A county seat
is an administrative center
, seat of government
, or capital city of a county
or civil parish
. The term is used in Canada, China, Romania, Hungary and the United States. The equivalent term shire town
is used in the U.S. state of Vermont and perhaps elsewhere.County towns
have a similar function in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, as well as historically in Jamaica.
In most of the United States, counties
are the political subdivisions
of a state. The city, town, or populated place that houses county government is known as the seat
of its respective county. Generally, the county legislature, county courthouse, sheriff's department headquarters, hall of records, jail and correctional facility are located in the county seat, though some functions (such as highway maintenance, which usually requires a large garage for vehicles, along with asphalt and salt storage facilities) may also be located or conducted in other parts of the county, especially if it is geographically large.
A county seat is usually, but not always, an incorporated municipality. The exceptions include the county seats of counties that have no incorporated municipalities within their borders, such as Arlington County, Virginia
(where the county seat is the entire county
). Ellicott City
, the county seat of Howard County
, is the largest unincorporated county seat in the United States, followed by Towson
, the county seat of Baltimore County, Maryland
. Likewise, some county seats may not be incorporated in their own right, but are located within incorporated municipalities. For example, Cape May Court House, New Jersey
, though unincorporated, is a section of Middle Township
, an incorporated municipality. In some of the colonial states, county seats include or formerly included "Court House" as part of their name, (e.g. Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia
In the provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia the term "shire town" is used in place of county seat.
have existed since the Warring States period
and were set up nationwide by the Qin Dynasty
The number of counties in China proper
gradually increased from dynasty to dynasty. As Qin Shi Huang
reorganized the counties after his unification, there were about 1,000. Under the Eastern Han Dynasty
, the number of counties increased to above 1,000. About 1400 existed when the Sui dynasty
abolished the commandery
level (郡 jùn), which was the level just above counties, and demoted some commanderies to counties.
In Imperial China, the county was a significant administrative unit because it marked the lowest level of the imperial bureaucratic structure;
in other words, it was the lowest level that the government reached. Government below the county level was often undertaken through informal non-bureaucratic means, varying between dynasties. The head of a county was the magistrate
, who oversaw both the day-to-day operations of the county as well as civil and criminal cases.
The current number of counties
mostly resembled that of the later years of Qing Dynasty
. Changes of location and names of counties in Chinese history
have been a major field of research in Chinese historical geography, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s. There are 1,355 counties in Mainland China
out of a total of 2,851 county-level divisions.
Lists of ROC county seats by county
Many county seats in the United States feature a historic courthouse, such as this one in Renville County, Minnesota
, pictured in May 2015.
U.S. counties with more than one county seat
Most counties have only one county seat. However, some counties in Alabama
, New Hampshire
, New York, and Vermont
have two or more county seats, usually located on opposite sides of the county. An example is Harrison County, Mississippi
, which lists both Biloxi
as county seats, and Hinds County, Mississippi
, which lists both Raymond
and the state capital of Jackson
. The practice of multiple county seat towns dates from the days when travel was difficult. There have been few efforts to eliminate the two-seat arrangement, since a county seat is a source of pride (and jobs) for the towns involved.
There are 36 counties with multiple county seats (no more than two each) in 11 states:
- Coffee County, Alabama
- St. Clair County, Alabama
- Arkansas County, Arkansas
- Carroll County, Arkansas
- Clay County, Arkansas
- Craighead County, Arkansas
- Franklin County, Arkansas
- Logan County, Arkansas
- Mississippi County, Arkansas
- Prairie County, Arkansas
- Sebastian County, Arkansas
- Yell County, Arkansas
- Columbia County, Georgia
- Lee County, Iowa
- Campbell County, Kentucky
- Kenton County, Kentucky
- Essex County, Massachusetts
- Middlesex County, Massachusetts
- Plymouth County, Massachusetts
- Bolivar County, Mississippi
- Carroll County, Mississippi
- Chickasaw County, Mississippi
- Harrison County, Mississippi
- Hinds County, Mississippi
- Jasper County, Mississippi
- Jones County, Mississippi
- Panola County, Mississippi
- Tallahatchie County, Mississippi
- Yalobusha County, Mississippi
- Jackson County, Missouri
- Hillsborough County, New Hampshire
- Seneca County, New York
- Bennington County, Vermont
In New England
, the town, not the county, is the primary division of local government. Historically, counties in this region have served mainly as dividing lines for the states' judicial systems. Connecticut
(since 1960) and Rhode Island
have no county level of government and thus no county seats, and Massachusetts
has dissolved many but not all of its county governments. In Vermont
the county seats are legally designated shire towns
. County government consists only of a Superior Court
(as an officer of the court
), both located in the respective shire town. Bennington County, Vermont has two shire towns (Manchester
for the North Shire
, Bennington, for the South Shire
), but the Sheriff is located in Bennington.
, a county seat may be an independent city
surrounded by, but not part of, the county of which it is the administrative center; for example, Fairfax City
is both the county seat of Fairfax County
and completely surrounded by Fairfax County, but the city is politically independent of the county. When the county seat is in the independent city, government offices such as the courthouse may be in the independent city under an agreement, such as in Albemarle
, or may in be enclaves
of the county surrounded by the independent city, such as in Fairfax
. Others, such as Prince William
, have the courthouse in an enclave surrounded by the independent city and have the county government, the Board of Supervisors, in a different part of the county, far from the county seat. The following counties have their county seat in an independent city:
As well, Bedford
was an independent city from 1968 to 2013, while also being the county seat of Bedford County
. Bedford reverted to an incorporated town, and remains the county seat, though is now part of the county.
, which is divided into parishes
rather than counties, county seats are referred to as parish seats
is divided into boroughs rather than counties; the county seat in these case is referred to as the "borough seat"; this includes six consolidated city-borough governments (one of which is styled as a "municipality"). The Unorganized Borough
, which covers 49% of Alaska's area, has no borough government or borough seat.
Lists of U.S. county seats by state
The state with the most counties is Texas, with 254, and the state with the fewest counties is Delaware, with 3.
- ^ 
- ^ "Counties in Virginia and the Location of Their Seats of Government" (PDF). Virginia Commission on Local Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
- ^ Hsu, Cho-yun (2012) . China: A New Cultural History. Translated by Baker, Timothy D., Jr.; Duke, Michael S. Columbia University Press. p. 102. ISBN 9780231159203.
- ^ Goodman, David S.G., ed. (2015). Handbook of the Politics of China. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. p. 159. ISBN 9781782544364.
- ^ Davidson, James W. (1903). The Island of Formosa, Past and Present: History, People, Resources, and Commercial Prospects: Tea, Camphor, Sugar, Gold, Coal, Sulphur, Economical Plants, and Other Productions. London and New York: Macmillan & Co. p. 93. OL 6931635M.
- ^ Coffee County, Alabama. "History of Coffee County". Archived from the original on 27 October 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- ^ "MGL c. 231, s. 82". Retrieved 15 July 2013.
- ^ "Title 33, §701: Office in shire town". mainelegislature.org.
- ^ Sdcounties.org. "Shannon County, South Dakota". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
Last edited on 10 May 2021, at 01:14
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