North Salem United Methodist
Church history can be traced back to the roots of Methodism in Salem. The
original society formally met at Zion's Hill. The early meetings were
probably in the nature of class meetings after the tradition of John
Wesley and George Whitefield. Although there are no records, the most
authentic source states that the first meetings were held at the house of
Jacob Rowell, at the top of the hill in 1803. In 1805, the Rev. George
Pickering of Boston came to preach and persuaded them to organize and
secure a permanent home. In 1808 Moses Dow bequeathed in his will a fund
for the support of the proposed "society" and, in 1809, a constitution was
adopted and the society known as "the Methodist" was formed, comprised of
Salem and Windham citizens. Land was secured at the northeast corner of
Bluff Street and Zion's Hill Road. The church was built there in 1809,
known as "The Methodist Liberty Meeting House", and continued in use until
1836 when it was considered too small.
In 1832, repairs to the meeting
house were proposed and at a subsequent meeting a motion was substituted
proposing to build a new meeting house. This separated the members into
two factions and lead to the sale of the church building and its movement
to Salem Center. From this point on there were two separate divisions of
Methodists in Salem; the reorganized society at North Salem being the real
parent stock of the old society.
At the first meeting on May 10, 1836
in the old school house near the river in North Salem, the members chose a
committee to build a new meeting house at the present location on North
Main Street. This building was only one story high and had just a single
auditorium. In 1864, the church was raised and a vestry built beneath it.
This building continued to serve the church until 1909 when it was
destroyed by fire, which had started by the burning store next
Church officials met on December 11, 1909 where Jennie Taylor and
Clara Chase were named as solicitors for the rebuilding of the church.
Meetings were held in the brick schoolhouse (Palmer School) until March
1910 and then moved to the nearby fireman's hall on April 11, 1910. With
the stipulation that the church be constructed in the Tudor style,
financial aid came from Edward F. Searles of Methuen and the current
church was constructed and occupied by the last Sunday of December in
The years from 1911-1950 saw the country going through WW I, The
Great Depression, and WW II. Following WW II the influx of many young
families created another period of exploding growth. From 1955 on until
1965, a large increase in membership required the North Salem Church to
hold Sunday School classes again in the fireman's hall nearby on North
Main Street, a neighbor's kitchen, as well as the church basement which
was made into usable space in the 1970's. This was to house the 93
students and teachers of the thriving Sunday School.
leadership of the Rev. John Torosian, a part time pastor who owned a home
and a bakery in Haverhill MA, the old parsonage at 428 North Main Street
was sold in 1964. The Jenny Taylor House next to the church was purchased
to be repaired and remodeled as an educational building first and
eventually a parsonage for a full time pastor.
During the years of
1965-1975 as the baby boomer children grew and left home, the membership
was declining as well as the church building itself, and it became
necessary to borrow money from the United Methodist Conference to start
repairs until the Jenny Taylor House could be sold. The Methodist
Conference decided in 1972 that the North Salem and Hannah Tenney Memorial
churches would share a pastor, who would live in the Tenney parsonage on
321 Main Street (built in 1926) and whose expenses the two churches would
share. Beginning with Rev. John Blackadar, 1971-1976, followed by Rev.
Paul Higgins 1976-1983, Revs. Susan and Tony Jarek-Glidden 1983-1988, Rev.
Lucille Brown 1988-1993, this policy stayed in place. The North Salem
membership steadily increased to the point in 1993 a building committee
again was created to plan for growth.
In 1992, the church trustees
worked with the Sunday School superintendent and the town to found North Salem Preschool, an independently owned and
operated enterprise to utilize the lower level of the church and provide
greater exposure to the community.
In 1996, the four area United Methodist churches were
charged by the UM Conference to create the Interstate Cooperative Ministry
(ICM). This placed North Salem UMC and Hannah Tenney Memorial
at Salem Center under the direction of Rev.
Sydney Pierce with Pleasant Street UMC at Salem Depot and Faith UMC of
Methuen MA under Rev. Michael Bell, creating a new and experimental
In late 1998, a major fund-raising drive to secure a new organ
was overwhelmingly successful with the new organ being dedicated in early
The ICM continued through June 30, 1999. At this time it was
decided that geographic and philosophical constituencies were better
served by the previous church structure. Therefore on July 1, 1999, North
Salem UMC and Hannah Tenney Memorial UMC returned to their previous
arrangement of sharing a pastor and a parsonage lead by Rev James
Growth, youth, and ministry to the community continue to be
major goals of the North Salem UMC. As we enter the new millennium, a
major effort is under way to study and act upon space needs for Sunday
School classrooms, function space as well as the sanctuary.
Barratt's Chapel and Museum: The Cradle of
New England Conference - The United Methodist
Church - The Roots of