History of Township Government
Township government, established in Providence, Rhode Island in 1636, is the oldest existing unit of government continuing to serve on the North American continent.
Township government was in existence for 140 years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The wording of the Declaration of Independence reflects the fact that 38 of its 56 signers had experienced the benefits of township government.
The Declaration’s statement that “government should derive its just powers from the consent of the governed” is demonstrated at the Annual Town Meeting held on
the second Tuesday of each April. The Annual Town Meeting is still an important function of our nation’s 17,000 townships after more than 370 years.
Township government began in Illinois in 1849. The Illinois constitution of 1848 allowed voters in each county the opportunity to adopt township government. Today, 85 of the 102 counties in Illinois operate under the township form of government.
There are currently 1,433 townships in the state serving more than 8 million people.
Morton Township History
Morton’s first township meeting was held on April 2, 1850, in the home of W.W. Campbell, one of two brothers who owned land on both sides of Main Street in the original business section of Morton.
Officers elected at this meeting were Horace H. Clark, Jr., supervisor; Eri Gray, town clerk; Charles R. Crandall, assessor; and James M. Campbell, overseer of the poor. Other township officers named at this first meeting were three commissioners, two justices of the peace, two constables, and a collector.
Early Morton Township meetings were held in various locations, such as the Campbell home, the schoolhouse, and the Library Hall. At a meeting held in the post office on April 1, 1873, a site for a township building was selected; and $1,000 was appropriated for the 24x36 foot one-story structure.
The township officers also voted for a sidewalk in front of the township building and hitching posts along the east and south sides of the lot.
On June 5, 1873, the lot, which had been decided upon, was offered by W.W. Campbell; and it was announced the building would be erected within a year. It was specified that no intoxicating liquor could be served in the building or the property would revert back to the previous owners.
In 1874 the first Morton Township meeting was held in the new building. The first township hall rental fee collected was five dollars for a dance. It was on June 27, 1929, that the Morton Gospel Mission, under the leadership of John Schlenker, started a weekly Thursday night service in the Morton Township Hall.
In later years this building provided a meeting place for the Morton Bethel Lutheran and the Blessed Sacrament churches, before their new church building were constructed.
In 1959, a new township building was erected on the same site as the first town hall, which was the corner of South Pershing and West Jefferson streets.
The new township building was erected by A. Stetzler and Sons at a cost of $30,037.48. This building was completed in August, 1959, and is presently being used.