What is a Township

What is a Township, and How are they Formed as a Political Subdivision Under South Dakota

A Township is Formed by the American People, those individuals who own land, that is contiguous, or connected to each other. The landowners form their established, collective boundaries by the intersection of tiers and range lines that measure 6 miles by 6 miles on each side. They then proceed to section off their comprising 36 sections, of which equal 36 square miles, while each section is numbered beginning in the Northeast, in an order 1 through 36.

One section within the township system consists of a basic form of a unit of government, consisting of 640 acres of land, while one acre of land is equal in size to a football field (without the endzones), which resides within each section of land itself.

A township is simply a subdivision of a group of landowners within the county and is not a city, but merely a collection of landowners who wish to organize, and conjoin their properties as part of a collective governmental territory.

In South Dakota, the majority of registered voters, residing in the collective boundaries of the township, get to choose and name their township, which becomes an agency, or corporate company held within the county in order to manage itself by a group of elected persons, a board of trustees, and officers of the company itself.

Township Officers shall be the Township Clerk, the Board of Supervisors, the Treasurer, and a Towns Constable, and are elected as per a term of at least one year, or up to four years until their successor is chosen by the voters as per elections of officers.

  1. The Township Clerk, is responsible for recording, in the book of records of his township, minutes of the proceedings of every township meeting, and he shall enter therein every order or direction and all rules and regulations of any such meeting, and shall also file and preserve all accounts audited by the township board or allowed at a township meeting, and enter a statement thereof in such book of records;
  2. A Board of Supervisors, are therefore elected, or appointed to act as the governing board, and must hold regular meetings, at least four times a year (one per quarter), of which to conduct the business of the township itself. Most Board of Supervisors contain at least one supervisor equal to each of the thirty-six sections, as elected by the voters of each;
  3. The Township Treasurer has the responsibility to receive and take charge of all money belonging to the township or which is by law required to be paid into the township treasury, and shall pay over and account for the same upon the order of the township or the officers thereof duly authorized by the board of supervisors, or other officers themselves;
  4. The Township Constable is the peace officer who has minor judicial duties such as serving legal papers and arresting lawbreakers and may be appointed by the county commissioners, by petition made by the voters, appointed by the board of supervisors, or elected by the voters themselves.

Each of the Elected or Appointed Officers of the Township, may by law, and as per adopted policies of the board of supervisors, hire, or appoint lesser officials or deputies to help in the duties of the elected or appointed officers, in order to manage the responsibilities of the township itself.

The Township, now acting as an official agency (or company) under the State, therefore has the right to sue, or be sued on behalf of the landowners, or the residents of the township themselves, and has all the powers as per state laws to self govern themselves as they so wish to, in order to manage over, and control all their activities within their incorporated boundaries.

Over time, voters of the township itself may elect to become conjoined to other townships, where over time, a group of townships may become a municipality, let alone becoming a 'City' with the right to form a more fluid, centralized government to govern over all the townships as a collective territory.

In the example of the City of Sioux Falls, it all began in the mid-1800s as colonies of people, many of them acting as 'companies' who were chartered by previous states, began to come to the area to claim lands, settle, and build colonies.

The original two, the Western Town Company, a chartered company from Dubuque, Iowa came to the area, to homestead, and claim 320 acres of land along the Sioux River, and they were later conjoined by members of the Dakota Land Company of which was a chartered company from St. Paul, Minnesota, who came to the area to claim, and settle in addition, 320 acres.

Each were developing their own surveyed townships within the Dakota Territory, which had previously subdivided itself into counties, of which the Village of Sioux Falls, and Sioux Falls City were townships established in Minnehaha County by 1870.

By 1879 - the two groups later formed the Township of Sioux Falls, which collectively combined their acreages, and formed a 640-acre-sized Township, of which as defined above, were sectioned off in 36 Sections, each with a Supervisor.

They had elected a Town Clerk, a Board of Supervisors, a Treasurer, and a Constable to govern the township between 1879 up until the year 1902, whereas they changed their form of government to the Commission Form of Government, which contained a board of commissioners consisting of five members, with one of them being elected as mayor, of which the 'township' of which they appointed a Town Clerk, Treasurer, a Secretary, Police Chief, Public Works, and Planning Officers.

The area commonly known today, as the Great Bend of the Big Sioux River, had a host of colonies of people, that became townships between 1890 and 1960, including the likes of East Sioux Falls, West Sioux Falls, South Sioux Falls, Split Rock Township, Mapleton Township, Wayne Township, and Delapre Township, let alone other towns sprang from within, such as the towns of Tea, Brandon, Ellis, Harrisburg, Crooks, Renner, and Corson. All these towns, even today make up the Sioux Empire.

In 1972, as some of these townships became more populated, they expanded and morphed themselves into a Municipality, and a number of townships began to come together. The townships of East Sioux, West Sioux, South Sioux, and the Town of Sioux Falls gradually became one, forming the Municipality of Sioux Falls by 1972; by 1994, they infused other parts of other townships such as Delapre, Wayne, and Split Rock where they decided to adopt a Home Rule Charter.

Today, the City of Sioux Falls is a collection of well over 1,770 political subdivisions that reside in the numerous townships of the area today, under both Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties within the State of South Dakota.

As the City of Sioux Falls grows in size, it annexes more and more lands from all these established townships, of which those township clerks, board of supervisors, and treasures acting in the best interest of their residents have to vote to accept the annexation, of becoming a part of the 'City' itself.

All this means that there are numerous levels of units of government within the city limits of Sioux Falls, and the Mayor has to represent all those political interests, let alone the Eight-Member City Council which represents all those residents - not an easy feat to accomplish, when there are so many differences of opinion in those townships themselves.
Next time you attend a public function of the City of Sioux Falls, just think about all the political interests of all these areas today.