New Salisbury UMC plans 150th celebration
(The following information was provided by the 150th anniversary history committee.)
As Harrison County was being settled in the early 1800s, John Hurst moved his family from Culpeper County, Va., to Tennessee then to Harrison County, Ind. In 1803, he settled near the banks of Indian Creek southwest of Crandall where state roads 135 and 335 meet today. The nearby Hursttown United Methodist Church was named for this settlement.
Hurst built a sawmill and gristmill as well as a church which he named Whitten Chapel. Settlers for miles around attended Whitten Chapel when the itinerant preacher had services, much like John Wesley.
In 1806, John Kepley, and his brother, George, came from Salisbury, N.C., and settled along Indian Creek north of Crandall. Much like Hurst had done, John built a dam and a mill. John and George brought their families from North Carolina the next year.
By 1830, John had ideas to build a community like Salisbury, N.C. He bought land farther west, laid out town lots and streets, and filed his plat at the courthouse, naming his town New Salisbury. He designated two special lots — one for a church and the other for a school — in his new town; both were situated along Water Street that ran between two springs in the town. The school was built first.
As the town’s population grew, fewer people wanted to travel to Whitten Chapel for church services, so a grove of trees at the north edge of town in the summer and in the schoolhouse during the winter became the site of church services in New Salisbury. There were revivals, and the number of people attending services grew.
By 1870, those attending services decided to form a “class,” and New Salisbury became a part of the “charge” which included Lanesville, Georgetown, Hard Scrabble, Bradford and Zoar. The class met during the winter of 1870-71 in the schoolhouse and decided to build a church — a 32-by-48-foot building — on the lot next to the school that next summer.
This was the beginning of the 150-year history of New Salisbury United Methodist Church. (A book detailing the church’s first 100 years was published in 1971. Copies of that book are still available.)
The original church building used sturdy logs for the foundation and floor joists and milled local lumber for the structure. The labor was provided by the congregation, as well as local carpenters, and monetary donations by church members paid for the building.
By 1920, additional lots were purchased to accommodate parking for automobiles.
That first church building has been moved once, remodeled several times and added to during the past 150 years.
Extensive renovations were made in the early 1900s. Major renovations have occurred about every 20 to 25 years with minor changes more often.
The move occurred in the early 1950s when the State of Indiana wanted to widen and straighten S.R. 135. As it was moved a few feet west of the original location, a basement was dug, and a separate entrance and belfry (a church bell was first purchased in 1883 and is still used) were attached to the northeast corner of the building. Some remodeling was done at the time and new stained glass windows were added. The church building was rededicated on April 15, 1951.
By 1963, space for Sunday school classes was critical due to the growth of the congregation. Plans were made for a 24-by-40-foot addition that would include six classrooms, two rest rooms and a furnace room. The completed building, which connected to the main building at the northwest corner, was dedicated in October 1964.
The sanctuary was remodeled in early 1971, and new altar furniture and new hymnals were purchased prior to the church’s centennial celebration later that year.
With more outreach to the community, the congregation continued to grow. Interest was expressed in building a Family Life Center. Pledges were made to help fund the new building; however, it was eventually discovered that a main supply line for Ramsey Water Co. Inc. runs directly under the area where the new building was to be erected and would be too costly to relocate. By the end of 2001, a vote was taken to discontinue the project after exploring other options.
A cabin, known as the Hubbard cabin, located on one of the additional lots the congregation had purchased began to deteriorate. The congregation explored options for the cabin but, in 2018, gave it to the Harrison County Parks Dept., which said it would maintain it.
An elevator was added to the church building in 2020 to assist those who have difficulty traversing stairs.
Throughout the church’s 150 years, its members have tried their best to maintain functional, attractive and safe buildings. This could not have happened without the personal contributions from the congregation, whether via monetary or other gifts or their labor. Without each of these things, the church would not be celebrating 150 years in the same location.
New Salisbury UMC is more than just structures. There was the United Methodist Women (formerly called the WSCS), which supported various mission projects, planned church dinners, held Ladies Night, sewed curtains and, through pledges and donations, paid for extras and unexpected bills. A vibrant youth group contributed funds and labor, attended retreats, camps and rallies at the district and conference levels. And, there were community events, such as Easter egg hunts and Vacation Bible School. Preschool and kindergarten classes met in the church basement before they were added to the public school system. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops also met at the church. Members also have been active with the Freed From Within ministry program in Corydon, have participated in mission work camps and helped support missionaries in Papua, New Guinea.
New Salisbury UMC belongs to the South District of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. From 1971 to 2011, the church was part of a two-point charge with Central Barren UMC, which meant the two churches shared a full-time minister. In 2011, both churches asked that separate part-time ministers be appointed to each church.
A number of pastors have filled the pulpit at New Salisbury UMC. Beginning with 1966, pastors (and their spouses) were George Angerer (Marjorie) until 1972; Raymond Rhoda (Betty), 1972 to 1978; Glen Bates (Betty) from 1979 to 1983; Barbara Planck (the church’s first female pastor), 1984 to 1989; Melvin Camp (Leeann), 1990 to 1993; Ed Beedle (Linda), 1993 to 1999; Ron Clark (Miriam), 1999 to 2001; Sally Dickerson (Hawley), 2001 to 2003; Morris Hannah (Sue), 2003 to 2008; Les Grimsley (Karen), 2008 to 2011; Greg Rosa (Cindy), 2012 to present; and Lary Cropper (Nancy), 2020 to present.
Activities for the 150th celebration will take place Saturday, Sept. 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with displays of historical church records, pictures, photo directories, church family quilts, personal accounts of favorite church memories and more as well as tours of the church buildings.
On Sunday, Sept. 19, at 10:30 a.m. there will be a 150th celebration worship service with the sharing of favorite memories of New Salisbury UMC, along with singing, prayer and scripture reading led by Pastor Cropper. The Rev. Mitch Gieselman, the church’s district superintendent, will deliver the message.
Prior to the worship service, beginning at 9:30 a.m., the displays from the previous day will be available for viewing.
Members of the 150th year history committee are Pat Armstrong, Lynn Marie Davis, Jon Howerton, Judy Howerton, Carolyn McAdams, Harriett Reed and Glenda Riggs.
As the church approaches its 150th year in the New Salisbury community, members acknowledge both the good times and the trying times as they try to bring the word of Christ to others. While attendance has declined in recent years, members say they have not given up and hope to celebrate many more years.