The History of Salem Methodist Church

Historic Salem Methodist Church

There is no definite record of when Salem, now Salem United Methodist Church was built.  However the deed recorded at Mason County Clerk's office states that Robert Hill of Mason County deeded the land for the church on October 16, 1839.  There is one other mention of the church in a deed from Robert and Amelia Hill to Mary Hill four years earlier.  The deed mentions the Salem meeting house as a reference, and is dated January 23, 1835.  In the October 16, 1839 deed, the land was deeded to the Rev. Benjamin Hill, William Hill, Linzy Hill, Gustavis Dillon and John Adamson, trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church called Salem.  The structure was built of hand hewn logs by the trustees and others in the community.  The present building is the third to be erected on the original foundation.

Methodism goes back only to John Wesley (1703-1791).  There are not exclusively Methodist doctrines and no affirmations that are not also believed in by other Christian groups. Two key words tell its story - vitality and balance.  John Wesley followed in the line of Moses, the best trained leader of the Old Testament, and of Paul, the best trained mind in the New Testament. The Methodism which he founded is one of the most earnest efforts to preach and teach a Christianity that is vital and balanced.  The church believes in the Trinity (God, Christ the Son of God and the Holy Spirit), the forgiveness of sins through God's grace, the Church, the importance of Man, the Kingdom of God and Everlasting Life.  It was these beliefs planted in the hearts of a few consecrated men that moved them to erect a place of worship in the Salem community.

The next known records of this church were approximately seven years after the Civil War.  The church had been divided forming the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the original church.  A new Methodist Church South was built within a few feet of the original, thus the two congregations worshiped side by side, but not together.  In later years when the friction eased, worshipers South and so called North could be seen worshiping together again.  Senior members remember them as the Theodore Henson ME South and Robert Hill ME Churches.

In 1873-74 the Salem ME South Church was on a circuit of five including Germantown, Minerva, Dover, Salem and Stone (location unknown).  D. H. Marimon was pastor and James P. McDaniel, recording steward.  The recording steward's minutes, now the property of Mrs. Lizzie C. Woodward, show that the ME Church South was very active.  The quarterly conference in April of 1873 showed that the spiritual condition of the churches was much improved and that there was a "gracious revival."   Baptized into the Salem Church were George W. Kebler, William J. Woodward, Samantha Woodward, Belle Kennard, Lydda White, Fannie Styles, and Issac Woodward.

The first quaterly conference of the Germantown Circuit, Maysville District ME Church, South, was held October 3, 1874 at the Salem Church with M. W. Himes presiding.   In 1877 the circuit consisted of Germantown, Brooksville and Salem with W. H. Winters as pastor and S. L. Robertson, the presiding elder.  The first quarterly conference of the Germantown Circuit, Kentucky Conference, Covington District was held at Salem in November of 1878.  S. H. Wall was the presiding elder.  Simon Gray was elected secretary.  Also present were Joel Woodward, Cornelius Styles, James A. Asbury and Samuel Woodward.

At the writing of this article, no Sunday School records had been found for Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, although some of the other churches on the circuit did have organized Sunday Schools with good attendance.  In the spring of 2000, a Sunday School record book was discovered in the personal belongings of the late Cecil Browning Hill, and is now among the documents in the possession of Anita Hill Courtney.  The record covers the period of 1887-1897. It reveals a very organized Sunday School with a good attendance, as other churches of the circuit.  For a transcribed list of the names included on the role of this book entitled Salem Sabbath School, click here .

Pastors of the Germantown Circuit from 1866-1939 were W. T. Benton, M. Simpson, W. A. Emmerson, N. N. Kavanough, D. N. Marimon, W. W. Winter, W. W. Spate, N. D. Power, N. C. Wright, C. M. Humphrey, T. B. Cook, M. D. Webburn, R. N. Wightman, G. N. Pollitt, E. Allen, W. B. Garriott, J. D. Redd, J. M. Matthews, Rev. Deering, O. R. Simmerman and Rev. Williams.

In 1939 the ME Church South and the ME Church united. The Salem Church was moved from the Germantown Circuit and placed on the Shannon Circuit or Charge.  This charge consisted for four stations, Shannon, Bethel, Murphysville and Salem.  The ME Church South building was and still is used as the place of worship.  Pastors of the Shannon charge from 1939 to 1956 were Henry Carl, Gwen Brierly, W. W. Garrett, O. S. Carin, E. B. Scott, J. O. Benson and S. B. Rucker.

In 1956 the Salem Church was reinstated in the Germantown Charge.   Pastors from 1956 to date include Smith Gilmore, R. Swanson, Walt Gardner, James Norsworthy, Ben Cain, Don Scilley, Paul Cropper, Rev. Brierly, Rev. Ketchum, Rev. Troy B. Poff, Rev. Atherton, Rev. Silas D. Ripato, Charles Mallory, and Rev. Homer Norman, the present minister.  The Methodist Episcopal Churches and the Evangelical United Bretheren united to form the present day United Methodist Churches.  Little is known about the original church in the 1800's before the Civil War and the immediate period following it.  Elder members of the church can recall such names as Cheap Haggard, E. R. Overly, Ruggles, Howes, Burnside and Cochran, who have pastored the church from the early 1900's to the time of unification.

Members of the congregation hold dear the memories of Robert Alford Hill (uncle Bob), who as his ancestors, gave of his land, time and talents for the promotion of the Christian religion.  He was a member since childhood and was an active officer until poor health prevented his participation.  During his active years his deep base voice led the congregational singing of praise at the Sunday services and weekly prayer meetings.

A stroll through the cemetery surrounding this little country church will reveal many names carved on the head stones of the people who kept the fires burning for those who worship there today. There are no records found of the cemetery as of today, but the process of transcribing is underway. For a look-up in the Salem Cemetery, click on the email and I will be glad to check for you.

The church was damaged by arson on February 2, 1975, and since has been restored. A second remodeling was completed in the spring of 1998 to modernize the facilities yet maintaining the historic flavor of this old house of worship.  Worship services are held the 2nd and 4th Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. followed by Sunday School at 11:00 a.m.

Adapted from article entitled "Salem Recalled" by Doris Feagan

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