Salem First United Presbyterian Church



250 Years and Counting


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Our Historic Past

A Beacon for the Community...Both Then and Now


First 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.



Throughout 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 steeple. 

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.


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