PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE LIBRARY
SMC 285. 175 74 St8 SBTA
Historical sketch of SalemChurch : the
3 5197 00106435 4
SYn yjh Collecjioyi a\ o. C
*o.8MJ2£?f O c
THE ORIGIN OF
"OLD" AND "NEW SALEM"
J. L. STRAIN
AND READ BEFORE ENOREE PRESBYTERY AT SAI,EM CHURCH
*<fpnit, a. e.
THE ORIGIN OF
"OLD" AND "NEW SALEM'*
J. L. STRAIN
AND READ BEFORE ENOREE PRESBYTERY AT SAEEM CHURCfi
VME LEDGER PRINf
aiFFNEV, •. e.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF SALEM CHURCH
The history of Salem church is a
history of which this and all future
generations may well be proud. Far,
far back, before the beginning of the
last century this country was com-
paratively a wilderness with only
here, there and yonder an Anglo
Saxon home. Savage Indians and
wild beasts were plentiful. Broad
river was the dividing line between
the Cherokee and Catawba tribes of
Principally from Pennsylvania,
Maryland and Virginia, in about the
year 1750, the tide of emigration set
in and brought various colonies of
sturdy Scotch-Irish settlers who
found homes in Mecklenburg, (N. C),
York, Chester and Fairfield counties,
of this State.
Many of them settled in Western
York in the Bullock's creek valley,
and the sections contiguous thereto
along Broad river, and not a few
settled on the western side of that
stream. By blood consanguinity and
marital relationship, they were more
or less people with one interest. All
having imbibed that spirit which
more or less caused their ancestors
to seek homes in the western world,
where they could enjoy both civil and
Revs. Azel Roe and John Chose
who were sent out by the Synods of
New York and Pennsylvania as mis-
sionary evangelists about the year
17G5, were really the first minis-
ters who ever advocated, taught or
published Presbyterianism in upper
South Carolina, and to these servants
of the most high God, we trace the
origin of Salem church.
These pioneer ministers organized
on the waters of Bullock's creek in
York county two churches — one near
the mouth where it empties into
Broad river, and the other near its
head waters. These they called re-
spectively Dan and Beersheba. After-
wards the congregation concluded to
change the name of the former to
"Bullock's Creek," which name it re-
tains to this day. Of the history of
these two divines and the work they
did before, during and just after the
Revolutionary war I would like to
speak. It forms the warp and woof
of Presbyterianism as it exists in both
principal and policy today. Whether
they or their friends ever realized the
far-reaching results of their labors in
upper South Carolina, we are unable
to say. But we must not overlook
the mustard seeds of history for
tradition is that Bullock's Creek.
Beersheba, Bethel and Bethesda (all
in York county) were organized about
the same time — during the vears 17G5
We must not forget the fact that
to be a Presbyterian in those days
was to be a "Whig," and the four B's
— Bullock's Creek, Beersheba, Bethel
and Bethesda, with their strongly
interlaced congregations stood like
grim sentipa^ate Upon the four cor-
ners of the territory now comprising
York county. To the first of which
the people of Salem were closely al-
lied by the strongest ties of social,
political and religious affinities.
Salem at that time was part of Bul-
lock's Creek congregation to which
grand old mother it owes its pater-
nity. These several churches were
the Mizpahs where the patriots ral-
lied for the struggle at Hanging Rock,
the pursuit of the infamous Huck
at Brattonsville, and to join the lion-
hearted Williams at King's Mountain.
and the brave Morgan at. Cowpens, or
to follow the Swamp Fox into the la-
goons on the Pee Dee — all for that
boon, civil and religious liberty
which we so highly prize today.
The history of Bullock's Creek is
largely, if not entirely, the history of
Salem. To divorce the two would be
to separate the mother from the child.
We can't well disassociate them, and
allow either to retain its individual-
ity. It would simply be a contradic-
tion of terms. It's sufficiently under-
stood that the Salem congregation
was formed principally, if not entire-
ly, from the Bullock's Creek congre-
gation. Most, if not all the territory
now embraced in the Salem congrga-
tion, belonged to or was part of the
Bullock's Creek congregation. A ride
or drive of ten, twelve or even twen-
ty miles, was no barrier to the de-
vout spirits which gave to Presby-
trianism the impetus it attained in the
early days of our republic, and which
has ever marked the career of the
ti-ue followers of John Calvin.
Of the early history of Salem as a"
church but little is positively known,
further than about the year 1804
a group of Presbyterians, some of
whom held their membership at Bul-
lock's Creek, came together and with
the assistance of Rev. Wm. C. Davis,
organized a body of worshippers,
which afterwards took the name of
Salem church. For several years
previously, this little group (for they
were small, numerically) worshipped
without a house, meeting at different
homes in the neighborhood which
were friendly to them and their work.
This has always been considered the
initial step in organizng the church
which today we are called upon to
celebrate the one hundreth anniver-
Rev. Wm. C. Davis was the first
pastor of Salem church. Although
Rev. Joseph Alexander had preached
here to the group of persons who
composed its first membership, yet
he never lived to see the first house
erected in which they worshipped as
as organized church.
Dr. Joseph Alexander was pastor of
Bullock's Creek church from about
year of 17G9 to 1806 — three years be-
fore his death. He preached to the
Salem people as a body, but in pri-
vate houses in this community as
early as 1790. After the death of
Rev. Joseph Alexander, Rev. W. C
Davis was called to the pastorate of
Salem. In fact, he (Davis) took up
the work of Dr. Alexander and
preached at Bullock's Creek as well
Just here I will quete from a letter of
Judge Sam W. Williams, now of Lit-
tle Rock, Ark., who is a son of Rev.
Aaron Williams, who was at one
time pastor of Salem church. Judge
Sam W. Williams was also a nephew
of Rev. Wm. C. Davis, the first pastor
of Salem. This letter was written
form Little Rock, Ark., to Mrs. Mar-
tha E. Smarr under date of January
lGth, 1899. He says:
"Dr. Alexander, who died in 1809,
had grown so feeble that he resigned,
and Rev. Wm. C. Davis was called
as pastor, and about 1810 he organiz-
ed Salem and they built a large frame
church on the Union side of Broad
river, on an elevation just back of
the old Hamilton place, where a Mr.
Bstes lived In 1880. After crossing
Broad river from the York side, we
used to turn to the right nearly in
front of Mrs Bankhead's, near the
top of the hill, and cross a ravine by
a path to go to this church which in
my childhood's first recollection
(about 1832) was called old Salem,
while the newer building — newer in
1832 — which-stood to the left-hand side
of the big road as we came up from
the ferry, near, or at the top of the
hill or ascent from the river, was call-
ed new Salem. Uncle Wm. C. Davis,
shortly after organizing Salem, es-
tablished the Independent Pres-
byterian church. His followers at
Salem were strong enough to hold
the church edifice and afterwards the
old school people built the new build-
ing at the place I have indicated — to
the left of the big road as we came
up from the ferry."
It's not essential in this sketch for
me to refer to this action of Rev. Wm.
C. Davis, mentioned by Judge Wil-
liams, as declaring independence
and establishing the Independent
Presbyterian church. Suffice it to say;
parenthetically: The doctrine he
preached and for which he was de-
posed, was contrary to the standard
of the Presbyterian church, to wit:
That the active obedience of Christ
was not imputed to the believer, but
only his passive obedience. Also that
faith was previous to regeneration.
But all differences have now been
amicably settled and the church is
now a unit on the great principles
and doctorines of Presbyterianism —
especially a unit in the south. Further
on in his letter Judge Williams says:
"In 1817 my father, Aaron Williams, as
a licentiate, was employed to preach
at Bullock's Creeek. where the old
sides were the strongest and held the
old church, while the "Independents"
' ^^^ built a new house near the P-iaekn-ey-
/V "* J " V vilie road, where they all worship
now. The old house stood near the
graveyard. In 1819 my father was
called as pastor and ordained in Au-
gust of that year.
Father, shortly after this, accepted
a call from Salem for a part of his
rive, and he preached there until he
resigned the pastorate of both in
1834. It was while father was preach-
ing at Salem, I suppose, that the new
Salem house was built. It was a good
long, large, frame house with a large
entrance at the end way from the
river, and an aisle from it to a cross
aisle that ran in front of the pulpit
at right angles with the big road;
there was a side door, a large one,
at the end of this cross aisle.
In this house I was baptized by
Rev. John B. Davis, 70 years ago, or
During the time (or part of the
time) Rev. Aaron Williams preached
at Salem be taught the Hopewell
academy, later kno,-n as the Dr.
Wright 'place where he then lived.
In 1S32 or 1833 Rev. Daniel Baker
held a revival meeting in the new
Salem building and there were many
professions of religion made, among
them Miss Harriet Newell Wil-
liams, a daughter of Rev. Aaron Wil-
liams, who died within a year after-
wards and lies buried at Bullock's
Creek graveyard. After the resigna-
tion of Rev. Aaron Williams as pas-
tor of Salem Rev. W. B. Davis, who was
then serving Beersheba, was called
for one-half of his time to Bullock's
Creek and he could only give each
fifth Sabbath to Salem. In this way
the church languished for the want
of spiritual food — the preaching of
the gospel — until in 1837 or 1838 the
church, (of which Robert Lush was
the only surviving elder), petitioned
Presbytery to dissolve it, which was
done November 2nd, 1838, and the
members mostly, if not altogether.
went back to Bullock's Creek.
That the harmony of the church
had been seriously disturbed by the
erroneous doctrines of Rev. Wm. C.
Davis, may well be taken for granted.
It caused hard or unfriendly feel-
ings among neighbors and friends
that were never settled or compro-
mised. Soon after the dissolution of
Salem church — November 2nd, 1838 —
the star of hope made its appearance
above the horizon and shed its lustre
upon the apparent ruins of the church
and Robert Lusk, in April 1840, was
sent with a petition to Bethel Pres-
bytery to have the church reorganiz-
ed. This was granted and Saturday.
May 30, 1840, was the time set foi
that work to be done.
Rev. John B. Davis and.Rev. J
H. Saye were appointed a committee
f o effect the organization. Rev. Mi
Saye being providentially hindered
from attending, Rev. John B. Davis
proceeded to organize the church.
At this meeting the following »vhite
persons presented certificates from
other Presbyterian churches, to wit:
Robert Lusk, Martha. Lusk, Ms
Martin, Martha Bankhead. Jane
Smarr, Caroline Walker, Samuel
Davidson, John G. Davidson. R. G
Davidson, Jane Davidson, Sarah E.
Davidson, Elizabeth Plaxico, Esther
S. Lewis, Ann Cain, Elizabeth Wil-
liams, Eliza Ann Williams, Theodore
Williams, Nancy Hemphill, William
Plaxico, Elizabeth Plaxico, Elizabeth
Robinson, James Meek,- Elizabeth
. Martha Leech, Mariah Leech.
Martin Leech, Jr., Z. D. Hemphill.
Elizabeth Greer, Mary E. Plaxico, and
the blacks were: Nancy, Jonah.
Anthony and Becca. Wm. Plaxico, Jno.
G. Davidson, Robert G. Davidson and
Robert Lusk. were elected ruling
elders. Robert Lusk, elder at Bul-
lock's Creek, was installed a ruling el-
der at Salem and Messrs. Pi.
and the two Davidsons were ordain* I
and installed ruling elders, also. The
church being formally organized was
placed under the care of Bethel Pr<
bytery May 31, 1840. On this same
day the sacrament of the Lord's Sup-
per was administered by Rev. John
The first meeting of the church ses-
sion was held September 26th, 1840,
and kept open until the next day —
September 27th. Rev. Wm. B. Davis
was chosen moderator and Robert
Lusk was elected church clerk. Wm.
Plaxico, Jr., Dr. Samuel Wright and
his wife, Mrs. Elvira Wright, came
before the session and upon giving
satisfactory evidence of piety, were
received into the church as members.
At the beginning of the session that
morning, William Gillis, infant son
r of John G. Davidson, and Martha El-
vira, infant daughter of William
Plaxico, received the ordiha^on of
baptism, Rev. Wm. G. Davidson, offi-
ciating. I mention these facts to
show who were the first members re-
ceived into the church and the first
infants to be baptized after the re-
organization of the church in 1840.
Rev. Wm. Banks was the first min-
ister called to the pastorate of the
church, but in failing to get him, a
call was made for Rev. A. H. Mon-
roe, of Unionville, a licentiate of
Harmony Presbytery. It was placed
in his hands at an adjourned meeting
of Presbytery held at Bethel, No-
vember 11th, 1840, and on the 8th of
December following. Rev. Mr. Mon-
roe entered upon the duty of supply-
ing Salem in connection with Union-
ville church. He lived at Union and
preached at Salem in 1841 and 1842.
During his pastorate the following
names were added to the church roll:
Williamson Howell and Sophia How-
ell, his wife, Nancy Walker, Wright
Walker, John Goudelock, Wm. Mitch-
ell and wife, Violet, Rachel Carothers.
Margaret Parker, Hannah McCulloch
and John Murry.
On August Gth, 1841, the Church
session with Mr. Monroe moderator,
adopted the following resolution:
"Resolved. That all persons wishing
occasional communion shall come
through the session, and after being
examined by it and received, shall be
entitled to commune as long as they
evince to the world by a Godly walk
and conversation that they are Chris-
tians." This was repealed by the ses-
sion August 4th, 1844, under the pas-
torate of Rev. Ferdinand Jacobs, who
had succeeded Mr. Monroe. With the
repeal of this resolution one was al-
so adopted dispensing with the use
of tokens and the new Hymn book
approved by the general assembly
was adopted by the church.
At the time Rev. Ferdinand Jacobs
was called to the pastorate of Salem
in 1843 he was teaching school at
In 1845 the session was composed
of Robert Lusk, Robert G. Davidson
and William Plaxico. The church
got permission to employ Rev. Joseph
Hillhouse as pastor for part of his
time. He served until the close of
1847 when he was succeeded by Rev.
Mr. Beard, who supplied the church
once a month during 1848. Occasion-
ally supplies were sent the church
during 1849, during which yean Rev.
P. E. Bishop held the communion ser-
vice in July, and in December the
board of domestic missions was peti-
tioned to assist Rev. Wm. Savage the
On October 26th, 1846, Elder Robert
Lusk and his family, including several
slaves owned by him, were dismissed
by letter to join church in
Mississippi, whither they had gone.
This, I neglected to mention in con-
nection with Rev. Mr. Hillhouse's
pastorate. The removal of Elder
Lusk created a vacancy on the bench
of elder and on the 25th day of June,
1847, Newton Plaxico and Dr. Samuel
Wright were elected elders. Dr.
Wright declined to serve as he had
such a large and extensive practice of
medicine that he thought he could
not discharge the duties of the office.
Newton Plaxico accepted and was or-
dained and installed as ruling elder
by Rev. James H. Saye, June 26th,
1847. John S. Plaxico (who was
familiarly known as Old Steady), was
elected and ordained elder by Rev.
William Savage, September 27th, 1850.
It might be well, just here, to go
back a little in order to correct any
errors that may exist in the mind of
any about the organization of this
church — as to the time and condition
under which it was effected. This
error might arise from our using the
terms, "Old Salem" and "New Salem,"
when really new Salem, so called, was
the parent church ami 'Old Salem"
the offspring or out-growth of the In-
dependent movement inaugurated by
Rev. Wm. C. Davis and his follower.?.
These terms, or rathe.- names, apply
to the houses of worship and not to
the bodies of worshippers — to the
church militant and not the church
triumphant— to the church outwardly
rather than inwardly.
The reason we call it "Old Salem"
is because the followers of Rev. Wm.
C. Davis, when he declared "Inde-
pendence," were the stronger faction
of the church (if that is the proper
term or word to use in this connec-
tion), and they held the building, and
so the other or minor part of the con-
gregation had to build the new house.
This gave rise to the terms "Old" and
During the late war, or more par-
ticularly during its closing days or
weeks, while the Federals were going
through our State spreading terror,
desolation, devastation and doom
over our Sunny Southland, and de-
fenseless old men, women and chil-
dren were being driven to strangers
for a miserable shelter from the in-
clemency of the season, when all
valuables and valuable records were
being hidden out so as to escape the
touch and torch of the chiefest in-
cendiary of the age — the vandals of
the nineteenth century — the records
of Salem church suffered irreparable
injury, and some of its most important
history was forever lost beyond hu-
man power or control. Though they
were not secured by- the marauding
armies of Sherman and Wheeler,
yet the contending elements of na-
ture effected their ruin.
January 1, 1854, Rev. A. A. James
was called to the pastorate, supply-
ing it one half his time. The session
consisted of Colonel R. G. Davidson,
M. S. Lynn and J. S. Plaxico. Rev.
Mr. James preached here until Janu-
ary, 1859. When he commenced his
ministry there they had been wor-
shipping in a very dilapidated build-
ing. He urged them to build a new
house, but they did not think they
were able. The old church stood
about seventy-five yards west of the
present building, and Providence in-
terposed and in a severe wind storm
brought down a large pine tree, com-
pletely demolishing the building.
This occurred a few weeks af-
ter Rev. A. A. James commenced
preaching there, (1854). The In-
dependent Presbyterians were wor-
shipping in the old church, about
one-fourth of a mile north of where
the present church stands, and they
invited Rev. Mr. James to occupy
their church, which he did. The feel-
ing between the two denominations,
or perhaps we should say, congrega-
tions, had been very bitter, and after
preaching in their house and bot:i
congregations worshipping together
and communing with each other, Rev.
Mr. James ventured a proposal to
them to which they agreed, and the
result was the building of the present
house of worship in 1854. They con-
cluded they would not build in the
grove on account of storms, but ex-
changed the site of the old Indepen-
dent lot of land with Mr. Henry
Thompson for the extension of their
lot into the field where the present
house stands, and they then planted
shade trees around the building.
The pine tree which demolished the
old church opened the way for a
union between the two factions or
churches. The Independents had but
four ministers and but little pros-
nects of any increase. At a meeting
of the Presbytery in Unionville, Rev.
A. A. James offered a resolution that
r. committee be appointed to meet
with the Independents in their annual
convention and propose a union of
the two branches of the church. It
was adopted, and Rev. A. A. James
and J. Starr Moore, of the York
church, were appointed. They met
with the Independents at Olive
church in York county, and were very
cordially received, and steps were
taken toward the union of the two
branches. But the war coming on it
was delayed for some time, but finally
it was accomplished. The Indepen-
dents had only four ministers at that
time, viz.: Rev. Robert Y. Russell.
Rev. W. Washington Carothers, Rev.
J. Starkes Bailey and Rev. W. W.
Ratchford. They had in charge fit-
teen churches, which were added to
Bethel Presbytery. All praise to the
lofty pine tree and the Providence
that directed the storm.
The present house of worship was
built in 1854, and dedicated to the
worship of Almighty God. Rev. Ar-
nold W. Miller. D. D.. (at that time
pastor of Fishing Creek church, in
Chester county, and afterwards pas-
tor of the First Presbyterian church,
Charlotte, N. C), preached the de-
dicatory sermon from the text: "How
amiable are thy tabernacles, Oh.
Lord of hosts," Psalm Ixxxiv, 1.
At a meeting of the church session
held September 11, 1864, with Rev.
Robt. Y. Russell, moderator, the fol-
lowing communication was received,
and was ordered placed on the church
"Jackson Hospital. Richmond, Ya.
To the Session of Salem Church,
Union District. S. C:
This will certify that on the 25th
day of June, that I examined Joseph
I.I. Smith upon his Christian experi-
ni.l was well satisfied that he
Lad received a change of heart. I ad-
ministered to him the sacrament of
(.baptism and received him at his own
request into the Presbyterian church,
and it is at his own request that his
tia in be enrolled upon the church
took at Salem, Union District, S. C.
R. F. Payton.
F^ast Chaplain, Jackson Hospital, a
Presbyterian minister of the Synod
of Georgia and Presbytery of Cher-
In 1878 the church was re-covered.
Within a year it has been re-weather-
loarded and painted inside and out-
side. The plastering on the inside
was much damaged by the earth-
quake of August 31, 188G, but it has
L een repaired. To give a full history
of the church, with its various minis-
elders, and other officers, togeth-
er with its membership would carry
this sketch far beyond the space we
have for its publication. Deaths, re-
movals and the vicissitudes of life have
\ . ught many changes in all these.
"They have been scattered like roses
Some by the bridle and some by the
Rev. YV, H. White is at present sup-
plying the church once a month. The
elders now are, S. F. Estes, C. W.
Whisonant, T. J. Estes and J. L.
Strain The deacons are, J. W. Brown,
Jack Smarr and H. Terry Estes. The
janitor, Leslie Blackwell. There are
sixty-two members on the roll.
The Sabbath school was organized in
188G and in evergreen.
The first person buried in the cem-
tery was Mr. William Davidson. He
died June 25th, 1854. 'during the awful
epidemic of flux . Rev. A. A. James
preached his funeral, taking for his
text, "Weep not for me, but weep for
yourselves." These words are in-
scribed on the family monument in
During the pastorate of Rev. A. A.
James, and before as well as since,
large congregations attended. The
gallery was generally filled with ne-
groes at each service. This was the
case for several years after the war.
Mr. James tells a laughable inci-
dent which took place while he
preached there. By some means a
dog found its way into the gallery,
crowded with negroes. It couldn't
find its way down stairs again, but
jumped upon the parapet and looked
down upon the white congregation be-
low. An old negro woman, seeing what
was about to happen, caught it by the
tail and pulled it back. Very few of
the white people saw it and so Mr.
James had their part of the fun to him-
sell. He preached on just as if nothing
To Howe's History, Rev. A. A.
James, Mrs. Martha E. Smarr and
others, besides the sessional records,
I am indebted for the invaluable help
I got in making this sketch as full as
PRESBYTERIAN COLLEGE LIBRARY
SMC 285.175 74 St8 SBTA
Historical sketchof Salem Church : the
3 5197 00106435 4
Gaylord Bros., Inc.
Syracuse, N. Y.
PAT. JAM 21, 1908