SALEM CELEBRATES 180 YEARS! (1834 - 2014)
In 1834 in southwest Eagle Township, Boone County, Indiana, a group of people regularly met in their homes for spiritual devotions to form one of the oldest religious congregations in Indiana. Services, or "classes" were held in this manner until 1849 when the first church structure of Salem United Methodist Church was built on what used to be Salem Road, now South 775 East or Kissel Road, west of Zionsville. Due to the great faith, courage and determination of the pioneers of this time, they started one of the oldest, active congregations still in Boone County today, Salem United Methodist Church.
Class leaders of the time played very active roles in the beginning of early churches including Salem. Often self-appointed but not left on their own, classes were visited every month or two by Circuit Riders. The Circuit Riders were ordained Methodist Episcopal clergymen. Being ordained he alone could perform such sacraments as communion, marriage and baptism.
For the first fifteen years, the small congregations met in various homes in the community, believed to be in the homes of Mr. & Mrs. Jonathan Hall or Mrs. & Mrs. George Wood. It is certain that these so-called 'cottage' meetings continued until the first church was built in 1849.
The first building for Salem Church was placed on the shoulder of a knoll that dipped down to the banks of a little stream, Fishback Creek, which gave "freshness to the land, recreation for the boys, and refreshment to bird and beast and man". Over the valley to little hills in every direction, one had the ability to look at fertile farmlands, well-tended abundant crops and large droves of grazing cattle. Orchards here and there bore their fruit and golden grains were in the fields as far as the eye can see.
Life on the farms of this community was somewhat isolated. The majority of the people lived in comparatively quiet times, with their hard work centering around the home and their social and emotional life centering around the church.
The first Salem Church lasted almost half a century. This original structure was sold, moved and used as a barn on the place owned by 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.
The new church was dedicated on Sunday, November 21, 1885.
The Sunday School came to full growth before 1900. It had existed but apparently had been a side issue of the church activities. Much of the credit for this work went to Mary Lemon when she suggested that the children each bring a penny on Sunday to help with the expenses. So after long and earnest debate, this was permitted and on one certain exciting Sunday it was enacted. The money was used to buy Sunday School quarterlies as far as the money would go. The rest of the children had to use their Bibles.
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 however it was decided to move the existing building to the top of a nearby knoll.
The present sanctuary existing today is indeed that second church building of 1885. The bell from 1914 is still used today and heard across the area each Sunday morning at 9:15 AM.
The beautiful window on the north wall of the sanctuary depicting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was donated by Willam B. and Lillie A. Crose. This glorious window still exists today.
Early in the 1930s the kennels of Trader's Point Hunt Club moved into the neighborhood, and Salem Church was asked to open the hunting season each 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 improvements were accomplished through the generosity of the Hunt Club members.
Major activities the church developed over the years included ice cream socials and serving meals at farm sales. Cakes were brought by the church ladies to go with the ice cream. A piece of cake of the people's choice was served with each dish of ice cream and sold for five or ten cents. If you had a quarter, you could take a small family and have a good time! Salem still enjoys a reputation for its historic recipes in their Annual Chicken Noodle Supper & Bazaar in October, Chili Supper in February, and the Ice Cream Social in July.
Pastor James E. Miller has been with Salem since 2008 and without fail continued its growth and vitality. Rev. Miller continues Christmas Eve Services (which were restarted by Rev. Patton in 2006), and initiated Maundy Thursday Services in 2007. Both evening events are beautiful, richly significant and greatly appreciated by those who attend.
Salem's congregation is small and personal, very proud of the heritage and in the fact may be the oldest active church in Boone County, Indiana. Many in Salem's congregation on Sunday are ancestors to those who started this church in the early 1800's reaching back eight generations. Salem United Methodist Church's motto is "Large enough to serve. Small enough to care."
Salem United Methodist Church is located at 6701 South 775 East (Kissel Road) Zionsville, IN 46077. For more information call 317-873-4015 or email us