The story of Salem Magley Church reaches back into the early days of Adams County. Pioneers began to settle our county in the early years of the 19th century. In 1819, to be exact. The first settler of our community was the ____ Henry Lowe. By 1826, there were four log in 556 square miles. During that time, bears and wolves roamed a land covered by in forest.
Our story begins in 1839, three years after Adams County was officially organized, when four men moved from their happy hometown of Lienen, Tecklenburg in Prussia, Germany to settle in Adams County. These men, Friedrich Buller, Wilhelm Hilgemann, Wilhelm Voldermakr, and Fristz Yost, shared a home and worked together to clear the forest so they could make a home here.
In the early years, they attended a local Lutheran congregation because a congregation of their faith tradition was not yet established in the area. The protestant reformation finds its roots in the reforms led by the German monk turned reformer Martin Luther. Soon to follow were what has become known as the Reformed reforms. German and Swiss faith leaders who shared Luther's convictions about the state of the Roman Catholic church, but disagreed on finer points of theology. It is said of our founders that they yearned for the Reformed faith. But the question remains, what was the Reformed faith, and how did it differ from the Lutheran faith?
From the best we can tell, the biggest differences between Lutheran and Reformed churches in this era was worship and sacramental theology. Worship services in Lutheran churches were much more similar to the Roman Catholic Mass, while Reformed worship serviced tended to be simpler, with a stronger focus on word and preaching. Sacramental theology is a fancy way of naming one's beliefs about baptism and the Lord's Supper. By far the biggest chasm between Luther and other Reformed reformers was their beliefs about the Lord's Supper. To a lesser degree, there were also disagreements about baptism, but to sum things up, Reformed Churches and Lutheran Churches just talked about faith differently. Those differences fanned a flame of desire in our founders to return to their Reformed roots.
By this time the four settlers had grown, and a small congregation began to form what would become Salem Magley. At first our budding congregation was visited irregularly by various ministers sent from the mother church based in Fort Wayne. All this began to change in 1950 when the pastor of St. John's Reformed Church in Fort Wayne, Dr. Rossard agreed to walked the twenty miles from Fort Wayne to the Magley area about every four weeks to preach the Word and administer the sacraments to our little congregation. Two other pastors from St. John's, The Rev. Benz and Dr. J. H. Klein continued this practice after Dr. Rossard until 1956.
It was in June 1956 that our congregation was officially found when fourteen men and their families came together to call a pastor and form a congregation. The pastor they received was The Rev. Peter Vitz, and with his help Salem Magley Church was born, then under the name The German Reformed Salem Congregation.
The new congregation set out at once to build a suitable space for worship. Up to this point, they'd been meeting in homes, but felt the time was rite to erect a church building. This original build was 30 feet wide and 40 feet long, and sat where our parsonage is currently located, north of our current builder near our old cemetery. This build was in use for some years, even after it was replaced by our current build. It was later moved to a nearby farm and still stands to this day.
In 1890, our seventh minister was called, The Rev. Edward Vornholt. Shortly after his arrival, the decision was made to build a new church building. On July 31, 1892, the cornerstone of our current building was laid and construction began. Much of this building was built by the hard work of the congregation, and when it was completed it cost a total of $10,613.21. The new building was dedicated on July 30, 1893, with a crowd of over 2000 coming from the surrounding area, as far as Fort Wayne and Huntington, to participate in the festivities.
Much has changed since the 19th century. Much change was in store for the congregation of Salem Magley, too, at the turn of the 20th century. The first major change was was brought about by Wold War I. Being of German heritage, many of our founding documents and a number of classes and services were in German. This was changed in response to the events of Wold War I. Another change that was brought on by the 20 century was electricity. The church building was wired for electricity and lights were installed in ______. In 1941 (or 1934) a denominational change came when the German Reformed Church merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America to become the Evangelical and Reformed Church. This brought a name change to our congregation _________.
Another change of similar order came to our congregation in 1951 (or 1957) when the Evangelical and Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian Churches to from the United Church of Christ. With this merger, we became Salem United Church of Christ with the designation "Magley" in parenthesis.
We remained Salem United Church of Christ (Magley) until ______, when we decided to leave the United Church of Christ and become an independent church. At this time, we had our fourth name change when we adopted our current name: Salem Magley Church. Though we did not join another denomination, we've remained in touch with our roots, becoming a member of the Evangelical Association of Reformed and Congregational Christian Churches, an association of churches with Reformed and Congregational heritage.
With our name change we've embarked on the newest chapter of our 160 plus year journey. Please consider joining us as we write the next season of our history together!