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The cities of Lathrup Village and Southfield are autonomous municipalities and are no longer part of the township. The township shares some responsibilities with the villages of Franklin, Bingham Farms, and Beverly Hills. The township handles elections, animal control, tax collection, merchant and animal licensing and ordinances for the areas it represents. The incorporated village governments handle all other municipal services.
The unincorporated part of the township, which belongs to no village, measures 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) with a population of 19 at the 2010 census.
Southfield Township, originally known as Ossewa Township, came into existence on July 12, 1830. The name was changed to Southfield Township seventeen days later. The village of Franklin was an early community established in the fall of 1828. Originally consisting of a survey township of 36 square miles (93 km2), it has been reduced in size by the incorporation of municipalities. Only a handful of parcels remain outside the borders of the township's three villages.
The city of Lathrup Village was incorporated out of the east side of the township on May 12, 1953. The village of Franklin incorporated on November 8, 1953, the village of Bingham Farms on June 7, 1955, and the village of Beverly Hills (originally named the Village of Westwood) in April, 1958. The city of Southfield was incorporated on September 16, 1957.