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Story of Salem Monthly Meeting

The Story of Salem Friend’s Monthly Meeting!

© 2003 by Jean Leeper and can not be used without her permission

Modified in 2008

Salem Church

picture ca 1978 - 2000

During the summer of 1835, Aaron Street Sr. and his daughter arrived on horseback from the Fort Madison ferry. Aaron Street is quoted as saying “Now have mine eyes beheld a country teeming with every good thing. Hither will I come with my flocks and my herds, with my children and my children’s children and our city shall be called Salem, for thus was the city of our fathers, even near unto the sea coast.” He soon met up with Isaac Pidgeon who also had just arrived and they decided together to form a Quaker community. Aaron Street’s Sr. and Jr. and Isaac Pidgeon laid out Salem, with the help of Peter Boyer. Due to the lack of a surveyor’s chain they used a grape vine for a measuring rod, cutting notches in it for the desired widths of the streets and alleys.

About the middle of the eighth month 1837, a conference of Friends was held at the house of Isaac Pidgeon concerning holding religious meetings. The first meeting held was in the home of Henry W. Joy, in the fall of 1837. “Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends was first opened and held in Salem, Henry County, Iowa Territory on the 8th day of the 10th month of 1838.” It was the first Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends west of the Mississippi.

As most Quakers were Abolitionists they established stations where runaway slaves were to be secreted until the “Underground Railroad” could forward them to Canada. One such station is the Lewelling stone house, one block south, of this building. It is open for tours on Sunday afternoons and by appointments.

As the Quakers moved across the United States they did three things: built a place to worship, started a school and developed a burying ground. They did all three soon after they arrived in Salem. In May 1839 they began building a hewed log meetinghouse with two rooms each 22 feet square, at the cost of $340. In 1846 they outgrew that building and they erected a brick, 35 x 70 foot meetinghouse with two stories, for a cost of $3,000. The top floor was their school. In 1874 this building was turned over to Whittier College and a frame structure, 46 x 56 feet and one story high was completed at a cost of $2,500 dollars. In 1912 the wood portion of our present church was build, after the older church had burned on February 5, 1912. The brick addition was added in 1979.

The first meeting set off from Salem was Cedar Creek, in January 1841. Others soon followed. As you ride north out of Salem and you have traveled about three miles; look left (west) down a dirt road and you will see Cedar Creek Meetinghouse. Salem started Grace Community Friends in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, which became a monthly meeting in August 2006.

As many confuse Quakers (Society of Friends) with Shakers and Amish let me assure you they are not the same. The history of Friends goes back more than three centuries to the mid 1600s, to the founder of the Society of Friends, George Fox of England. From his words, “I found Peace when I heard a voice which said, There is one even Christ Jesus that can speak to thy condition. When I heard it my heart did leap for joy.”

We believe in God the creator of all things and in Jesus Christ His beloved; and only begotten Son in whom we have redemption through the blood, even the forgiveness of sins, for which that he was crucified for us, rose the third day, and he ascended into heaven, and now sitteth at the right hand of God.”

Iowa Quakers maintain a church camp, called Quaker Heights, near Eldora, Iowa, where children and youth attend and while having fun learn about God. Many accept Christ as their Savior, thus starting out on their adventure as a new Christian. What does this mean? It means that you acknowledge you are a sinner and you confess your sin(s) and ask Jesus to come into your life and to cleanse you of all your sins and you believe that Jesus death on the cross covered your sins and that Jesus will lead you in your Christian walk.

At Salem we have a pastor and our services are quite similar to other evangelical churches but we do not baptize with water or have communion with bread and wine. We believe we each can commune directly with God and thus have a “quiet time” included in our service allowing each person to commune with God. We believe that Jesus requires us to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and by thus doing, will allow God to control our lives. No need for the actual water. John the Baptist said, (Matthew 3: 11) "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." NIV

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