Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, January 26, 2018

Townships: The Political Building Blocks of Sherburne County

The development of Sherburne County and the political divisions are common questions.  When were specific townships created?  How was the county originally divided? 

The Minnesota Territorial Legislature created Sherburne County from the southern lands of Benton County in 1856.  This legislation designated Humboldt (later renamed Big Lake) as the county seat.  Special elections chose Elijah Cutter, John Stevenson, and Ephraim Nickerson the first County Commissioners.  The newly created county was divided into three assessment districts.  The county Commissioner, two years later, created the original five townships of Sherburne County.  On September 13, 1858, Baldwin, Big Lake, Clear Lake, Elk River, and Briggs Townships came into being.  Briggs Township was later renamed Palmer. 

Although this map is dated 1874, a significant error on this
township map is the omission of Blue Hill, created in 1868
yet not designated on this sheet.
Over time, six other townships developed.  The county drew lines for Livonia Township in 1866, Santiago Township on January 7, 1868, and Blue Hill Township May 5, 1868.  Becker became a township in 1871, Haven in 1872 and Orrock in 1875.  More than 100 years later, in 1978 Elk River Township and the City of Elk River consolidated and the township ceased to exist as a political division. 

Beyond the townships, the villages, towns and cities of Sherburne County continued to grow and develop.  Yet, for a large part of the history of Sherburne County, the basic unit of government, designated to provide for the residents of the area, remained the township.  Knowing their dates of creation is the first step in appreciating the history of Sherburne County.

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