Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: December 1948 Volume 7 Number 1, Pages 1–8

The Old Salem Church, 1833-1930

Mrs. Franklin Wandless

Page 1

The Old Salem Church is situated on the north side of Yellow Springs Road about a mile west of the Octagonal School House, in the general direction of North and West of Berwyn.

Across the road is a small graveyard given by the Brooks family of West Chester as a free burying ground for the Church. In this plot of ground stood the original church which was built in 1833.

John Sloan was the leading spirit of the venture. He must have felt the need of a church very strongly for he offered his house as a meeting place and services were held every Sunday until the church was built.

The Stewards' Book of Chester Circuit reports, "August 8, 1833 received $6 from the Salem Church towards Minister's support."

Until 1860 the Salem Church was included in the following circuits respectively Chester, Radnor and Phoenixville. In 1860 a new honor was bestowed on the church the Conference named this circuit the Salem Circuit, and Malvern, Berwyn and Charlestown Churches were included in it.

Page 2

From 1833 - 1860 the Old Church had many preachers, namely:

1833 (on Chester Circuit) James B. Ayars, Robert E. Morrison, John Edwards, John Talley (Supply)
1834 (A new circuit was formed, called Radnor, which embraced Salem.)
1834 David Best, Richard W. Thomas
1835 Richard W. Thomas, John Perry
1836 William Cooper, Jesse Ford
1837 William Cooper, James Hand
1838 James B. Ayars, Charles W. Jackson
1839 James B. Ayars, Fredrick Gram
1840 Henry G. King, James Neill
1841 Henry G. King, Levin M. Prettyman
1842 George Lacy, Christopher J. Crouch
1843 (Grove Circuit was formed from Radnor, Salem in former)
1843 Thomas Sumption, Thomas C. Murphey
1844 Thomas Sumption, James R. Anderson
1845 David Dailey, John W. Mecaskey
1846 David Dailey, George W. Lybrand
1847 The Annual "Minutes" have John Lednum, one to be supplied. A change was made in June after Conference Henry S. Atmore was changed from Chatham to Salem with T. Addison Whitaker as Jr. preacher.
1848 Henry S. Atmore associated with him the local Preachers and Exhorters.
1849 James Harmer, Stearns Patterson
1850 James Harmer, William C. Robinson latter appointed by presiding Elder. Harmer died Sept. 8, 1850 and W. C. Robinson was placed in charge, assisted by Local Preachers and Exhorters.
1851 Joseph H. Wythes, John H. Boyd
1852 Joseph H. Wythes, John J. Jones
1853 (Salem Associated with Phoenixville etc. called Phoenixville Circuit.)
1853 Christopher J. Crouch, John F. Meredith
1854 Christopher J. Crouch
1855 Samuel R. Glllingham, Wesley Reynolds
1856 Samuel R. Gillingham, Charles W. Ayars
1857 John Shields, Horace A. Cleveland
1858 John Shields, George D. Mills
1859 60 Called Salem Circuit associated with Charlestown, etc.)
1859 - 60 Lewis C. Pettit
1861 - 62 John O'Neill
1863 - 64 James Hand
1865 John Edwards
1866 - 67 William Hammond
1868 - 69 Thomas Sumption
1870 - 71 Daniel L. Patterson
1872 - 73 William T. Magee
1874 - 76 Ravel Smith (Chester Valley Mission)

Page 3

1877 Samuel W. Smith (Andrew Cather filled out unexpired year)
1878 William H. Aspril (Salem)
1879 80 Ephraim Potts
1881 Andrew J. Anthor

The List of preachers above were obtained from Futhey & Cope "History of Chester County and her People." The following list of preachers of Salem M.E. Church were obtained from W. W. Thomson's Book "Chester County and its People":

1882 - 83 J. McQuiod
1884 E. Townsend
1885 - 87 Thomas Montgomery
1888 - 89 J. W. Hudson
1890 Richard Morelly
1891 - 96 Lewis A. Pascells
1897 - 98 T. N. Hyde

The following list of preachers was given by Mrs. Kirkner of Paoli, one of the former members of Salem Church. She could not remember the dates that each served.

W. Aspril
Lewis Parcells
John Bell
Joseph Herson
------ Kauffman
------ Tomlinson
Joseph Carp
Irvin Seitz
Arthur Walls
T. Norton Hyde

The Rev. Wm. T. Magee who served the church from 1872 - 1873 must have been a powerful exhorter for in an old newspaper clipping dated Oct. 17, 1873 we have the following item.

"A protracted meeting is now being held at the Salem M.E. Church a good time is the result. Six converts have been moved to the Altar. The meetings are well attended and it is to be hoped that much good will manifest itself."

One name stands out very prominently, however, that is the Rev. Ravel Smith. He was appointed a missionary to Chester Valley with the Salem Church as his charge from 1874 - 1876. He married Abby, second daughter of Amaziah and Elmira Wertz who lived on Leopard Road, one half mile from Berwyn. While the Rev. Ravel Smith occupied the pulpit Salem Church erected a new building across the road on the north side (the building which is now standing). It cost $6000 and was dedicated with appropriate and elaborate ceremonies, on May 1st, 1875. A parsonage was also erected next to the Church, it is still standing in good repair and is occupied as a dwelling.

Page 4

Salem Chuch Cemetery where First Church stood

In the new church the Sunday School met on the first floor and Church services were held on the second floor. The Sunday School had 120 members and Henderson Golder was superintendent for 30 years.

Three names which are outstanding as Trustees, in addition to Mr. Golder are Moses Wadsworth, David Detwiler and John Rambo.

A picture of the Church in the early 50's is obtained from an article published about that time in a newspaper:

"The preaching was all powerful and handed out straight from the shoulder and the music handled in the same style. Messrs Mason & Hamlin and Estey's were unknown at that time, consequently the organ was an unknown implement. Old Salem's choir, made up of male members, was considered at that time and day, about what would be accepted, as the last word in Har-mow-nee. Sloan Brooke led the choir, with a tuning fork made by himself, from which they took their pitch. Sloan was ably assisted by J. Preston Ayars, Weslot Ayares, Billy Schofield, Jonas King. Albert Robinson, Slater B. Thomas and others. It is quite a possibility that these singers were not up to modern musicians in technique, but for volume they had the goods. Bum tonsils, adenoids etc. were unknown in the human plumbing of that age. Their vocal pipes were equal to those of a modern Caliope, they unloosed such familiar hymns as Iaban, Rockingham, Silver Street, Dundee, Siloam, Federal Street, etc. We'11 say: It tried the plaster on the ceiling, but it also thawed out the Amen corner and that section soon showed signs of tuning up."

Page 5

Those were the days when the old church would be crowded.

About 1880 the trustees bought an organ for the church and a melodeon for the Sunday School and Miss Maggie Powell was organist for 20 years with the able assistance of Miss Grolder, now Mrs. Joseph Kirkner.

Here is another interesting item from a newspaper of about 1888-89:

"Old Salem M.E. Church in Tredyffrin township is enjoying a season of prosperity. Since the commencement of the present conference year, on the coming of the Rev. Joseph Herson as pastor, things have taken on new life. The church has been thoroughly repaired, the main audience room has been painted and papered, new carpet has been put down and the open staircase has been closed, preventing the cold air coming up from below. The Sunday School room has been enlarged by tearing out the two class rooms, making all into one fine large room. The old pews formerly used by the school have been placed around the walls, and one hundred new folding chairs have taken their place in the center of the room. A large heater has been placed in the basement, by which the whole church will be heated. All repairs will be finished and a reopening service held in about three weeks, when persons of prominence in the church will take part, and a good time is expected. The total cost of the repairs will not exceed $600. Much of the work, has been contributed by members of the church. Since the coming of the Rev. Mr. Herson, the spiritual interest of the church has taken on new life, the congregations have nearly doubled, all the meetings of the church have been well attended, and the old Salem bids fair to return to her former days".

Page 6

Again a couple of years later in 1891 we have the following new item showing that the church was still alive although not quite as strong.

"It was advertised that on Friday evening of last week, a mock trial would be hold at Salem M.E. Church. Tredyffrin Township to be participated in by C. W. Pennypacker, E. D. Bingham, and other shining lights of the Chester County bar. For some reason not very clearly defined the lawyers did not appear, and per consequence, there was no mock trial. But the Salemites were not caught napping. They called upon their reserved forces and had an entertainment, which although entirely impromptu, with the exception of the part taken by the Crescent Orchestra, of Kimberton, was not to be despised.

Rev. L.A. Parcells is pastor of Salem Church, and is now in his fifth year there. It is his first charge, and under his administration its affairs have prospered, so that next year it is said the appointee to that charge will confine his attentions to it solely. Now there is attached to it the Malvern Church."

Here is a report from the Philadelphia Annual Conference dated March 4, 1891:

Salem -
2 Probationers
80 Members
2 Deaths
1 Church value $6000
1 Parsonage Value $1800
$1130 Present debt on church property
$120 current expenses, sexton, light, fuel, etc.
$26 for missionary

Editor's note: The original author of this article, Mrs. Franklin Wandless, added the following parenthetical comment to the original.

In the early days, before the building of the first edifice, Gruber preached to the assembled congregation in the in the McCurdy Mansion. About 50 yrs. ago, glorious word-meetings were held in Squire McCurdy's woods, and here the Rev. Jonn Inskip first received his impressions of Camp Meetings.

The following is an excerpt from a short and incomplete "History of Salem Church" by Rev. Lewis Adams Parsels, March 20, 1896:

"In the first edifice have been held many of the old time Methodistic meetings, where the very presence of the Holy Spirit has been demonstrated. The building not being considered safe for holding meetings, as the timbers were weakening, it was considered advisable to build a new church. Bro. David Detwiler most generously donated the land opposite the grave-yard, where now stands the church.

Page 7

In March 1891 the Phila. Conference, seeing Salem had weakened from its numerous deaths of its old members, saw fit and proper to unite Salem with Malvern in a circuit. The Malvern M.E. Church had sprung from Salem, on the 27th day of June 1886. Salem, although feeling that it seemed pitiable to be again upon a circuit, rallied to the call and sustained the appointed pastor - Lewis Adams Parsels.

God poured out his Divine Blessing and in the winter of 1892 - 93 - a gracious revival fell upon the church when men and women of years, intelligence and finance were brought into the church.

The Conference of 1896 separated the charge and each became a separate station. Lewis Adams Parsels remained at the charge from 1891 - 1896.

During the pastorate of the circuit, there were 140 conversions and the pastor officiated at 20 weddings, 70 funerals and made about 3000 pastoral visits.

In November 1892 Old Salem was beautifully re-opened with her main-room having its interior new frescoed, carpeted and painted. It was a triumphant day. From March 1891 - March 1896, Salem raised in Finances $4280.

In about the year 1888, was built the very pretty, Parsonage, on land donated for that purpose by Brother David Detwiler. The Graveyard was renovated in the Autumn and Winter of 1895. The sheds always stood upon the Main Road (sheds for sheltering horses and vehicles during the services) nearly opposite the graveyard, but when the Parsonage was built, they were unsightly and unpleasant so, in 1893 they were removed to the rear of the church, on land donated for that purpose by Bro. David Detwiler."

In 1914 the Tredyffrin School Board rented the Sunday School room for their pupils - as the old Salem school was too small. This was continued until the new school was built.

In 1927 the church no longer had a minister sent by the Conference, however, Moses Wadsworth, a member of the Congregation acted as minister.

About this time most of the members were dead or their descendants had moved away and the Old Church started to collapse.

It was bought in 1954 by E. G. Young of Paoli who also owns the parsonage.

Page 8

The pews of the old church and the Communion Service are in the possession of the Charlestown Church. The folding chairs were sold to the Young Republican Club of Howellville.

1908 - 1913 A Ladies Auxiliary was organized, Mrs. Edgar Weaver (a granddaughter of Elijah Laird) was President of this organization which is still alive under the name of The Ladies Aid. Mrs. Joseph Kirkner once secretary is now the president. These women administer the interest on $600 which was left by Wesley McCurdy to keep the cemetery in good repair. The money has shrunken until there is not quite enough to have the grass cut twice a year so the Ladies do quilting to help out.

The Ladies Aid Society was organized in February 1916. The Charter members were:

Mrs. Jane Kirkner deceased
Mrs. Annie Van Jouten "
Mrs. Jacob Kirkner "
Mrs. William Bush "
Mrs. Oscar McAdoo "
Mrs. John Davis No longer a member
Mrs. Walter Gretman Moved away
Miss Ethel Davis Moved away
Mrs. Joseph Kirkner
Miss Lena Weaver Now Mrs. Wm. McAdoo
Miss Helen Golder Now Mrs. Peter Murdock

The members at the present time are:

Mrs. Wm. Bavis - Treasurer
Mrs. Caroline Barbour
Mrs. Cora Ford
Mrs. Wm. Gording
Mrs. Pearl Gunkie
Mrs. Dorothy Kirkner
Mrs. Joseph Kirkner - Secretary
Mrs. Wm. McAdoo
Mrs. Leota Gording
Mrs. Francis McAdoo
Mrs. Helen Murdock
Mrs. Esther Murdock
Mrs. Emma Pierce
Mrs. Raye Signer - President
Mrs. Elizabeth Weaver, Jr.
Mrs. Lena Woolard

The meetings are held the first Wednesday of the month at the homes of the members.

Enoch S. Wells - Member May 20, 1870 held the official relation of Exhorter according to record of his certificate of membership.

John Finch had an Exhorter's License issued to him Jan. 8, 1870.

Annie Detwiler, May 28, 1876 was the first person Baptised in the new church.


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