Salem United Methodist Church

Our Church History

by: Mrs. Coleen Mister

Church Historian

Salem United Methodist Church

                    While Salem was not the first church in Newtown (Pocomoke), it was the first Methodist Church.  The Presbyterians erected a church made of logs at the foot of the present Willow Street in the 1680's, but abandoned it when the Pitts Creek Church was erected near Beaver Dam about 1735.  The Salem Chapel, built in 1808, occupied the site of the present Salem Church at the southwest corner of Cedar Hall Road (now known as Second and Walnut Streets).  Prior to this time societies were formed and religious services were held in private homes.  The church was a small frame building only 30 x 32 feet in dimensions with seven windows, a gallery for the slaves, and seats made of thick boards laid on blocks of wood and lighted by candles.  A stove was donated by one of the women and the pulpit was built up against the wall to the rear of the building like a large birdcage.  It had three doors, two in front and one at the side leading out into the graveyard that surrounded the church.  Until Bethany Methodist Cemetery was purchased in 1836, the ground around the Salem church was the only cemetery in the small village and was a general burying ground for the inhabitants of the village, regardless of their religious belief.

                    As Salem was the only church in Newtown from 1808 until 1834, a large number of people attended the services.  At times, there would be as many people outside the chapel as inside the building.  Services were conducted once every two weeks by a curcit pastor who earned $60 per year ... As the congregation grew, a new building was needed.  The second church building, erected on the site of the original chapel in 1856, was 30 by 45 feet, with one door front facing Second Street.  A graceful spire surmounted the building, in which the first bell was hung.  There were two aisles, between which was a middle block of pews, each aisle being flanked by shorter pews extending to the respective side walls of the church.  Globe bodied coal burning stoves heated the building, lighted by kerosene.  There was a gallery in the interior across the front from which the choir sang.  During the time of this church, Lt. James H. Vincent came to town and organized the first choir.  In 1868 a reed organ was added.

                    At the turn of the century, it became apparent to the early pastors that an entirely new structure was needed.  The building remodeled in 1886 was completely demolished.  Many tombstones marking the graves of persons buried surrounding the old church were transferred to the Salem Cemetery on Clarke Avenue Extended.  However, the foundation was constructed over the graves of many former adherents of the church.  The structure was a Pompeian style brick building 60 x 119 feet erected with a proportionate tower.  The pews were arranged amphitheater style; a Sunday School room was added with a separate vestibute and folding doors opening into the sanctuary to accommodate the largest gathering of any church in town.  A new pulpit replaced the old one and the old windows were replaced by memorial windows of stained translucent glass.  During the time of this construction the congregation met in the Town Hall.  This building was dedicated in 1905 and remains as a monument to Methodism in Pocomoke City.