The St. Joseph-Salem Heritage Society is an non-profit Ohio Corporation that is qualified by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax exempt Charitable Trust under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The organization was founded in 2005 to:
Recover, preserve and maintain the heritage of Salem, St. Joseph Parish Community and to show our appreciation for the 164 years of sacrifice our ancestors endured so that it may inspire future generations.
The History of St. Joseph Salem Catholic Parish
In 1831, Ezra Stewart, the first white man settled in what is now Salem Township, Wyandot Co., Ohio, on the edge of the Wyandot Indian reservation. Soon after his arrival other pioneers came, and by 1837 the portion of the township not included in the Indian land, increased rapidly the number of settlers. By 1845, after the Indians had left, over 50 persons had patented land within the township. It was named after the town of Salem in Massachusetts by Job Matheson, the first Justice of the Peace to serve as such, who came from there.
Christian Brooks, a Catholic, was the first to buy government land in 1846 in Salem Township. In 1847, John Schumacher bought land and moved onto it with his wife and her family, Henry Eberle. These first Catholics settled in the forest and before the land could be cultivated trees had to be uprooted and carried away. There were Indians to be feared, for some Indians refusing to resettle in the Southwest remained to harass the white settlers. Isolated families of Wyandot Indians who had refused to go West with the Tribes in 1843 still camped among the brush. The pioneers could not be discouraged, however; and through three years of peril, darkness and strife they persevered in building up their land and their faith.. By 1849 there was a neighborhood of Catholics consisting of John Schuhmacher, Henry Eberle, Andrew Fetter, John Stumpf, Peter Pauly, John Best, all with their families; also Christian Brooks, Matthew Haut and Anton Eberle. All settled in the deep, thick woods. These Catholics located in the thick forests had to clear their land of trees before being able to cultivate it.
The year 1849 marks the beginning of the congregation and parish of St. Joseph Church in Salem Township. In the spring of 1849, Bishop Amadeus Rappe, first Bishop of Cleveland, made a visitation of areas of his diocese. He celebrated Mass in the log cabin of John Schuhmacher. This was the first gathering of a congregation and the beginnings of the new mission. During the same year a log chapel, 20x26 feet was built on the property of John Schuhmacher. Christian Brooks who was a skilled mason, designed and built the little chapel. In it an altar of bricks was constructed. After the chapel was completed, a Sanguinist Father from New Riegel came whenver possible to conduct services. Young Henry Damian Best served as altar boy, later becoming a priest.
The little settlement gradually augmented. Between 1851 and 1859 relatives of the first settlers, surnames of Davidson, Orians, Logsdon, Arnold, Draper, Balduf, Fleck, Keller, Messmer, Fox, Moll, Brodman, Frey, Link, Myers and Payne came from Germany to join their pioneer relations. During the fifties, people already living in the surrounding regions moved in to Salem Township. These latter were descendants of the colonial day Maryland Catholics. Some of these had sons and daughters who came with them. The older boys and girls were growing up and marrying. Some remained in the settlement, others moved away. The congregation was flourishing and growing.
After ten years, they became dissatisfied with the log chapel and its location, since it was not close to the roads the county was laying out. By deed of November 13, 1858, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Pauly donated an acre of land a mile or so away at the junction of two roads. On May 7, 1859, Benjamin H. Draper and his wife, Martha, deeded about 2 ½ acres of land across the road for a cemetery. A new church 50x25 feet was built during the year 1859, a wood frame structure, at a cost of one thousand dollars.
The faith of the pioneers was kept at a peak by the hard working, self sacrificing Fathers from New Riegel. These priests thought nothing of walking the distance from their own settlement to Salem, that the pioneers might hear Mass. These priests had charge of the parish until 1875.
In the year 1875, the parish at Kirby, up to that time a mission of Upper Sandusky received its first resident pastor and St. Joseph’s congregation became attached to Kirby as a mission. The congregation at Salem now numbered over 38 families and the faithful came from Carey and Kirby to the services. The need for a larger church became evident. Construction began in August of 1883. The new edifice, completed and opened for services in early 1885, was a frame structure. It measured 40x80 feet and had a 128 foot tower. It was blessed on May 29, 1888.
Wood proved not to be the best building materials. This was found to be true in 1893 when a defective flue caused the frame structure to burn to the ground. This happened on a Sunday, shortly after noon. Rev. Henry Best, a son of the parish, held services that morning. Confirmation was held at St. Joseph’s the next day. The ceremony was held in the old church that still stood beside the charred remains of the new.
The burnt church was insured for $5,000 and the parishioners decided to add to this amount and build another church, this time of brick. On June 3, 1894 the cornerstone was laid for the new St. Joseph’s, the church which stands today in Salem Township. Though the church had been in use since December of the year it was begun, the formal dedication was not held until two years later. Much to the admiration and surprise of the Bishop, the entire cost of $11,000 was paid in full before the dedication took place.
St. Joseph’s celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 19, 1924. The Centennial Celebration was on July 24, 1949. St. Joseph’s 125th Anniversary celebration was held on October 27, 1974. The Sesquicentennial celebration was held on July 4, 1999.
There was never been a resident pastor at St. Josephs. The Franciscan priests of Our Lady of Consolation Basilica, Carey, Ohio, assisted the parish through most of its 156 year history.
Being located in a rural district, the parish never had a period of great expansion. Neither was it ever forced to disband for lack of parishioners. Though the congregation was small in comparison to urban parishes, the faith is firmly rooted in the soul of each and every member.
Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo Diocese, through his agent - Father Kent Kaufman, closed St. Joseph Parish as of July 3, 2005. The church building and meeting hall are now owned and maintained by the St. Joseph-Salem Heritage Society to preserve and maintain the heritage of the Salem St. Joseph community and to show respect and appreciation for the 157 years of sacrifice their ancestors endured in service to the community and the Roman Catholic Church. The Society hopes to inspire future generations to live in the spirit of Christian community.
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