What is a township?

If township government seems like something new to you, it’s not. Township government, often called “grass roots” government, pre-dates the U.S. Constitution by over 150 years. Township government in the United States dates back to the mid-1600’s when English colonists brought with them a tradition of government based on the English parish. The English parish and township shared common boundaries and often the same officials would be elected to serve on both governing boards. In early America, a township consisted of a group of citizens living within a reasonable distance of a centrally located meeting house. At a “town” meeting, usually attended by all residents and families, every voter had the privilege of joining in the discussion issues of public concern. Proposals regarding “town” actions required the approval of the majority of the citizenry. After the revolution, Congress designated the land extending to the Mississippi River as the Northwest territory. In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, providing for a pattern of government that established territorial governors and congressional townships. Each township comprised an area of six miles square, which became popularly known as “six by six”. In 1818, the first Illinois Constitution called for the establishment of county governments whereby three commissioners were elected at large to comprise a governing board. During the mid-1800’s, Northern Illinois experienced an influx of settlers from new land who were accustomed to the “town” form of government and demanded that counties make provisions for township units. The second Illinois Constitution, passed in 1848, suggested that legislators provide for an optional township government; and the State Constitution of 1870 made it law.


In 1835, the first settlers arrived in what is now Palatine Township.They settled in wooded areas such as Deer Grove, Englishman's Grove, Highland Grove (Inverness), and Plum Grove. Palatine township was originally designated “Township 42” by State Constitution. In 1850, the townspeople gathered at a local schoolhouse to choose a new name for the township.It is very likely that the name Palatine originated from the “Palatinate” area along the Rhine River in Germany, The European home of many of our early settlers.

At this time, township government was established by law. On April 2, 1850, the first annual meeting of the Township of Palatine was held. A staff of officers was elected to govern the community's affairs. The annual Town Meeting continues to this day offering the people a voice in their township government. All residents of the Township are invited to attend both the annual town meeting and all regular board meetings to voice their concerns.

Our Township Seal - "People Serving People"

As the United States was celebrating its 200th birthday in 1976, the Township of Palatine decided to honor its heritage by adopting an official seal. The combined elements of the seal represent various aspects of Palatine Township and its past. The flourishing tree in the center represents the woodlands which covered the area and provided one of the Township's first industries. The railroad track represents the contribution that railroads made to the growth of the Township. The single and multiple family homes and the top sky portion represent the residential atmosphere of the Township community. The shaded people groups represent the basic ingredient and purpose of Township goverment, "People Serving People", Palatine Township's motto.

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