Salem UMC celebrates 148th anniversary
This month marks the 148th anniversary of Salem United Methodist Church located at 402 West John Street.
The history of the church began when the Methodist Episcopal Church for African Americans was organized during the annual Mississippi Mission Conference held in Louisiana in December of 1865.
During the conference Salem Mission was established in 1868 in an Orange house which is not the site of The Oaks townhomes.
Salem United Methodist didn’t have a regular preacher and Rev. Arthur Robinson, a Baptist minister, conducted the services. In 1869, the finally had a full time minister when Rev. Joseph Hardin arrived from Galveston. Hardin was a horseback rider in the rodeo circuit and with the money he had earned enabled him to help the church financially.
Fully organized in 1873, the church was named Salem Episcopal Church. Four years later a portion of the property on John and Third Streets was acquired where the church is presently located. The original deed notes the trustees acting on behalf of the church were Gabe Elkins, Pierre Ross, Jospeh Henderson, Henry Briley and Clem Green.
During the same year, a school was started for black children and housed in Mount Zion Church. In 1883, the school was moved to Salem and remained there for several years.
Both Salem and Mount Zion provided their facilities for the use of the baccalaureate and commencement services for black high school graduates.
The small frame house built on the property soon became inadequate for the growing congregation. During 1903 to 1914, Rev. S.W. Johnson spearheaded fundraising efforts for another wooden frame building which was constructed a few years later.
However, when Rev. J.S. Blue took over the pastoral duties in 1921, his first task was to brick the structure. The brick work was completed in 1923.
Not only is he known for getting the brick work done, but is also known for his long and “spiritual” church sermons. Before the senior citizens center was built, Salem UMC was where the senior nutrition center was held.
Too worn for repair, the farm house was demolished and replaced by a three room brick building in 1969.
During a 1968 conference in Dallas, a merger with united the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Bretheren Church and became what is known as today, Salem United Methodist Church.
The brick building was destroyed by fire in 1968 and the current building was completed and consecrated on March 18. 1973.
Rev. Clarence Breaux started in 1973 and remained as the minister for 20 years and is said to have stayed the longest amount of time.
The Salem United Methodist Church continues in the traditions of its founders with programs of service and worship.