The History of Salem United Methodist Church
The history of Salem is rich and a vital part of Wayne County. In 1786, Daniel Deans, a member of a small religious group in the community, became very disturbed about religion. While visiting his birthplace in Virginia, he attended a meeting of Methodists. He heard the preaching, was taught the way of life more perfectly, and experienced the forgiveness of his sins.
When he returned home, he exclaimed to his wife, “I have seen a man in Virginia, who was worth a lifetime of labor to see. If I had known how happy his preaching could make me, I would have traveled the world over to find him.” A short time later, the preacher, Bishop Asbury, came to the community to preach and Methodism was introduced to Wayne County.
Soon, a small log meeting house was built near Stoney Creek. It was crudely constructed of rough logs, with holes cut for a window and a door, but no window or door was ever installed. The structure was known as the Deans Meeting House. Men of great zeal instructed the community there and constant revival attended their labors. The group then moved to Sarah Howell’s and for eight years, her home was the preachers’ home as well as the place of worship for the much abused Methodists.
In 1810, the society had increased so that a new meeting house was needed. The first Salem Church was built. The building was burned to the ground during the Civil War. Although the community was destitute as was many places in the South, a renewed religious life began in the community with a revival conducted under a brush arbor. Blocks of wood served as seats.
In 1869, plans were made for construction of a new building. Morris Howell gave the site and his daughter, Elizabeth, contributed the first five dollars. The hand hewn lumber was put together with pegs and the edifice was completed in 1873. This structure served well for many years.
In 1944, a building fund was started for the purpose of adding classrooms but construction was delayed due to scarcity of materials due to World War II. By June, 1950, Salem had been transformed from a one room frame building into a beautiful brick veneered structure with a new sanctuary, classrooms, assembly room, kitchen, bathrooms and memorial windows. The old church was not destroyed but was incorporated into the new educational department. There were 5,920 total hours of labor in building the current sanctuary and the total cost for the building was $37,000.
A brick, eight room parsonage was completed and occupied in 1953. In 1962, construction was begun on a Sunday school building for additional classroom space. Other structures on the church grounds include an enclosed Picnic Shelter added in 1970, the original Deans Meeting House and the remodeled Salem Hall which is used for fellowship dinners and gatherings, meetings and community events.
Salem has been served well by approximately 59 ministers. Twenty-eight men from the Salem congregation have entered the ministry or become itinerant preachers. Countless individuals have given their time and energy to serve the Salem congregation and community.