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History of Salem United Methodist Church

Salem Methodist Church at the end of the 19th Century.

Formed in the 1850s, a small Methodist society met wherever they could, often in an assembly building on the Minnis farm opposite Brass Ball School on Hwy. 50 and Hwy. F in Western Kenosha County in Wisconsin. A Congregational Church built 1874 in Salem hosted the Methodists until they were able to build a church home of their own.

Dr. Francis and Martha Paddock donated a parcel of land 700 feet west of Main Street, adjoining the C&NW Railroad in 1879. Rev. A. J. Benjamin led the construction project. On Thanksgiving of that year, wagons and carriages brought the excited and truly thankful congregation to its first service in its new two-story church, complete with a horse hitching shelter just west of the church.

Also in that year the Ladies Aid Society formed. An active and industrious group, they served the poor and earned many funds through the years to alleviate church debt, pay for a parsonage, the minister’s salary, insurance and wood for heating the building.

Dr. Paddock sold property east of the church to SUMC for a parsonage in 1884. In 1890 the church bought a three-rod-wide parcel, again from Dr. Paddock, for right of way from Main Street.

Rev. Oscar Holt (1925-28) led a new Men’s Club. This popular and thriving group became a socially active Public Discussion group, spawning the Volunteer Firemen.

Rev. E. Duane Hulse and his wife Pearl started a church paper the “Methodist Messenger” in 1949. Two years later Rev. Hulse also initiated “The Beanery,” an annual fund-raising concession at the Kenosha County Fair in Wilmot. A rented 24′ x 36′ tent the first year grew into a complete cafeteria-style restaurant built in 1954, paid for in full by 1961.  The restaurant ran for one week each August until 2006 when operations ceased.  In 2008 the fair building was turned over to the Kenosha County Fair Board.

In 1956 Rev. Robert Smith and his family moved to a rented house to accommodate much needed Sunday School rooms and office space. The former (1884) parsonage came to be the Parish House. The following year, the church bought the 3 1/4 acre Wagin property adjoining the church on the west side. Its house afforded the parsonage while land offered future expansion.

By 1959 discussion of building a new church surfaced. Mrs. John Evans, a 58-year member, left $3,000 from greeting card sales to the church for building purposes. This prompted $5,000 per year to be budgeted for the building fund starting in 1962. Ground was broken June 11, 1964, for the approved new sanctuary and fellowship hall with provisions for a future educational wing and office area. That Christmas Eve Rev. H. Chase Page gave the first service in the new $98,000 church.

With the old church razed during the winter of 1965-66, the site converted to a parking lot in the spring of 1966.

In need of repairs and lacking space, the old parsonage gave way to a new $33,500 pastor’s home. Plans begun in the fall of 1968 for a four bedroom, two-story house immediately west of the old parsonage came to fruition in December, 1969. A week before Christmas Rev. Raymond Kotwicki and his family moved in. A month later its new owner John Riesselman moved the old parsonage a block north.  During the summer of 2009 volunteers from the congregation completely renovated and updated the inside of the parsonage.

A $12,500 memorial from the will of Jennie Loescher in July of 1975 spurred the congregation to raise the remaining $5,000 of $60,000 church debt over the summer to realize a Church Mortgage Burning Service on Sept. 14, 1975.

Plans for an Education Wing for the church building, along with a fund raising campaign, was begun in the mid 1980s.  Ground breaking was held on Easter Sunday, 1988 with the building being completed in the spring of 1989.  A Dedication Ceremony on September 10, 1989 showcased the new Education Wing’s classrooms, offices, a fellowship area, small kitchen and handicap accessible restrooms. The church celebrated the mortgage burning for the Education Wing in 1999.

SUMC has produced four ministers. Taylor University ordained Jeppe Jensen as a Methodist Minister in 1914. After years in Ethiopia as an agricultural missionary, Norman Barthel attended Hamline University who ordained him a Methodist Minister in 1956.  Jeanne Bartlett attended Garrett Seminary while a member of SUMC and was ordained in 1986. She served as co-pastor with her husband Jon Claude at Salem 1991-94. Mary Lu Palmer, a long time member of SUMC, was called to the ministry and licensed as a local pastor in 2005. Part of her service from 2005-08 included SUMC.