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Archives - Learning About Resources - Township Records

compiled by J. Beltran, Summer 2008

Note: Items in parentheses refer to Sources listed at the end.

Townships: American township governments have been in existence since the Land Ordinance of 1785 under the Articles of Confederation.  Not all states have them, and in North Dakota not all townships have organized township governments.  In these cases, county commissioners take over township government (Omdahl).  The township is the smallest unit of government, according to Leifur.

History: The Organic Act of Dakota Territory, 1861, did not list township officers.  The only reference, in §7, stated “...all township...officers, not herein otherwise provided for, shall be appointed or elected, as the case may be, in such manner as shall be provided by the governor and legislative assembly of the territory.”  The North Dakota Constitution of 1889 established that the legislature provide for type and duties of township officers.

Township Officer Title: Township Clerk
History, Creation, & Operation: Established by the legislature.
Official Duties: Records and maintains board of township supervisors’ proceedings including minutes, certificates, oaths and bonds, preserves township board audits, treasurer’s annual statement (NDCC 58-07-03); destroys all township books, forms, or blanks older than ten years, equalization records, audited and paid claims vouchers, certificates of officials’ bonds, and obsolete insurance policies after offering them to the state archivist for preservation as archival resources (NDCC 58-07-05).

Township Officer Title: Treasurer

History, Creation, & Operation: Established by the legislature.

Official Duties: Keeps county funds; collects taxes and deposits county funds in banks; acts a treasurer for school districts in case of vacancy (NDCC 58-08-02, -03, -04, -05, -07, -08). 

Township Officer Title: Assessor

History, Creation, & Operation: Established by the legislature.

Official Duties: Prepares assessment list, clerk keeps accurate record of board of equalization proceedings and board’s corrections (NDCC 57-09-04, -02, -06, -07).

Township Officer Title: Police Magistrate

History, Creation, & Operation: The 1889 Constitution provided that legislative law would govern this office.  According to Leifur (1958, p. 316), an additional township officer, the justice of the peace, heard trials in minor cases, but he does not mention a police magistrate.  However, Omdahl, (1975, 1987) does not mention either office in his township section.

Duties: Ex officio justice of the peace in magistrate’s county; and hears, tries, and determines all cases of misdemeanors. (1889 Constitution, §113); Jurisdiction of and proceedings before  township justices repealed (NDCC 58-10-01, -02).

Township Officer Title: Overseer of Highways

History, Creation, & Operation: Established by the legislature.

Duties: Is responsible for construction and maintenance of township highways and bridges (NDCC 58-12-03).

Township Dissolution

Upon dissolution of a township, all township records are sent to the county’s auditor for preservation and safekeeping (NDCC 58-02-28).


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