The Salem Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church of North Ebensburg experienced a humble but auspicious beginning in 1839, when a group of Welsh people held a meeting at the home of Thomas and Rachel Davis. This assemblage met for the purpose of worshipping Almighty God each week. For five years, the church services were held at the Davis home. In 1844 the church services were held at the home of Griffith and Ann Lloyd Owens, and continued there until 1854. The minister was Rev. David T. Lewis.
In 1854 the tract of land on which the present church is situated was purchased from Edward Thomas and his wife. The deed is dated June 3, 1854. In the same year, the people were encouraged in their efforts in forming a congregation in the community and decided to build a church. The members themselves cleared the ground and excavated for the foundation. The church was painted red. There was also an additional building erected where Sunday meals were served. This building was called the “Tu Bach”.
The first church having outlived its usefulness, it was decided to build a new church. The present building was erected in 1882. The contract for the work was awarded to R.R. Tibbott of Ebensburg for the sum of $750.00. The first pastor of the new church was Rev. John R. Jones of Wilkinsburg.
Salem Church became a member of the Pittsburgh Presbytery of Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Churches in 1853 and the first Presbytery meeting was held at Salem on December 22, 1860. At the Presbytery meeting held September 3, to 6, 1881, the Salem Elders reported the “peace prevailed in the church and that the young men were obedient and willing to do their part in the work of the church.”
On the night of September 18, 1924, a meeting was held for the purpose of dissolving the church. The three trustees, Messrs, John Hughes, William R. Rowland, and Robert Gittings submitted their resignations, which were accepted. Church letters were issued to the following members: Mr. and Mrs. Rowland D. Jones, Mrs. Harry Patterson, Mr. R.L. Jones, Miss Mary E. Jones and Miss Edna M. Jones. Rev. John Rhys Roberts and Mr. Evan J. Thomas both of Johnstown, and who were commissioned by the Presbytery, then declared the church dissolved.
Ours is an exceedingly rich heritage, but because of changing times it seemed best to discontinue regular services at the church. However, the memories were too many and the descendants too faithful to merely close the doors. A Homecoming Association was organized to perpetuate the memories, friends and fellowships.
The Salem Homecoming Association was organized at a meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Evans, East Homer St., Ebensburg, in May 1920. Their daughter, Mrs. Evaline Evans Jose, was elected the first president. After serving in this office faithfully for fourteen years, Mrs. Jose was elected honorary president and T. Lawrence Edwards, Jr. was chosen president at the business meeting June 2, 1934.
At a Salem business meeting in May 1927 the constitution and by-laws were accepted, the charter was read and accepted, and the Presbytery was petitioned to sell the property to our association. On May 31, 1929, the deed to the church property was presented to the association.
The One-Hundredth Anniversary of the founding of the Salem Church was observed on Saturday evening August 5 and all day Sunday August 6, 1939. The committee under the leadership of Association President T. Lawrence Edwards, Jr. presented an excellent program of services for the many former parishioners, relatives, and friends of Salem. The occasion was well remembered, fittingly observed, and in the minds of all left a lasting impression and desire that the memory of our forefathers of Salem shall forever be kept alive in our hearts.
Owing to the restrictions on the use of gasoline, the annual reunions were cancelled during the war years 1943, 1944, and 1945. Though the reunions were not held, the descendants and friends of Salem who served our country were remembered in our prayers.
The Homecoming Association meetings resumed in 1946 with T. Lawrence Edwards serving as president. Meetings were held annually the first Sunday in August until 1972, when lack of interest caused meetings to be cancelled for 10 years. In the meantime, poor health prompted T. Lawrence Edwards to resign as president, and Vice President Hugh Morris became president.
Through the initiative and enthusiasm of Hugh Morris, Lois Morris and Betty Evans the reunions were resumed in 1982 and have continued to the present –1989, when the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Salem church will be celebrated along with the 69th year of the Salem Homecoming Association.
Since the founding of the Homecoming Association only three faithful leaders have served as president – Mrs. Evaline Evans Jose, Mr. T. Lawrence Edwards Jr. and Hugh Morris.
One wedding has been held in the church in the past 69 years. Leslie Thomas and Clark Dale were married June 3, 1978. Leslie is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. D. Woods Thomas, granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Thomas and greatgranddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Woods Thomas.
The most recent baptism was held at Old Salem August 3, 1987. Matthew McWhorter son of Glen and Sara Griffith McWhorter, grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Richard N. Griffith, and great-grandson of Mr. and Mrs. John Norman Griffith was baptized by Rev. Donald Shamble of the Ebensburg Presbyterian Church.
A more complete history of Salem has been prepared and is available. The minutes book is a gold mine of information about Old Salem. There are bits of Welsh trivia and much valuable history; and we have recorded here only a small bit of a rich Welsh past. We, the 150th anniversary committee hope you will read and enjoy the history we have recorded here.
Compiled by June Griffith – August 6, 1989