Amelia Township, settled by Reformed Swiss in 1732, once existed on the south side of the Congaree River, now part of Calhoun County, South Carolina. Despite promising beginnings, the township never thrived due to settlers’ preference for large land tracts and isolation. Amidst restructuring in the late 1700s, Amelia Township vanished. The town of St. Matthews, founded in the early 1800s and still active, marks the location of the former township.
One significant initiative of the Royal Government was the Township Act of 1730, further extended in 1761. This first Act sanctioned nine townships, each covering 20,000 acres, and emissaries were dispatched to Europe to recruit settler families. Incentives such as complimentary transport to South Carolina, a year’s supply of provisions, and free land were offered to these families. However, these townships neither generated nor maintained records, their purpose was strictly geographic. They were used for some tax districts and mentioned in grants and property transfers, much like parishes.
Established and first settled by the Reformed Swiss in 1732, Amelia Township lay on the southern bank of the Congaree River, roughly corresponding to present-day Calhoun County, South Carolina. By 1757, the township was home to around 650 white settlers, predominantly of Swiss, German, and English descent, and maintained a militia of approximately 140 men. Despite its promising inception with 20,000 acres, Amelia Township never truly thrived. Many settlers chose this location in pursuit of large landholdings and a significant level of isolation from their neighbours. No formal towns or permanent settlements, aside from a couple of churches, were established during the Royal Period.
In 1768/9, the Royal Colony of South Carolina introduced the District Act, dismissing all previous references to the old counties and townships in relation to government structure. Parishes, however, were retained, with St. David’s Parish and St. Matthew’s Parish being added in 1768.
Former Amelia Township was now a part of the significantly larger Orangeburgh District and the newly-formed St. Matthew’s Parish – both founded in 1768/9. However, these districts only became fully operational around 1772, just prior to the American Revolution.
Post-Revolution, the newly independent South Carolina State revised its internal districts in 1785, instituting a new version of “counties” that were considerably different from the vaguely defined and unsurveyed counties that existed before 1769. In 1791, South Carolina redefined its districts again to incorporate specific newly created counties. In 1800, the decision was made to rebrand all existing counties as districts, rendering the broader term for district redundant and discontinuing the aggregation of counties into an overarching district.
Amidst these changes, Amelia Township vanished. No significant permanent settlements had been developed within the 20,000-acre tract, and so, the name Amelia was phased out and is not even recognized in the current State of South Carolina. However, the town of St. Matthews was founded in the early 1800s, it survived and continues to serve as the county seat for Calhoun County, South Carolina. The town took its name from the last-named Parish within which Amelia Township was located from 1769 to 1776. By identifying the town of St. Matthews in Calhoun County, South Carolina, one can pinpoint the former heart of Amelia Township prior to the American Revolution.