The First Methodists
Thomas Kelly and family, coming from the state of Delaware, were the first Methodists in Salem. Their home was on the southeast corner of State and Ellsworth. It is not known exactly when they arrived here.
On Feb. 20, 1820, John Flitcraft, a native of New Jersey and a devout Methodist, came to the Kelly home for a prayer meeting. Edmund Rinear and Thomas Wood, a class leader, were also in attendance. Rev. McClennin, a local minister, happened to be in Salem and attended, giving a short sermon.
A class of nine persons was formed following Camp Meeting near Laughin's Mill on the Mahoning River, attended by Thomas Webb and several Salem residents. Thomas Kelly was the appointed leader. Salem was then made part of the Columbiana Circuit and Baltimore Conference. Salem later became part of the Hanover Circuit. The Pittsburgh Conference was formed in 1825 and Salem was included there until 1876 when the East Ohio Conference was formed.
Meetings were held in shops and homes. When the Baptists built their first building, the Methodists gave some assistance in return for the chance to use it occasionally.
In 1824, a lot on Green Street, now Second Street was purchased and a hewn-log house erected. Thomas Webb furnished the timber. The Baptists repaid the help they had received by furnishing nails, glass and materials. One account says, "In this building, old-fashioned Methodism flourished with great vigor. Some grand and glorious revivals occurred." This building was sold to the Second Baptist Church in 1840.
In 1836, a frame building was built on North Ellsworth Avenue, now a part of Broadway plaza. Attendance increased and the building was enlarged. This building was later sold to the Christian Church. In those days, it was customary to have a burial ground near the place of worship. On June 12, 1838, a one and a half acre plot was purchased at the corner of Howard and Fourth. In 1904, the trustees decided to sell the ground to the city in order to extend Fourth Street from Howard to Jennings, which was done much later. There are no records of burials on the lot. However, today a large boulder at Grandview Cemetery marks the grave of 117 people originally buried at the Howard Street Methodist Cemetery.
Sunday Schools were established in 1834 and this church had many active workers.
Bearer's of the Gospel
Circuit riders were the ministers until Salem was made a "station" in 1852.
Life was difficult for the circuit riders. Rev. Crawford was one who frequently stopped in Salem. According to one account, "As preacher his talents were of a very useful kind. Experimental and practical religion was his theme in the pulpit. He was remarkably agreeable in his manners and much loved by the people. He died in New Lisbon (Lisbon) in 1832. He was a native of Massachusetts, and he first came to the Western Reserve, where he experienced some of the romance of pioneer life. In one instance, he was obliged to pass the night in the woods with his portmanteau for a pillow, his horse hitched to a tree nearby. Before he could get to sleep, he was surrounded by a pack of howling wolves. By the snorting of his horse and his hallowing, they were scared away."
Many were the romantic experiences of the circuit riders
A Permanent Home
On June 12 1859, a brick building was dedicated on our current site. The Pittsburgh Conference was held here in Salem with Bishop Ames presiding and again in 1873 in this new brick church with Bishop Harris presiding. The East Ohio Conference met in Salem in 1888.
The 50-year-old church was tom down in 1909 and the present structure occupied in 1911. Newspapers of the day described the building as "constructed of vitrified brick, shipped, which much resembles granite. These are set in black mortar and the building trimmed with white Berea sawed stone, the building being roofed with red tile. Set with handsome art glass windows, the building makes a handsome appearance from the outside."
The building cost $38,542.46. Only $19,478.50 had been paid or subscribed before the dedication. The church had secured an $18,000, 6 percent loan from Mount Union College in August 1910 which was paid off in February 1920. The building was dedicated on April 3, 1911.
Bishop Berry of Buffalo, New York, delivered the dedication sermon. He said the previous building was "a magnificent structure that in time failed to measure up to the demands and needs of the congregation." He also stated that he had "never seen as nice a one built for the money…this church is easily a $50,000 church."
The church board divided the needed $19,000 into shares, 800 at $25 each, to be sold that day before the formal dedication could take place. Following the sermon, all remained seated while the sale of the shares was conducted. Contributions came as rapidly as collectors went through -the audience. Among contributors was the Ladies Aid Society, who three times accepted 40 shares, 120 in all, and the Sunday School, which took 80 shares. These were to be paid at the rate of $1 per share per month.
Early records tell us that the small room at the balcony's south end and above the choir loft at the west end had a small sliding window to enable mothers to retire to the room with their children.
The huge plaster of Paris chandelier, originally installed in the sanctuary, came crashing down on Saturday afternoon in the late 1940s when no one was present. The only casualties were a few pews that were later repaired, but still carry a few scars. New lights were installed underneath the balcony around the sanctuary along with the new ceiling lights. The wooden cross at the rear of the pulpit was made by Harvey Bates for the United Methodist Women in memory of Mary Longsworth, wife of Rev. William Longsworth.
A Significant Development
This is an Akron Plan Building. The man who designed the first Akron plan church was the founder of Chatauqua, New York. After the Civil War, there was great emphasis on Sunday School and the unified Sunday School teaching approach, trying to come up with a new plan to have the different classes separated and also be able to share a common space as well for portions applicable to all.
congregation of faith
First United Methodist Church