History of Salem

    The Salem Missionary Baptist Church was established on August 29, 1954 in the Watson Chapel community. Her inception was the vision of Baptist pastors in the Pine Bluff Association. Those pastors included Brother C.N. Glover of Bethany, Brother W.F. Lovelady of Olive Street, Brother Bill Wiggins of First Immanuel, Brother Olin Ward of Unity, and Brother W.B. Taylor, a missionary.  These pastors began a search for land on which to build a church plant. In August 1954, Brother C.N. Glover gave $100 as earnest money to Schaffer Haley, a local realtor, for the purchase of a lot located on Sulphur Springs Road across from the Watson Chapel High School.  A revival was planned and each of the pastors from these churches preached during the week in a tent that was erected on the lot. This revival only strengthened the vision that a Missionary Baptist Church was needed in the Watson Chapel area. During that revival, nineteen people committed themselves toward beginning the new church.

     Minutes of the church indicate that the organizational meeting for the new church was held at First Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church. The other churches assisted with the organizational meeting. There were nineteen charter members present, along with twenty-four preachers and forty-one deacons, Brother C.N. Glover was the moderator. Brother D.S. Madden preached the organizational sermon.  The nineteen charter members were: Hubert and Belva Taylor, Briant and Fannie Ratliff, Marguerite Powers, Floyd and Hazel Manuel, Ida Allison, Era Ashcraft, Holland and Jean Hankins, Joe and Winnie Coleman, Mary Coleman Dixon, Helen Coleman Oliger, Nancy Naylor, Joyce Naylor, and Mavo and Marcellene Clement.  The charter membership was left open for one month following the organization. The following members were added: June Laminack, Bobby Naylor, Lewis and Ruby Schultz, Arthur and Della Jacks, Noel and Breva Scott, Charlie and Lillian Moss, J.W. Moss, J.R. and Mable Palmer, Elsie Palmer, Joyce Palmer, Brenda Palmer, Elmer and Ora Austin, Shirley Austin, Ruthie Austin, Jimmie and Bobbie Harrell, and Nellie Maroney.  Horace Laminack was the first convert to be baptized in the new church. The baptismal service was held at First Immanuel.

     On the afternoon following the organizational meeting, Brother C.N. Glover reminded the church membership that a name was needed for their new church. Brother Glover’s father, Brother Bob Glover suggested the name Salem, which means peace. The members voted to give the name SALEM to its new church.  Brother Bill Taylor became Salem’s missionary pastor on September 1, 1954. He served until June 5, 1955. Records show that the church voted to become a self-supporting body on July 3, 1955. The first full-time pastor, Brother Robert Smith came on the field at that time. Brother Smith served until January 2, 1957.   The following men have served as pastors since that time:
  • Frank Springer, February 24, 1957 – February 2, 1966
  • Glen Perry, May 1966 – May 1969
  • J.C. House, August 20, 1969 – November 5, 1969
  • Sidney McLeod, December 14, 1969 – June 9, 1971
  • W.F. Lovelady, August 1, 1971 – February 5, 1975
  • W.K. Roach, March 25, 1975 – November 16, 1980
  • Clarence Williams, March 30, 1981 – September 13, 1987
  • Howard Loetscher, December 13, 1987 – Present


     The following men have served as ordained deacons of Salem Missionary Baptist Church: Roy Fikes, H.N. Taylor, Arthur Jacks, Coy McBryde, Bruce McEntire, Earl Appling, Tony Morris, Cleet Harper, Barton Elmore, Danny Knight, Johnny Miller, Mack Sinclair, Henry Smith, Boyd Varnell, O.W. Taylor, George Thompson, C.G. Eastwood, Noel Scott, William Ashcraft, Charles Taylor, and E.E. Wentz.

Brother Hoyette Johnson, Brother Jimmy Harrell, Brother Harmon Reeves, Brother Norman Ross, Jr. and Brother Dee Webb have ordained as ministers of the gospel by Salem Missionary Baptist Church.

     According to record, the members of Salem finished paying for the land after the tent revival. Offerings taken during the revival were given to the church to begin a building. The concrete slab was poured in September, 1954. Although the building was not completed, services were held in the new building “before winter” of 1954. This phase of the building program consisted of a two-story brick building. The downstairs served as the auditorium, while the second floor contained classrooms.

     Some interesting facts show that, following the completion of the first phase, rafters for a new sanctuary were raised on Thanksgiving Day 1957. The blocks and the brocks for the building were laid by Mr. Wille Adams. The baptistery was built by Vernon Davis and the baptistery picture was painted by Mona Waymack. Brother B.B. Ratliff placed a list of the members of the church in the cornerstone in the southwest corner of the new building.

     The third phase of the building program included a two-story annex for classrooms. In 1961, the church purchased the lot north of the church plant for $1,800. This is presently used for parking. A parsonage on Sulphur Springs Road was bought in May 1966 for $18,000. In 1972, the need for a fellowship hall was met when the church purchased a lot west of the church property. This building was named Hawkins Hall in memory and appreciation of Brother Ernest Hawkins who gave a substantial amount of money to help finance the construction.  One charter member noted that “a large amount of the materials needed were donated by members of the church. Most of the labor was done by church members and even by friends of the members. The Lord truly blessed us.”

     The Sunday School was organized on August 29, 1954. Enrollment has fluctuated over the years, but a steady growth has been noted in the last several years. Dedicated leaders and teachers have helped strengthen Christian growth in the channel of service.

     September 8, 1954 saw the beginning of the Baptist Training Course. Youth sponsors were elected, monthly youth meetings were held and participation in the Jefferson County Youth Rally was begun. Youth participants were involved in local and state meetings. Talent surveys gave the young people an opportunity to present talent on a graded level. These activities became an integral part of our Christian Education program.

     A milestone in Salem’s history was the calling of a full-time music and youth director. Brother Lloyd Reichen came on the field in the late 60’s. Since that time, the following men have served: T.O. Miller, Paul Terry, Greg Jenkins, Ken Worthen, and David Moon.

     Vacation Bible School was the highlight of our summer activities, as were the many trips to Bogg Springs to youth camp. Early Bible schools lasted for two weeks, but soon gave way to just one week, at the present time it is held at night. Intense study of the Bible, craft activities, and closing programs also make Vacation Bible School an instrumental tool in our Christian service. Many souls continue to be saved as a result.

     In the more than sixty years since her inception, Salem Church, established as a result of the vision of these great people of God, has evolved into a self-supporting church fulfilling the spiritual needs in the Watson Chapel community.