United Presbyterian traces its roots back to Ireland
when on July 23, 1751, Scotsman Dr. Rev. Thomas Clark
was sent to Ballybay in Northern Ireland. That was the
start of the Scotch-Irish “White Church” congregation
who in 1764-65 would follow Dr. Clark to the New World.
Dr. Clark, impressed by the quality of soil, beauty and
pure water, negotiated for the use of 12,000 acres for
five years followed by a yearly rent of one shilling per
acre. The deal was sealed and deeds show the name of
the community as New Perth. That name was changed to
Salem in 1788.
Salem is town that was built by a church community. Log
homes for church members, a log school house and a log
church were quickly built. The log church or as it
became known, “the meeting house” became inadequate in
the late 18th century.
On March 1, 1796, the congregation voted to build a
sanctuary that was sixty feet long and fifty feet wide.
Volunteers supplied the labor and material costs for the
building were about $4,000. Monies were raised by an
auction of 86 pews, including 26 square family pews,
ranging in price from $16 to $100. An annual rent was
collected from pew holders to pay for the minister.
If you would like a guided tour or wish to
become a friend of “The Old White Church” by preserving
its historic structure through donations, contact First
United at 518-854-9471.
the years there have been many renovations but the
church maintains its historical integrity including
doors on all the pews, its beautiful multi-paned windows
and its steep, narrow wooden staircase leading up to the
balcony. The current steeple was erected in 1877 after
lightening struck and damaged the old New England style
During the 1920’s the need arose for an addition in
which church dinners and other activities could be held.
In 1930, the Mackenzie Memorial Chapel was dedicated in
honor of the pastor who served from 1871-1897. In order
to build this addition, many of the horse stalls in the
back of the church had to be torn down.
Today, First United continues to be the center of the
Salem community and opens its doors to many outside
organizations. It continues to care for its historic
structure through grants and fundraisers.