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Church History (1885 - 1934)

Salem Church


1885… Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is published.  The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, DC.  American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) incorporates.  The Statute of Liberty arrives in NYC aboard the French ship “Isere”.  A first gasoline pump is delivered to a gasoline dealer in Ft Wayne, Ind.  And Salem’s new church is built in Zionsville, IN.


The first Salem Church built in 1849 lasted almost half a century.  This original structure was sold to Larkin Beck for $30.00.  It was moved and used as a barn on the place owned by a J. E. Haller. When the old church of 1849 was moved away, “a beautiful edifice was to take its place which would be convenient and modern in its furnishings according to the demands of the times”.


This was in 1885. William Lemon, Tom Shaw and Pryor Brock constituted the Building Committee, and they were in charge. Ira Calvin and William McKinzie, carpenters from Zionsville, were hired to build the church.  While they were building the church, they lived at the home of Peter Bender nearby.  They worked on the church from dawn to dusk throughout the autumn. 


William McKinzie later became a minister and was a presiding elder in 1905. An Article of Agreement was found which actually had two dates written on it – August, 1886 is at the top of the page, but it has a line drawn through it and underneath it has May, 1885.


It reads as follows:

“This agreement was between the Trustees of Salem Church of the first part and John Dyson of the second part witnessed that the party of the first part, meaning Salem Church, hath this day let out the job of building and completing the church to John Dyson and Nathan French for the sum of two hundred and fifty dollars, and the party of the second part meaning John Dyson and Nathan French doth agree or bind him or themselves to complete said church in the following manner:


FIRST- Cover said church with shingles to be made of walnut or poplar or both, and to be well put on – the work to be done in good workmanlike manner of good seasoned lumber.


SECOND- Furnish the lumber to make a sufficient number of pews for said church of the proper length and width which is to be made of good walnut lumber and not painted or of poplar lumber to be painted a lead color.  Note:  These same new pews are still being used in the church today by the choir and also in the Sanctuary Annex.


THIRD- Paint said church white, to be well painted – the doors and windows to be painted with three coats of paint inside and outside, all to be done in good order.


FOURTH- It goes on about building a pulpit to be seven feet in length with a column at each end to be made after the same form or manner of the pulpit at Pleasant Hill church and to be made of walnut lumber and to be done in good workmanlike manner.


FIFTH- To furnish two window shutters to each window to be put on the windows with bolts and screws of sufficient size. The aisle was to be in the center of the church, as it was in the first church of 1849, and there were also side aisles which ran under the stove pipes. The work is to be completed by the 25th day of December, 1884”.


This building of 1885 cost about $1,800.00 of which approximately 80% was subscribed in advance and the rest immediately preceding the dedication. In those days, money had to be subscribed in full before a church could be dedicated.


The church was dedicated on Sunday, November 21, 1885.  Sadly, it rained all day.  What a surprise in Indiana?    People coming from a distance were supposed to eat dinner at the homes of those living near the church, but many housewives who had prepared for dinner guests were disappointed as most of the guests decided to go home immediately after the morning service.


A Rev. John Cissel, presiding elder, was the guest of honor and preached the sermon.  This dedication was the first occasion on which there was a musical instrument installed in the church for normal use.


The old church of 1849 had a melodeon owned by Fred Lowe, a local singing teacher, who had conducted singing schools (lessons) in the building. Melodeons, also known as a cabinet organ or American organ were built from 1846 until the Civil War era. It had never been used for a church service because too many members of the congregation was opposed to an instrument in a church. In 1885 the Salem congregation agreed to allow an organ in the church, so an organ from leading manufacturer-  Wilcox & White, was purchased.


The “Gay ‘90s” were marked by social activities, often sponsored for the community by the church. Quilting bees and husking bees were very common.  Bees were to help families meet their needs for shelter, food, and clothing. Labor intensive tasks like house and barn raisings, corn husking, quilting and sewing made into social gatherings and parties made tasks easier They also eliminated the need to hire the work done when money was scarce. “In these challenging times of today maybe we should bring back the bee!”.


The maple sugar camp at William Lemon’s was the scene of big sugaring-off parties every spring- a fete celebrating the spring flow of sap from the maple trees.


The large, main religious event of the early years was the quarterly conference.  All of the churches in the circuit attended.  The meetings were held on Saturday and Sunday.  The presiding elder, predecessor of the modern district superintendent, preached Saturday morning and night.  On Sunday morning a “love feast” was held followed by the sacrament and sermon by the presiding elder.  Somewhere in the proceedings, a basket dinner was also held.


1899-1900. What Did They Celebrate Back Then?

1899 got off to a cold start. Some of the lowest temperatures ever recorded in the continental U.S. were in February of 1899. From -39º in nearby Ohio to -61 in Montana. Even Tallahassee reached -2. The first lawn mower was patented. Gideon Society was established to place bibles in hotels. The first automobile fatality occurred. Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1900. US Steel corporation organizes and the U.S. Post Office issues its first books of postage stamps.


The “Sunday School” at Salem came into full growth before 1900.  It had existed but had been a secondary activity of the church.  Much of the credit for the work of growing this important ministry went to Mary Lemon when she suggested that the children each bring a penny each Sunday to help with the expenses.  After long and earnest debates, this was formally accepted and on one exciting Sunday morning, “Sunday School” officially began.  The money was used to buy Sunday School quarterlies as far as the money would go.  The rest of the children used their own Bibles.


The first missionary society was organized in 1900 by Mrs. Ira Calvin, who was the first president.  Charter members were:  Lillie Crose, Emma Green, Rebecca Harmon, Effie Moore, Anna Bender, Annie Marsh, Emaline Lemon, and Sara Burgin.


The Salem Church building of 1885 served the congregation until 1914 when at that time, it had long been the opinion of the people who were interested that some improvements should be made to the church property as a whole.  The building was out-of-date and did not meet the social as well as the spiritual needs of the people.


The congregation was large, the community was growing, and the Sunday School was prospering.  It appeared that the present site was a most desirable location.  The Salem Cemetery was already located there, and the character of the grounds made it most desirable for the church to stay in this area. A new part of the cemetery was opened as William Butler Crose, or Billy as he was known, and his wife Lillie Crose had given additional land for the cemetery.  Sugar trees were also planted by the road at Salem.


Many Eagle Township pioneers – heads of the leading families in the church – rested there in Salem Cemetery.  This subject was presented to the congregation and final action was taken in the appointing of a Building Committee composed of William B. Crose, Edward B. Bender, and Peter E. Moore. They were in charge. Trustees at that time were Emory L Shaw, Elza Marsh, and Oliver Green.


It was decided to move the existing building to the top of the knoll, just east of the present location with a basement needing to be dug on that spot.  There exists an old photograph from 1914 showing workmen lifting the 1885 Salem Church building and moving it just east of its former location. 


John Venard was to be the builder of the new renovated church, and Frank Gregory to do the cement work.  The work was undertaken and resulted to be a great church for this rural community all the way to present times. The remodeled church of 1914 was not finished like the blueprint since the entrance to the existing building was a door in the center of the north wall.  This was changed to having the entrance door installed on the west side as suggested by Emory Shaw. The bell tower was built in 1914 when the new entrance was constructed. The original bell from 1914 is still used today.


The aisle in this new, remodeled church was to remain in the center as it was in the first church.  There were side aisles which ran under the stove pipes.  The building had been heated with stoves in the center of the east and west walls.  It also had two chimneys.


Mainly because there were no classrooms or recreation rooms, it was decided to enlarge and remodel the church building for greater usefulness.  As the main auditorium or sanctuary was only 32’ x 54’, an addition extending the west wall with a 20’ x 30’ classroom, a 10 x 20’ nursery room, and a 12’ x 12’ vestibule (Narthex) was to be built.  The first church bell would be added to the steeple of the building and a furnace would be added in the basement.


The round “Dove” window, representing the Holy Spirit bringing his love down to us, was installed in the south wall (as it is today up behind me) and the north wall had one to match it. New pews were purchased at this time…so the pews that are in our sanctuary today are indeed the pews from 1914!!!  (These pews were repaired and refinished in 2008.)


The total remodeling cost in 1914 was $5,474 of which William B. Crose and his wife, Lillie, gave $2,250.  Russell Marsh, a young man just starting a new business, gave $100.  These were the only donations of which there is public knowledge since the rest is sealed in the Cornerstone of Salem Church. 


A large audience witnessed the impressive ceremonies of the cornerstone laying at 4:00 pm, Sunday afternoon, June 21, 1914.  Ralph P. Bundy, in an eloquent address, illustrated the material value of a church to a community - how all other property increased because of its existence.  Professor Stonecipher spoke of the intellectual and moral value of the church – take the church out of a community and you take out everything else worthwhile.  It fosters morality, intelligence, and philanthropy.  Mr. John M. Mills told of the struggles of Methodism for better moral conditions.


Prior to the cornerstone ceremony, an address was delivered by Raphael P. Bundy on “The Church as an Asset.”  T. H. Stonecipher, Superintendent of the Zionsville School, also delivered an address on “The Church as an Intellectual Asset.”  John M. Mills spoke on the spiritual side of the church, and a history of the congregation was read by E. B. Bender.


A copper box, given by H. E. Hill of Zionsville, was placed in the Cornerstone with documents that were available.  Salem has a list of those Cornerstone items on file. 


The remodeled Salem Church building was completed and the day of dedication was planned with great care.  It was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky – the fall air gave zest and goodwill to all. That day was September 13, 1914. The Rev. E. C. Wareing, associate editor of the “Western Christian Advocate,” delivered the dedication sermon and was followed by Rev. U. G. Leazenby, the District Superintendent who had charge of finance. In an afternoon session there was a formal dedication, by Salem pastor Rev. Allen P. Delong, assisted by others. The basement dining room was used for the first time with a basket dinner on this occasion.


Also on this great day, William B. and Lillie A. Crose presented a piano to Salem Church.  Several members of the congregation made donations to be used for new stained glass windows which replaced the plain glass windows previously on the east and west walls of the building. 


These are the windows you see today by donors Samuel Larkin and Elzira Beck, Peter H. and Margaret A. Bender, Newton and Juda Alice Carter, Charles F. and Mary Foreman, James Ellis and Sarah Alma Holler, Mary Lemon, William N. Lemon, John S. and Sarah A. Shaw, James and Adelaide Threewits, W.F.M.S. (Women’s Foreign Missionary Society), Men’s Bible Study and The Salem Sunday School. The beautiful window on the north wall of the sanctuary (behind you) depicting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, was donated by Willam B. and Lillie A. Crose. And with the conclusion of this dedication, and this wonderful remodel of 1914- Salem Church went forth with their spiritual and social works as they still do today.


Early in the 1930s the kennels of Trader’s Point Hunt Club moved into the neighborhood. Salem Church was asked to open the hunting season on Thanksgiving Day with the annual ceremony of “The Blessing of the Hounds.”  The church agreed to participate and this ritual continued for several years.  A collection was taken up each year, and much re-decorating and/or improvements (such as a new roof, new electric lights, etc.) were accomplished through the generosity of the Trader’s Point Hunt Club members.


Around this time Mrs. Scott Harmon presented a new “Notice Board’ (or directory) in honor of her husband.  This was installed near the front entrance steps of the church and remains there today.


A one-week celebration of 100 years of active service by Salem Church (then known as Salem Methodist Episcopal Church) was held in October 18-23, 1934.  This “little white church on this winding country road” has long been one of the most attractive in the area for a long, long time.


A history of this friendly country church was compiled by Mr. and Mrs. E. B. Bender. The Centennial Observance was presided over by Rev. Earl Heimburger, the Pastor of Salem. Old-time meetings were re-enacted with Homecoming Day held on Sunday, October 28, 1934.


Music was provided during these services by the Salem Church Choir and Zionsville Choir; an old time singing school conducted by Baker Huckstep, a long-time singing master in the community.


Homecoming Day was observed on Sunday, with services in the forenoon, afternoon, and evening, and a basket dinner was held at the noon hour.  Special invitations were extended to former members, prior pastors of Salem Church and anyone who lived in the community previous to this time. And such was the times of the 100th anniversary of Salem Methodist Episcopel Church.


1934… The FDIC had just been established. Bob and Dolores Hope were united in marriage. The first Masters golf tournament began in Augusta, Georgia… and Bonnie and Clyde were on the loose.


The world needed God on its side then. It needs Him more and more each day. Our next segment will cover even more changes in this church and community from 1935-1984. Those were quiet years weren’t they, with World War II, the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s?


Two things ever-present in all of time- God and change.



Recorded Sermons

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