A History of New Windsor Township, South Carolina

One of the early and important actions of the Royal Government was the Township Act of 1730; additional townships were authorized in 1761. The first act authorized nine townships containing 20,000 acres each, and agents were sent to Europe to recruit families as settlers. The families were offered inducements such as free transportation to South Carolina, free provisions for one year, and free land. The townships neither created nor kept records; their functions were solely geographical. Townships, like parishes, were used for some tax districts and appeared as locators in grants and conveyances.

New Windsor Township was established and first settled by 200 Swiss/Palatine immigrants in 1737. It was located on the east bank of the Savannah River directly opposite of Augusta, Georgia, which had been settled a few years earlier. Fort Moore had been established in this location back in 1716, immediately after the Yamassee War, and was within the New Windsor Township at its northwest corner overlooking the Savannah River.

John Tobler was the leader of the first Swiss settlers, which included mostly Germans and a good number of French-speaking Swiss. In his group were the families of Jacob Sturzenneger, David Zubly, Jasper Nail, and three Meyer brothers, Leonard, Ulrich, and Michael. John Tobler had been a man of much prominence back in Switzerland. Known as a "Landshauptmann," he had been a governor-general in Appenzell, Switzerland until his political standing changed.

He was born in 1695 and was most noted, both in Switzerland and later in America, as the writer of an almanac. He was a self-taught mathematician, astronomer, musician, and collector of many books. It was he who organized the emigration to New Windsor and was the leader of the group. He owned a store on the bluff overlooking the Savannah River near the present-day site of the Sand Bar Ferry Bridge. Tobler's wife, Anna, died in New Windsor on March 23, 1768, but at least eight of his children went on to establish a lineage in the area and several of his descendants remain.

Jacob Sturzenegger received a land grant of 200 acres in New Windsor in 1737. It has been suggested that his wife, Elizabeth, was the daughter of John Tobler but this has not been proven. As a physician, he was undoubtedly a valuable asset to the struggling group of settlers. Long-time residents in the present Beech Island area speak of a Sturzenegger Family Cemetery but the stones have been overgrown and it cannot now be located. Descendants of the Sturzennegers say the cemetery was last seen by some area hunters several years ago near Storm Branch Road.

David Zubly, Sr., another of the original Swiss settlers, came across the Atlantic on the ship with the others. Although he stopped and lived most of his life in Purrysburg, a new settlement lower on the Savannah River, his son David Jr. made a major mark on the community of New Windsor.

David Zubly, Jr. was born in South Carolina in December of 1738 and was very prominent in the growing community. By 1774, he was a Justice of the Peace at New Windsor and by the 1780s had amassed an estate in excess of 5,000 acres. Originally studying medicine, it appears he eventually settled on life as a planter. David Jr. died January 11, 1790, and was probably the first burial in the Zubly Family Cemetery. He left behind five wealthy daughters which, although they did not carry the Zubly name, comprise one of the largest groups of Swiss descendants in the present Beech Island area.

The Meyer brothers, Leonard, Ulric, and Michael applied for and received a land grant of 100 acres on the Savannah River in 1737. Although little is known about the whereabouts of Leonard and Ulric (they may have died soon after their arrival as many Swiss did), Michael's descendants are very numerous. He successfully received three other land grants, one of which was his 390 acre plantation situated on the Savannah River. Recent archaeological digs in Beech Island have yielded artifacts at one site which the South Carolina Department of Archaeology and Anthropology have identified as belonging to the Meyer brothers. The book "Excavations at New Windsor Township," published in 1997, details the dig site results and is available for sale by the Beech Island Historical Society.

Jasper Nail received a land grant in 1737 along with his fellow Swiss. He was the father of three sons, Daniel, Hans Conrad, and Casper, as well as two daughters, names unknown. Daniel Nail, the oldest, inherited his father's estate and ran a very large-scale farming and blacksmith operation in the New Windsor area. He died in 1772 when his children were young and left a sizeable estate to his wife, which included 750 acres, 22 slaves, 100 pigs, 62 sheep, 3,150 bushels of Indian corn, 50 pounds of wool, and more. Casper lived the longest and was also a successful planter. Casper's line is buried in the Nail Family Cemetery. The last surviving Nail in the area, Henry Brantley Nail, died in 1945 and his mercantile store is still standing on Old Nail Road in Beech Island.

New Windsor never really flourished thanks to Augusta on the opposite bank of the Savannah River and within the newly-created colony of Georgia. James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, provided much better enticements to get settlers into his new colony than South Carolina was willing to provide at the time. During the Royal Period, New Windsor Township never established any formal towns or permanent settlements where people congregated other than a church or perhaps two.

In 1768/9, the Royal Colony of South Carolina passed the District Act and eliminated all references to the old counties and townships with respect to governmental organization. The parishes remained intact, and even two new Parishes were established in 1768 - St. David's Parish and St. Matthew's Parish.

What had been New Windsor Township was now part of the much larger Orangeburgh District and within the newly-established St. Matthew's Parish - both created in 1768, but the districts were not truly functional until around 1772, right before the American Revolution.

Immediately after the American Revolution, the newly-independent state of South Carolina redefined its internal districts in 1785 and recreated a new version of "counties" quite unlike the mostly-ambiguous and unsurveyed counties that existed prior to 1769. In 1791, South Carolina once again redefined its districts to now include the specific newly-created counties. In 1800, South Carolina decided to rename all existing counties as districts, and the larger term for district was now obsolete - no more aggregation of counties into a large district.

During all of this, New Windsor Township ceased to exist. Since no significant permanent towns were ever established in the 20,000 acre tract, the name New Windsor disappeared, not even recognized in the current state of South Carolina. To get an idea of where the New Windsor Township had been during the Royal Period, find a map of South Carolina and look for Aiken County - the heart of the New Windsor Township was located where the present-day towns of North Augusta and Beech Island are situated.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved