Iowa, Counties, and Townships

taken from the book Iowa and The Nation
compiled in 1896 by George Chandler of Osage, Iowa (revised in 1914)

     The Township

     In Iowa, the term "township" is an important one, as it represents that division of the government which is nearest the people.   It is in the township that "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people" exists in its truest sense.   It is here that the people meet at stated times to determine how their local government shall be carried on.

Kinds of Townships
There are three different kinds of townships in Iowa - civil, congressional, and school.

Civil Townships - The civil township is the unit or basis in local government.   Every county is divided into several civil townships, and each township is named.   Township names were given by the early settlers, and often in honor of some prominent member of the first company of settlers that entered the township.   Many counties in Iowa were settled about the time the Rebellion began, and in those counties such names as Lincoln, Douglas, Libery, and Union are common.   The boundaries of a civil township may be the same as those of a congressional township, but very often a civil township is formed from parts of two or more congressional townships.  The early settlers extablished the civil townships to suit their own convenience, and in some counties but few of the civil townships have the same boundaries as the congressional townships.

   To the people of Iowa, the civil township is a very important division.   Comparatively few state and county officers are needed, but there is hardly a county in the state that does not have at least four hundred officers whose duties are confined to the civil township.   A large part of all the money raised by taxation is expended in the township under the direction of its civil and school officers.

Congressional Townships - The congressional township was provided for long before Iowa was admitted into the Union, and it has served as the basis of nearly all the land surveys made in this country since our government was first organized in 1789.    The congressional township is a tract of land six miles square, and it is divided into thirty six square miles, or sections each section containing about six hundred and forty acres.   Following is a diagram of a congressional township, with the sections numberd as they occur in all such townships:

Each section may be separted into parts, as shown in the following diagram, and each part easily described:


Each quarter section may also be divided according to a regular plan.


Number "1" is the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 16 and contains forty acres.

Number "2" is the west on half of the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 16, and contains twenty acres.

Number "3" is the north one half of the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 16, and contains ten acres.

Number "4" is the northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 16, and contains ten acres.

Land Titles. - It is important that our system of surveys be thoroughly undersood, for all the descriptions of land given in deeds, mortgages, leases, tax receipts, etc., are based upon it.   The first deeds to land in Iowa were given in the name of the United States, and the chain of title to any piece of land in the state can be traced back to these deeds, or patents, as they are called, and no farther.

Principal Meridians. - Before commencing the survey proper, it is necessary to establish two main lines, one extending north and south and the other east and west.   These lines are purely arbitrary and they are located without special reference to any other lines of the same kind that may have been surveyed before.   New lines are established whenever they are needed for convenience in making a survey.   The lines extending north and south are called principal meridians, and those extending east and west are called base lines.   The principal meridians are numbered westward and a separate base line is established for each.

Survey in Iowa. - The fifth principal meridians forms the basis of the United States land survey in Iowa.   It extends due north from the mouth of the Arkansas River, crosses Missouri and the eastern part of Iowa, and passes out ot the state at a point between Clayton and Dubuque Counties.   The base line extends due west from the mouth of the St. Francis River in Arkansas, and crosses the principal meridian forty eight miles north of its starting point.   By surveying lines six miles apart parallel with the base line, and others the same distance apart parallel with the principal meridian, the land lying north and west of the point of intersection of the main lines is divided into block six miles square.   Each of these blocks is called a congressional township.

Townships and Ranges. - To locate land by this system of surveys, two sets of numbers are used, one designating the townships north of the base line, and the other the townships west of the fifth principal meridian.   Land may also be surveyed south from the base line and east from the pricipal meridian.   For convenience the tiers of townships east or west of the principal meridian are called ranges, and those north or south of the base line are called townships.   All the land in Iowa is surveyed from the fifth principal meridian.   Land lying in the southeast corner square of this survey is in township one north, range one west of the fifth principal meridian.   Every congressional township lying west of the one mentioned is township one north, and every township north of it is in range one west.   The townships are numbered northward or southward from the base line, and the ranges eastward or westward from the principal meridian.   The pupil should become so familiar with this system of surveys that he can locate, by numbers, any land in the county in which he lives.

Correction Lines. - Owing to the convergence of meridians in passing northward, it has been found necessary to establish secondary lines parallel with the base line.   These are called correction lines, and there are four of them in Iowa.   They are the northern boundaries of townships seventy eight and eighty eight north.

School Township. - The school township is a division for school purposes, and its boundaries must always be the same as those of some civil township.   The public schools are free to all residents of the state between the ages of five and twenty one years.   Each school township is a school district, and the business connected with the management of the schools is done by a board of directors.
Sub-Districts. - Each school township is separated into as many sub-districts as may be necessary, and a member of the board of directors, called a sub-director, is chosen from each subdistrict by its qualified voters.   The sub-directors of a township are chosen on the first Monday in March of each year for a term of one year, and all the sub-districtors of the township constitute the board of directors.   If the sub-districts are even in number, the electors choose one additional director from the township at large, on the second Monday in March.

Township Meeting. - On the second Monday in March, the qualified votors of the school township meet to transact business of a general nature connected with the management of the schools of the township.   If it is necessary to build a new school house in the township, the money must be raised by a tax voted at this meeting.   If any school property is to be disposed of, the sale must be orderd at this meeting.

Board of Directors. - The language of the law passed by the Thirty-first General Assembly relative to boards of directors is as follows:  "The board of directors of all independent city, town, and village corporations shall organize on the third Monday in March, and those of all other school corporations on the first day of July, unless that date falls on Sunday, in which case on the day following.   Such organization shall be effected by the election of a president from the members of the board, who shall be entitled to vote as a member.   Such special meeting may be held as may be determined by the board, or called by the president, or by the secretary upon the written request of a majority of the members of the board, upon notice specifying the time and place delivered to each member in person, but attendance shall be a waiver of notice."

     "On the first day of July, unless that date falls on Sunday, in which case on the day following, the board of all independent city , town, and village corporations and the retiring board in all other school corporations shall meet, examine the books of, and settle with the secretary and treaurer for the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, preceding, and for the transaction of such other business as may regualrly come beore it.   On the same day the board of each independent city, town, and village corporation, and the new board of every other school corporation shall elect from outside the board a secretary and treasurer, but in independent districts no teacher or other employee of the board shall be eligible as secretary."

Rural Districts. - By the provisions of a former law, rural independent districts were formed in district townships, each district having a board of three directors, one being chosen on the second Monday in March for a term of three years.   The recent changes in the election of school officers will lead to some confusion, at least for a time.   The principal reason for the change is based on a desire to organize the shool year at a time when the schools of the state are not in session.

School Funds. - The money for the support of schools is kept in three separate funds in each district.   These are known as the teachers' fund, which is used for the payment of teachers; the schoolhouse fund, used in building and repairing schoolhouses and purchasing school grounds; and the contingent fund, which is used in the purchase of suplies and the payment of the incidental expenses of the school.   Nearly all of the money needed for the support of any school is raised by a tax levied on the taxable property of the district in which the school is located.

Teachers's Fund. - The teachers' fund is derived from the semi-annual apportionment which includes the interest on the permanent school fund of the state, fines and forteitures of various kinds, and a county school tax of not less that one mill, nor more that three mills, on a dollar, which is levied by the board of supervisors on the taxable property of the county.   The money paid by nonresident pupils as tuition for the privilege of attending school in a district in which they do not reside also forms a part of this fund.   In addition to these sums, the directors of each district on the first day of July, or between that time and the third Monday in August of each year, vote to raise a tax for teachers' fund upon the property of their district, not to exceed fifteen dollars for each person of school age, except as provided for in the next paragraph.

Contingent Fund. - The contingent fund is raised by taxation on the property of each school district, and is estimated by the board of directors at the time of estimating the teachers' fund.   The amount raises for contingent expenses cannot exceed seven dollars per pupil, except in thinly settled districts where that amount and twenty dollars per pupil for teachers' fund is not sufficient to maintain the schools for six months of twenty days each as required by law.   Seventy-five dollars contingent fund and two hundred and seventy dollars teachers' fund, including the semi-annual apportionment, may be raised for the support of each school in the state every year.

Schoolhouse Fund. - The schoolhouse fund is derived from the tax upon the property of any district in which a schoolhouse is to be built or repaired.   This tax is voted by the electors of the sub-district or school township, and cannot exceed ten mills on the dollar when levied upon the property of the entire township.   At the sub-district meeting held on the first Monday in March, the electors may vote to raise a certain sum of money for the erection of a schoolhouse.   If the electors at the school township meeting, the following Monday, refuse to grant any or all of this amount, the tax is levied on the property of the sub-district, not to exceed fifteen mills on a dollar of valuation.   As a rule, the schoolhouse tax is levied upon the whole district and expended in the sub-districts as occasion may require.

School Libraries. - The treasurer of each township school and rural independent district is required to withhold five nor more that fifteen cents for each person of school age residing in the district for the purchase of books for a school library.   This law may be applied to town and city districts by vote of the boards of directors thereof.

Taxes Certified. - The district secretaries certify all taxes for school purposes to the county auditor on or before the third Monday in August, and the levy of the taxes is made by the board of supervisors at the time of levying the taxes for county purposes at their regualr meeting in September.

more may be coming . . .

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