In 1841 German immigrants in Marion County organized a church and called Rev. J. Van Linger to lead and pastor them. Worship services were held in the courthouse for about three years until our first building was constructed on North State Street.
In 1883, Salem moved to a new brick building at our present location. At about the same time Salem’s new home was being built, the old Marion County Courthouse was being torn down. The bell in the courthouse was returned to the members of Salem and donated for the belfry in our new building. During its years of service at the courthouse and church, the bell tolled the deaths of Eber Baker in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and President Warren G. Harding in 1923.
In June of 1940 the Evangelical Synod Of North America merged with the Reformed Church and Salem became known as Salem Evangelical and Reformed Church. Then in 1957 the Evangelical and Reformed Church joined with the Congregational Christian Churches to create the denomination known today as the United Church of Christ. As a result of differing theology, Salem left the UCC and joined the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference in the fall of 2003 and became known as Salem Evangelical Church.
In 1965 the sanctuary seating arrangement was altered and new pews were purchased. At that time the old parsonage next door was turned into a parish house to house the pastor’s office, the church office, the church library, and Sunday School classrooms.
As part of our Sesquicentennial celebration in 1991, the bell was permanently mounted for display in the front yard of the church where it can be seen by all who pass. A bronze plaque describes its’ place in the history of Marion County.
Salem has been known as “The Old Rooster Church” because a rooster once was atop the steeple reminiscent of the tradition of Protestant Churches in Germany. The original rooster was taken down when the present front of the building was remodeled in 1927. This rooster in encased in the front of the church. A new rooster was dedicated and installed on a perch to the right of the Church Street entrance on June 3, 1979.
Salem Evangelical Church has continued to serve the Lord and proclaim the message of Jesus Christ to the Marion community through 160 plus years.