Care of the Building

“The Building and Renovations to December, 1958”


Compiled by: Dale King, Sarah Roberson, Terrilee Smith, Debbie Young


Our church in Indiana was the offspring of the Synod of Kentucky and the Presbytery of Louisville. The earliest missionaries of our faith who planted Presbyterianism up and down the rivers and woodlands ways of the Hoosier Territory long before it became a State were solitary horsemen of the Lord from Kentucky. First among them all was Samuel Shannon whose interest in the “New Purchase,” as Indiana was then called, began when he came over as a Chaplain in the Indian wars, as far back as the closing years of the American Revolution. He later brought to Salem with him the renowned James McCready, who had been the central fiery figure of the Great Revival of 1800 in Kentucky. It was the preaching of this mighty man of God, combined with the gracious charm and friendliness of Samuel Shannon in dealing with all human souls, that made so successful the revivals they held at Livonia, Salem, and Blue River. These “Giants of God” rode horseback through the wooded hills of Washington County in the summer of 1816, and the story of their companionship is one of the romances of Home Missions in early Indiana.


The Presbyterian Church at Salem was organized on August 16, 1816, by Rev. Samuel Shannon, with twenty-eight members. The organization meeting was held in Washington County’s first temple of justice and services were held in this courthouse for almost a year.


The first house of worship was erected on the east side of High Street, at that time in a grove at the extreme north end of town. This building was a frame structure and contained a comfortable audience room with south and west doors. The pulpit stood in the middle of the east side of the house, and from each door there was a broad aisle running toward the pulpit, which was elevated to the height of five steps. Everything about the entire structure was as plain as could be, and no painter’s brush ever touched any portion of the building, inside or out. Up to May 19, 1821, it was known as Union Church. The name was changed to the Salem Presbyterian Church when a part of the membership left to organize Franklin Church. Services were held regularly in this Church for twenty-five years.


In 1839, work was begun on the commodious brick building which is still a house of worship, but it was not completed until January, 1842. The entire cost of this building and the original furnishings was about $5,000. The new church was formally dedicated on January 2nd, by Rev. James Johnson of Madison, assisting the regular pastor, Rev. Alex McPherson, at which time the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered.


Rev. Alexander McPherson, who died June 28, 1845, was buried in the Salem cemetery. He is the great-grandfather of John Foster Dulles. 


A novel industry of Salem was that of John Brightman, started about 1828. He conceived the idea that there was a fortune in producing silk. The old Presbyterian Church on North High Street was procured, and thousands of silkworms were hatched out and started making cocoons.


Throughout the years from 1859 to 1924, we find that the ladies of the church gave much towards the upkeep and repair, by various means, such as giving suppers, making aprons, quilting, selling cards and fancywork, to raise money. On February 17, 1859, the Ladies Aid donated towards the painting and repairing of the church. August 5, 1859, the ladies paid for painting the cupola and window shutters. From the minutes of the Ladies Aid Society, we find that on November 24, 1859, they paid for having the glass repaired in the windows. In 1870, this organization of the Church was known as the Social Circle. However, on April 14, 1861, the ladies were again organized into a sewing society for “the purpose of procuring means to repair the church.” About this time, we find a dressed chicken was sold to the highest bidder to raise money. On July 21, 1881, the ladies prepared the Alumni Banquet for the Salem School and used the money to repair the church.


The Y.P.S. of C.E. [Christian Endeavor] was organized in July, 1891. This was the first young people’s society ever organized in Salem. In 1892, the following improvements of the Church were made by the young people: Bookracks were placed in back of the pews, aid was given in laying the rip-rap in front of the church property, a missionary library was purchased, and religious literature was sent to the jail and county asylum.


The Presbyterian Aid Society was organized October 24, 1902, “the proceeds of which are to be used for the incidental expenses of the church.” After three years, the Society intended to place an iron fence around the church, but instead erected a manse on the northeast corner of the Church lot. Mr. C. C. Menaugh, proprietor of the Salem Democrat, offered the Society the proceeds of his paper for one week, provided the ladies wrote all the editorials, solicited all advertisements, and took full charge of the paper. The ladies also held church suppers, bazaars, and sold more aprons to raise enough money to complete the manse, except for a bathroom and fixtures. November 14, 1907, the Ladies Aid paid for papering the manse, and January 16, 1908, they paid for “repair of sink.”


We find in the session records that a new furnace was ordered for the Church in December, 1913. The library auditorium was used for Sunday School and Morning Worship on December 21, 1913, and the Baptist Church was used for a Special Vesper Service on that same date. February 12, 1914, the Ladies’ Aid Society gave $75 towards paying for the Church furnace and $4.70 for paint for the interior of the manse. At the Communion Service on April 26, 1914, new individual communion cups were used that had been donated by the Ladies’ Aid Society. Previously, the common pewter cups, which are still in the possession of the Church, were used.


On January 12, 1922, the ladies put the basement of the Church in condition for socials and prayer meetings. April 20, 1922, the ladies cashed a liberty bond and thrift stamp to pay for decorating the Church. In November of the same year, water was put in the basement, and a bill was paid to repair the fence of the Church yard. In 1923, we find in the notes that the session felt that the manse was the property of the Ladies’ Aid and asked their permission to build a garage to add to the property.


On April 4, 1927, the Treasurer’s Report showed the Church to be in the best financial condition that it had been for many years---“all bills were paid and a balance was in the treasury.” On July 1, 1929, the minutes of the session show that the stairway to the basement was completed, at a cost of $35.


On July 9, 1929, there had been $1,400 pledged, leaving $1,400 yet to be accounted for. By December of the same year, the Church had fallen behind on its

finances, and on January 20, 1930, a letter was sent to each member asking aid in getting the financial conditions in better shape. By February, the financial condition of the Church would not permit the extra expense that would be incurred by holding evangelistic services near Easter time. In December of 1933, the Salem Church had lost so heavily in membership, and the terrible depression of 1933 had so disheartened the Church, that the officers and members practically gave up, and they considered closing the doors, forever.


In March, 1934, the Home Missions Committee sent Rev. C. W. Rule to visit the members and to preach. Rev. L. V. Rule, a brother of C. W. Rule, from Louisville Presbytery, was appointed to supply the pulpit. No financial obligation was put upon the Salem people for the services except what they felt willing and able to contribute. It was not until summertime that regular free will offerings were taken, but from that time on, the actual expense of the services was assured. In April, 1935, Rev. L. V. Rule was appointed by the Presbytery as stated, to supply the pulpit for the ensuing year, with his brother, C. W. Rule, to assist.


On October 16, 1946, the session approved giving the electric fixtures to the Delaney Presbyterian Church, when the new ones were installed at the Salem Church.


On March 30, 1947, in the records of the session, the total membership of the Salem Presbyterian Church was 42, and the Sunday School membership was 0.


In 1948, a new roof was put on the Church and the cupola was repaired. From September on, we find there were many changes and repairs, with much of the labor and materials being donated. At this time lumber was donated for a coal bin for the manse. In March, 1950, a new pulpit Bible was donated, the plaster was patched, and the front door locks of the Church were repaired. In June, 1950, a motion was made, and carried, to paint the manse for $205. In August, work was completed on the restroom of the Church.


In 1951, a Hammond organ, curtain back-drape, pulpit light, and new hymnals were donated. In 1952, the session voted to purchase a de-humidifier for the Church basement. Folding chairs and tables were also purchased. In that same year, the manse was replastered, and the manse and Church basement were repainted by the men and women of the Church. In 1953, the Church bulletin board was erected, and a record layer, tape recorder, fans, and choir robes were donated. A mimeograph machine was purchased for the Church office.


In 1954, the congregation voted to purchase the Lee Smith home on North High Street, to be used as a manse, so that the old manse could be used as an educational building. The guttering and downspouts were repaired on the Church.


New fluorescent lights were installed in the basement, and spot lights were installed over the pulpit and choir loft in 1955 and work on the furnace in the Church was contracted at $1,485; the session empowered the trustees to proceed with installation of the kitchen in the Church. In July of that year, storm windows were purchased for the old manse, and a brick-enclosed entranceway to the basement of the Church was completed. In September, 1955, the men of the Church started work on the installation of the kitchen, with most of the lumber donated.


In the Fall of 1955, the congregation discussed the great need for basic and general repairs to the “more-than-a-century-old Church” and unanimously decided they wanted to keep the same Church and give it a “face-lifting” without changing the general appearance, so the session voted and passed on any necessary repairs.


Then, in the Spring of 1956, the work was begun. The foundation was repaired and concrete slabs to the front and sides of the Church were installed, tuck-pointing and painting of bricks were done, the vestibule floor was leveled and tiled, the Church was plastered and painted, and wall-to-wall carpet was donated and installed. In July, 1956, offering plates were donated, and pulpit furniture, communion table, and pews were refinished. The choir-loft rail was paneled and refinished to match the pews. At this time, a slide projector was also donated. In August, 1956, the stained-glass windows were installed---all of them by donation.


In 1956, a new oil furnace was installed in the old manse, which, in July of that year, was made into the educational center, to be called Westminster Center. Necessary changes in rooms, converting the basement into rooms, and the kitchen into the minister’s study, painting, and so on, was done in part by voluntary labor by the men of the Church, and in part by paid workmen. In that same year, all necessary repairs, including a back-yard fence, were finished at the new manse.


In May, 1957, a Building Committee was appointed to make plans of building costs and financing for long and short-term needs. We find in the session minutes of July 10, 1957, a “discussion of the crowded Sunday School conditions.” At that time, there were 66 children, 9 teachers, and an adult class of 12 to 20 members. On February 25, 1958, we have the report of the Building Committee: “We recommend the construction of a Church School Building.” At the Congregational Meeting of March 23, 1958, the resolution was passed to build a new educational building, and to have a fund campaign. On August 17, 1958, the congregation approved the plans for the new building. On the first Sunday in October, 1958, the Church School classes were moved from Westminster Center to the Church and one adult class to the manse, in order to begin the demolition of the building. The pastor’s study was moved to half of the garage at the manse, which had been converted to a family room the previous summer. A gas stove to heat the study was purchased. About the same time, an addressograph machine was purchased, and, earlier in the year, a new communion service had been donated. On October 12, 1958, the session recommended that the Methodist facilities be used for the Junior High, Senior High, and one adult class.


The proposed new educational building will probably be brick, to match the Church. It will have separate departments for nursery, kindergarten, primary, and junior children. There will be a Church office, study, and crib room. A Church parlor with a kitchen for meetings of various Church organizations is included in the plans. The building will be connected to the Church, and there will be an entrance into the Sanctuary and the Church basement from the new building. The estimated cost is about $53,000.


Training sessions were conducted for the men of the church, who canvassed all members to raise money for the new building. The entire campaign was directed by a representative of the Board of National Missions, and the recommended Manuel of Procedure was followed. The men were dedicated at the Sunday Church Service on June 29, 1958, and by that evening 95% of the congregation had pledged a total of $31,000.


Source Material:


Minutes of the Session---Salem Presbyterian Church

Minutes of the Ladies’ Aid---Salem Presbyterian Church

History of Washington County—Warder Stevens

Members of the Salem Presbyterian Church

Pastor of the Salem Presbyterian Church