Chester Township History & Genealogy


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Sign over door of original township hall.

The Chester Township Hal and Offices - Completed in 2007

Michigan is one of twenty states that have a township form of government.  In 1785, the federal government started the survey of the Northwest Territory.  To help in the organization of the survey, the area was divided into townships with each township being six miles long and six miles wide.  In the Great Lakes states, these townships became local political units of government when the Northwest Ordinance passed by Congress in 1787.  The Northwest Ordinance established criteria whereby a geographical area would become a territory and then a state.  It also dictated the form of government that would be established in the territories and states created.

“The principal functions of early township involved relief for the poor, cemetery maintenance, road development, assigning damages caused by stray horses and cattle, fence viewing to determine the responsibilities of adjoining property owners and establishing boundaries for predators.

Since 1787, township government has developed into a governmental structure that today can provide practically any time of governmental service desired by its citizens and property owners.”*

Chester Township was established by an act of the Michigan Legislature on March 11, 1848.  John S. McClain drafted the petition to the Michigan legislature asking that an independent township be formed.  The township was named Chester after one of John's sons.  The first meeting of the electors of the township was held in the McClain home, with eleven electors attending.  At this meeting, the first township officers were elected – Supervisor, Treasurer, Clerk, Justices of Peace, Constables, and Highway Commissioner.  John S. McClain was elected Supervisor.

The following is a list of the electors who attended the first meeting:

French, Joel

Gardner, Edward C.

Irish, George

Irish, Otis

Irish, William A.

McLain, John S.

Merrick, O. H.

Pintler, John

Rowlingson, James

Thurston, Daniel

Wright, Soloman


From 1848 through 1942, all township officials served a one year term.  Township elections were held at the Annual Meeting of the Township in early April.  From 1943 through 1970, the elections were held every two years.  From 1972 to the current time, elections are held every four years.  In 1973, the office of Township Trustee was established, with two trustees being elected.  The Supervisor, Treasurer, Clerk and two Trustees comprised the Township Board.  Over the years, the offices of Justice of the Peace, Constable, and Highway Commissioner were abolished.

There have been twenty persons who have served as Supervisor, eighteen men and two women.  Twenty-eight persons have served as Clerk, twenty-four men and four women.  Thirty-four persons have served as Treasurer, thirty-one men and three women.  Thirteen persons have served as Trustee, eleven men and two women.


Click on the link below for a list of Chester Township elected officials.

Original Township Hall, 1879-1979

For many years only two regular township meetings were held each year – the annual township board meeting or settlement day and the annual meeting of the township.  The number of regular meeting of the Township Board gradually increased after 1940.  Currently the Township Board holds two regular meetings each month.  The annual meeting of the township was discontinued in 1993.  Township officials worked out of their homes until 1993, when township offices were constructed.

Initially, township meetings were held in the homes of township officials.  On June 6, 1879, the township signed a 99 year lease on property on the southwest corner of Gooding and 24th Avenue and a township hall was constructed.  Evan after the township hall was constructed, many meetings were held in other locations, such as the bank, the creamery building and the fire station.  On February 15, 1979, the township board approved the transfer of the American Legion building, located on 32nd Avenue between Sehler and Wilson, to the township for use as a township hall and civic center.  In 1993, an addition to the township hall was constructed to be used as office space.

*Authorities & Responsibilities of Michigan Township Officials, Boards and Commissions, 2000 Edition, Michigan Townships Association, 2000

Chester Township Hall & Civic Center 1976-2007

1879 Township Hall 99 Year Lease

Excertps from Chester Township Board Minutes

Miscellaneous Items

Chester Township
Ottawa County
Michigan, USA