New Salem - Universalist Church

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The Universalist Church in New Salem owes its existence principally to the earnest efforts of Daniel Fisher and David Preble (two laymen whose wives were sisters), and a few zealous friends who aided their efforts. They were among the early settlers of the town, and are gratefully remembered for what they were, and what they did to benefit society, for they have both gone to their final rest. Their dwelling houses were open for religious worship in the early days when church accommodations were wanting, and the ministers of other forms of faith besides their own held services in them.

Among the early advocates of Universalism who preached in New Salem and vicinity, were Revs. Abel Chandler, William Garnage; E. Manford and Father Wolf Time last mentioned was a Dunkard or German Baptist, who believed in the final salvation of all souls. The first seeds of the Universalist faith were sown principally by these men. Mr. Gamage was the first Universalist minister who had continuous appointments in the vicinity of New Salem. He probably preached in Mr. Fisher's house in 1849, and held services once a month for some two or three years. He resided a part of the time in Naples, and a part of the time in Barry and depended principally upon school-teaching for his sup. The soil here was favorable to the growth of the Universalist faith as is shown by the eagerness of the people to obtain that kind of religious reading. For when the Universalist State Missionary, Rev. W. E. Reily, visited New Salem, in the month of August, 1851 to preach on Sunday, but was prevented from holding religious services by a heavy rain storm that prevailed at the time, he sold twelve dollars worth of Universalist books.

When school houses were built, and religious services were held in them, the appointment for a Universalist meeting sometimes created bitter opposition. and to avoid this, Messrs. Fisher and Freble concluded to make the attempt to build a church edifice, though the friends were neither numerous nor wealthy. They said we will get what help we can, and what is lacking we will pay ourselves. Mr. Fisher bought the land on which the church stands, and afterward deeded to the society, and the present church building, valued at $2,5OO, was completed and dedicated the 17th of December 1854.

Rev. D. R. Biddlecome had been engaged to preach every other Sabbath, a short time before the dedication of the church, and he preached the dedication sermon. He continued his labors for two years and a half, and organized a Church August 5, 1855. A part of this time he occupied three-fourths of his time in New Salem, though he resided at Griggsvihle.

In the spring of 1857, Rev. A. M. Worden was engaged as Pastor, and continued his pastorate for six years, preaching one-half of the time in New Salem, and the other half in Barry; except the last year, when he preached all the time in New Salem. He resided all the time, except the last year, in Barry. The Sunday School was commenced during his pastorate in the summer of 1862.

Rev. William Gamage was engaged to teach the village school, in the fall of 1866, and was employed to preach every other Sunday in New Salem for two years.

During the years 1872 - 3 and, 75, Rev. John Hughes preached one Sabbath a month here. The Church was re-organized during his ministry. He never resided in the parish, but usually came on Saturday and left on Monday, and of course had not much opportunity to do parish work, though he had large congregations. The strength of the parish at that time was 20 families, 30 church members, and a Sunday-school of scholars and teachers.

Rev. T. H. Tabor supplied for the parish one Sunday in a month for six months during the summer of 1876. In the month of December, 1878, he returned to New Salem, held services every evening for a week, and the Sabbath previous and the Sabbath after these week meetings. During these meetings 27 new members united with the Church.

Mr. Tabor was engaged to preach for the parish one-half of the time in March, 1879, and is now the resident Pastor. The reported strength of the parish at the commencement of the year 1880 was 58.
Source: [History of Pike County Chapman & Co. 1880 (People/Towns/Religion/)