remainder of the Reserve (west of the Cuyahoga River). In 1797, Jefferson County was organized from Washington County; it included all of the Western Reserve east of the Cuyahoga River.

Due to a dispute between Connecticut and the federal government, there was no municipal law until May 30, 1800. On July 10, 1800, the dispute having been settled, the Western Reserve was formed into a single county, named Trumbull, after the then governor of Connecticut, Jonathan Trumbull. The county was divided into eight civil townships or districts. Four of these civil districts included parts of what are now Lake and Geauga counties:

District Included Townships
Richfield Madison, Thompson
Cleveland Chester, Russell, Bainbridge, Willoughby
Middlefield Auburn, Troy, Parkman, Middlefield, Burton, Newbury, Munson, Claridon, Huntsburg
Painesville Chardon, Hambden, Montville, Leroy, Concord, Perry, Painesville, Mentor, Kirtland

Geauga County was created on December 31, 1805 to take effect on March 1, 1806. As established, it included all but the southernmost townships of present-day Ashtabula County, all of Lake and Geauga counties, and all but the westernmost range of Cuyahoga County. On February 10, 1807 all of the Western Reserve west of the Cuyahoga River and north of township four was made part of the Geauga County, "until the county of Cuyahoga shall be organized." On Jan. 16, 1810, all of Geauga County lying west of the ninth range (including present-day Willoughby) was organized as Cuyahoga County. On Jan. 22, 1810 (1811??) that part of Geauga County lying east of the sixth range of townships was organized as Ashtabula County. With this, the boundaries of Geauga County were the same as those of Lake and Geauga counties today, except that Willoughby township was in Cuyahoga County.

The first recorded order of the Geauga County commissioners, March 6, 1806, created the civil township of Burton from the portion of the Middlefield district described above. These were surveyed townships 6, 7, and 8 of ranges VI, VII, and VIII. By 1816 the townships which became Chester, Russell, and Bainbridge ([8, IX], [7, IX], and [6, IX] respectively) had been added; this probably occurred when Cuyahoga County was split off in 1810, but no documentation has been found. The other townships were gradually removed by the county commissioners until only township [7, VII] remained under the name Burton. The evolution of the other eleven civil townships is as follows.

Chester and Russell
In 1816 a petition to the county commissioners requested that townships [7, IX] and [8, IX] be set off from Burton township. The petition was granted, and the new civil township was named Chester. In March of 1827, the township of Russell [7, IX] was set off from Chester. (The original name of the surveyed township [8, IX] which became Chester was Wooster.)

Bainbridge and Auburn
In March 1817 the surveyed townships of Kentstown and Troy, [6, IX] and [6, VIII], were set off from Burton township as the civil township of Bainbridge. Sometime before 1828 Troy township was separated from Bainbridge and became Auburn township. Kentstown retains the name of Bainbridge to this day. Note: the Troy township mentioned here is not the current Troy township ([6, VII]), which was called Welshfield until 1834.

Also established in March, 1817 from Burton, this was township [7, VIII].

Claridon and Munson
[8,VII], known as Canton, and [8,VIII], known as McDonough, were set off from Burton in March, 1817 as the township of Burlington. About 1820, the township name was changed to Claridon. In 1821, the commissioners separated [8,VIII] from Claridon and called it Munson.

Middlefield and Huntsburg
Townships [7, VI] and [8, VI] were separated from Burton in 1817 to form the civil township of Batavia. In April, 1821 township [8, VI] was separated as Huntsburg. [7, VI] later petitioned and was granted the name Middlefield.

On March 6, 1820, the county commissioners separated township [6, VII] from Burton and named it Welshfield. On the first Monday in April elections were held and the township organized. In December, 1834, the commissioners approved a petition of the residents to change the township name to Troy.

The dates of establishment and organization of this township, [6, VI], are not given in the narrative on Parkman in the History.

Madison Township
was established by the County Commissioners on 13 March, 1811; it consisted of township [12, VI] and that part of [11, VI] north of the Grand River. Prior to this, [12, VI] was part of Harpersfield; the north part of [11, VI], known as Chapintown, may also have been part of Harpersfield. This was done in preparation of the organization of Ashtabula County, which included the rest of Harpersfield. In 1840, that part of [11, VI] south of the Grand River was added (from Thompson??) when Lake County was formed.

As established in 1800, the Painesville District included present-day Chardon, Hambden, Montville, Leroy, Concord, Perry, Painesville, Mentor, and Kirtland townships. In 1811, Le Roy (which included the portion of Concord township presently in [10, VII]), Hambden, and Montville were removed to form part of Hambden civil township (see next section). Chardon township was transferred to Hambden the following year. The other townships were split off until only Painesville Township [11, VIII] remained.

Township [11, VII] was split off in 1815.

Mentor and Kirtland
Mentor civil township was formed from [9, IX] and [10, IX] on 7 June 1815. Kirtland [9, IX] was set off from Mentor on 7 November 1817.

Township [10, VIII] was set off from Painesville in March, 1822. Sometime between 1822 and 1878 a portion of Le Roy Township [10, VII] was annexed.

In March, 1811, the commissioners established the civil township of Hambden, consisting of all land in ranges VI and VII from the south line of township 9 north to the Grand River. This includes the current townships of Leroy [10, VII], Hambden - called Bondstown until 1820 or 1821 [9, VII], Montville [9, VI], and Thompson [10, VI] as well as that portion of Madison Township south of the Grand River (the Madison Gore). In 1812, township [9, VIII] (Chardon) was transferred from Painesville to Hambden. The townships were split off as follows:

First elections for township [9, VIII] were in 1816.

Township [10, VI] was declared a civil township on 7 April 1817; elections held the same year. We are not sure if this township included the Madison Gore or not.

Township [10, VII] was organized as Le Roy township in June, 1820. Sometime between 1822 and 1878 a portion of this township was annexed to Concord Township.1

Montville Township [9, VI] was detached from Hambden on 4 March 1822.

Madison Gore
Transferred to Madison Township in 1840. It is unclear which township the Gore was attached to prior to 1840.

In 1820 or 1821, the residents of Bondstown Township [9, VII] voted to change the name of the township to Hambden.

Willoughby [9, X] & [10, X]
Originally known as Charlton, the name was changed to Chagrin prior to 1815. It was part of the Cleveland District, and was part of Geauga County from 1806 until 1810, when it became part of the newly-formed Cuyahoga County. It became a civil township (Chagrin) in 1815. In 1834 the name was changed to Willoughby to honor the doctor who lent his name to the Willoughby Medical College. In 1840 the township was transferred to Lake County. Township [10, X] is also known as the Chagrin Gore.

© May 2000

1 Annexation of part of LeRoy to Concord occurred between 1850 U.S. census and the 1857 Atlas. It included lots 14, 15, and 16 and north to Big Creek in the south west portion of the township.

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