The Pilgrim Fathers brought the township form of government to America in 1620. This unit of local government eventually spread as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Today it’s found in 22 states, known as the town or township. Elyria Township is one of the eighteen townships of Lorain County Ohio.
In Ohio, the township predates our state government. The townships’ size and shape were determined by the Congressional Acts, which established the various land grants. Within each of the Ohio land grants, Congress set aside sections of the land for the use of schools and the support of religious institutions.
As the Ohio Territory became populated, it was only natural that the surveyed townships should become the basic unit of local government. In 1804, the elected officials of a township consisted of three trustees, a clerk, two overseers of the poor and a sufficient number of supervisors of highway, in addition to justices of the peace and constables. A township treasurer and assessor were later added. In the early years of statehood, Ohio township government cared for the poor, maintained the roads and preserved the peace.
Today, just as in 1804, the township is a political subdivision of the state. To keep pace with the demands of changing times, the functions, duties and obligations of the township have changed over the years. Demands for increased or different services have prompted the state legislature to grant Ohio’s 1,308 townships the authority to fulfill these changing needs.
The early history of Elyria Township is closely intertwined with the life of its namesake, Heman Ely. Mr. Ely arrived in 1816 from West Springfield, Mass. He had come to Ohio to look after his vast real estate holdings, nearly 12,500 acres.
Soon after his arrival, Mr. Ely constructed a dam and erected the first grist and sawmill in the area. In 1818, the first post office was established, with Heman Ely as postmaster. As late as 1816, a few Wyandot and Seneca Indians still roamed over Elyria Township, finding protection from the cold in the caves along the Black river.
Lorain County, Part of the Territory known as the Western reserve of Connecticut, was formed in 1822. The following year Elyria was chosen as the seat of justice for the county. By 1825, the community consisted of 25 homes and in 1833 Elyria became an incorporated village.
Education of its citizens has been a concern of Elyria since the very beginning; the first school, a log structure, was opened in 1819. Elyria High School was built in 1831, the first west of the Allegheny Mountains. Elyria Township originally had four schools. They were Murray Ridge, Markley, Lake Avenue and Gulf Road schools.