LAVACA COUNTY, TEXAS
This history of the Salem Baptist Church, contributed by David Lampley, was prepared for the church's centennial which was observed July 14, 1957. Lampley is a descendant of A. Upchurch.
The Salem Baptist Church 100 years Ago - To The Present Date 
By: Mrs. Lynn Smothers
Since the general colonization laws of Mexico prohibited Protestant worship in Mexican Texas, it was not until after the Texas Revolution that neighborhood worship in the Protestant faith manifested itself in any great proportions. Actually, it was not until the independence of Texas was established that settlers of the Protestant faith began to establish churches in Lavaca County. Because the population of Texas was chiefly rural in the beginning, the first churches were located in rural communities.
The history of the Salem Baptist Church can be traced back to a period preceding the Civil War, the first known record having August 6th, 1859, as its date in the minutes. Following is an account of the minutes in their entirety:
"County of Lavaca and State of Texas, minutes of Salem Baptist Church, Saturday before the first Sunday in August A. D. 1859. Conference opened by prayer. On motion Bro. J. Lance chosen moderator protem. On motion A. Upchurch chosen clerk. On motion H. Crocker is recognized as deason of the church, he being an ordained deacon. Then the church agreed to petition admittance into the Colorado Association. Bro. Upchurch requested to write the associational letter. H. Crocker elected delegate and Upchurch alternate. The church proceeded to the election of a pastor, which election resulted in the unanimous choice of Eld. W. H. Holland. Bro. Lance appointed to bear the news to Eld. W. H. Holland. On motion adjourned."
Henry Crocker was recognized as a deacon of the church. However, in an account of the life story of the Rev. H. Crocker as related to a friend, the following statement is made: "In 1858 we organized a missionary Baptist Church where I lived at Salem, and built a house of worship. The membership being very poor and only six in number, the church grew very slowly for quite a time."
The 1956 minutes of the Guadalupe Association state 1857 as the year that Salem organized. However, it matters not whether it was 1857 or 1859; there was a beginning, and a few determined people called Baptists had made a step forward in carrying on the work of the Kingdom of God.
The following is an account written by J. M. Woldrop for dedication services of Salem Church in 1903:
"At what time the first house of worship was built, I have no record. The house was destroyed by fire in the year about 1873 or 1874. The house was rebuilt in 1874 or 1875. The building committee was as follows: Wiley Henry G. S. Parr, Stephen Kite, W. R. Parr, I. N. Reid, Luke Presnell and M. B. McCoy. No record of the cost. The same dimensions 30 feet X 40 feet. The same was sold to the school trustees, was torn down, moved and rebuilt for a school house. The present house was built in 1902, at the cost of $582.72. Building committee J. A. Bosworth, J. E. Reagan, Newton Leslie, J. M. Reagan, and J. P. Parr. Present membership 101- total membership since it organized 531. - Respectfully submitted, J. M. Woldrop."
Rev. H. Crocker of Hill County and Rev. Lee Green of Hallettsville assisted in the dedication service. This same building is in use today with the exception of two Sunday School rooms which were added in 1951.
Many practices of the early churches have long been abandoned. Many incidents which would sound humorous today are indicated in the minutes of the old record, some of which have been brought out in great detail.
Among the more amusing incidents cited in one record of 1866 was that of bringing a member before the church for her "contumacy," said contumacy having been her refusal to return 5 lbs. of coffee which she had borrowed because the lender's son owed her $2.50.
Another was when a man was brought before the church for "Taking up and working a brute whose owner he did not know."
Summer revivals were a traditional practice of nearly all of the early churches, according to church histories. These gatherings were then known as "protracted camp meetings." They were called camp meetings because people who lived great distances from the church camped at the spot where services were to be held, usually under a brush arbor, for a period of a week or ten days. At such times men were assigned duties to be performed during the week of activities. For instance, at one of these camp meetings at Salem in 1899 conducted by Rev. M. M. Bronson and assisted by McDonald, it was the duty of G. J. Livergood, J. W. Hogan, John Wilson, John McNeill and J. F. Koonce to build a brush arbor. J. M. Woldrop was assigned to superintend the hauling of water for the ten day meeting. And keep the way clear of horses and wagons between the church and arbor.[sic.] At this meeting, John McNeill was ordained at the water's edge where the church had met to attend the order of baptism.
Not only have summer revivals played an important part in the history of the development of Salem Church, but two other outstanding events have become traditional down through the years, this custom having its beginning in 1926, and a similar occasion observed on Thanksgiving Day, which was begun in 1943.
Although the church itself, is of the greatest importance, it would be difficult for its members to carry on their work successfully without the assistance of the young people who need to be trained for the perpetuation of this great religious work which had its beginning so many years ago.
The answer to this was the Sunday School, and B.Y.P.U. The first meeting of Sunday School in the available records was when John McNeill tendered his resignation as superintendent of Sunday School in 1902, which gives evidence of a Sunday School then in existence, but there is no record of when it was officially organized. Our present B.T.U. was organized by Rev. L. M. Porche in 1950. However, B.Y.P.U. meetings were held as early as the 1920's, according to some of our members.
Salem Church has not always had services every Sunday in the month. From the time of its beginning until the year 1939 church services were held once a month. Then in 1939, the pastor began holding services twice a month. It was as late as February 1950, that Salem obtained a full time pastor, and the church has been fortunate in maintaining a full-time pastor up to the present time.
The history of Salem Baptist Church would be quite incomplete without listing as far as we are able the pastors who have faithfully and devotedly served here. It is mainly through their untiring efforts that we have maintained a church. The pastors listed in the order of their services are as follows:
W. H. Holland
G. S. Perry
E. W. Nelson
W. H. Holland
C. E. Stephen
H. C. Crocker
(ordained at Salem)
F. D. Cook
B. F. McDonald
J. C. Thomas
B. F. Miller
S. M. Hollan
E. F. McDonald
G. W. Newsome
J. W. Stephen
J. T. Hollan
P. T. Brown
J. J. Rice
(1915) - 43
E. W. Mahler
T. L. Neely
T. R. Thomas
L. O. Engleman
W. C. Chavers
R. M. Porche
R. P. Odom
(Ordained at Salem)
Not to be forgotten are the many people in the church who have worked faithfully through the years with the pastors, whose names have not been mentioned in this history, and who are to be commended for their share in carrying on the work of the Kingdom of God.
Following is a list of deacons and clerks including dates:
The deacons, showing the date ordained, are H. Crocker; Philip Bishop, 1860; B. Williams, 1864; Rheubin Brown, 1864; H. W. Long, 1866; Thomas Reagan, 1869 (ordained minister in 1870); G. A. Merchant, 1869; H. Woldrop, 1869; John Hogan, 1879; W. J. Miller, 1888; A. J. Wilson, 1888; John Neill, 1889; Ed. Meyers, 1922; Jim Jones, 1922; Will Reagan, 1922; Albert Evans, 1951; Jeff Roden, 1941; Jim Harrell, 1941, and Julius Sralik, 1941.
The clerks of the church, showing dates, are as follows:
A. Upchurch, 1859; H. Crocker, 1860; B. A. Merchant, 1865; J. S. Holloway, 1866; H. Waldrop, 1868; C. B. Ballard, 1870; G. S. Parr, 1875; Stephen Kite, 1881; J. M. Waldrop, 1888; P. J. Parr, 1900; Katie Parr, 1904; Ed. Meyer, 1914; J. E. Chambers, 1922; H. B. Parr, 1923, and Emma Jones, 1933.
First sexton was Bro. J. W. Hogan from 1895 - 1896 for $10 a year. First Treasurer was Bro. Wm. R. Parr elected in August 1861.
The present officers of the church are: Pastor L. G. Rogers; Clerk, Lillie Hobbs; Deacons, T. J. Roden, Julius Sralik, Ed. Meyers; Treasurer, Juel York; Sunday School Superintendent, Lynn Smothers; Training Union Director, Mrs. T. J. Roden; Pianist, Mrs. Emma Jones (who has served faithfully for many years); Song Leader, Mr. H. B. Parr.
The total membership of the church on June 1st, 1957, was 45 active members, 46 non-resident, making a total of 91.
Throughout the history of the Salem Church there has been and still is a true manifestation of loyalty and adherence to the principles of the church, notwithstanding minor disagreements, financial reverses, or other hindrances. Although most of the rural churches have either been abandoned or have been [absorbed] by larger churches, the church at Salem is still in [existence] because of the prayers and faithfulness of its members and friends.