Casey  County Churches


Salem United Methodist Church

  Contributed By:  Phyllis Evans McIntosh

The History of Salem United Methodist Church, Rheber, Kentucky



This information came from The County Clerk’s Office, Nannie Bell Davis, Ada Lawhorn, Rev. Willie Patton, Everett Cooper, Ollie Hatfield, Elizabeth Lawhorn, Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Wilson, Agnes Taylor, Della Ellis and Judy Allen.


            The Salem United Methodist Church, located on the Rheber Road was established in June 1865. The founding minister was Rev. Robert Franklin Mills. Rev. Mills was a chaplain in the 13th Kentucky Cavalry during the Civil War. The War being ended, Rev. Mills and his wife, Mary Adeline Branson Mills along with a group of Methodists organized the Salem Church. The first land was purchased from H. J. Henson and his wife, Mary in 1885. This is the land where the church building now stands. The congregation was 20 years old at the time of this transaction. During the early years meetings were probably held in homes or in a brush arbor.


            The Hensons were from Adair County where they had been members of the old Providence Methodist Church just south of the Adair Casey line on Highway 206. Some of the Overstreets has moved their membership from Providence as well as other families.


            The first building was constructed from logs. The second deed was from Dock and Susan Crockett, dated February 27, 1912, to the trustees of the Salem Church, J. B. Perryman, Moses Overstreet, James Crockett and Anderson Lewellen, for $15.00 This purchase of property gave much needed additional space for the cemetery. There are 400 to 500 unmarked graves in the cemetery. Several stones show that people were buried there in the early 1870’s


The cemetery is a free burying ground and according to the deeds, lots cannot be sold. It is under the supervision of the church trustees at all times. It is maintained by the church and donations from relatives and interested people.


The way that Salem Methodist Church name became Salem United Methodist Church was when the United Brethran Church dissolved in 1965 the Salem Methodist Church took the United in their name because the two churches were on the same charge when the Norman United Church was closed permanently.


The third deed, May 31, 1975 was from Otis and Arvina Overstreet, for burial purposes only. There is also a small plot Willis Garrett reserved for his family from Theodore Ellis and is not a part of the church property.


One of the early pastors of the church was Rev. James D. Mills, known as Rev. Bud Mills. He was a son of Rev. R. F. Mills. Rev. Bud Mills served the church for many years. Rev. William Lemmon and Rev. Jacob Mills, both of Pellyton in Adair County, preached at Salem Church when we didn’t have a pastor, they helped out.


There are no available records of all that served as pastors at Salem until the year 1940. Since then the following have been pastors;  Rev. John Moore, Rev. Rainey, Rev. Thradher, Rev. Earl Farmer, Rev. Upchurch, Rev. Parker, Rev. Claud R. Willen, Rev. Lee Ward, Rev. Parrigan, Rev. Cornellius, Rev. Monroe Lowe, Rev. Travis Keltner, Rev. W. D. Strader, Rev. James T. Johnson, Rev. D. A. Peyton, Rev. Wayne Davis, Rev. Chrles Blankenship, Rev. Ray C. Brown, Rev. William Hamlet, Rev. Elby Rich, Rev. Cleston Pickett, Rev. Conner, Rev. Eugene Horton, Rev. John Blakey, Rev. David Calhoun, Rev. Tom Blevins, Rev. Ralph Lee, Rev. Jerry Shelly and Rev. Darrin Gillespie.


The present church building was constructed in 1940. Later Sunday School rooms were added to the rear of the church. These were constructed with folding doors, which could be opened to provide extra seating space.


Bro. John Mills was a well-known music teacher who taught singing schools in many area churches as well as the Salem Church where he served as song leader and choir director. The Mills, Overstreets, Wilsons, Bolts, Pattons, Ellis, Lawhorns, Lees and others sang the old fashioned four part harmonies in this choir which specialized in the shape note method of music.


The annual Christmas play drew a large crowd with standing room only. The children in the Sunday school along with some of the adult members served as the cast members for these well produced dramas.


The Salem Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in Casey County. Few churches have been the scenes of as many funeral services as the Salem Church. We need to also mention it has had a lot of weddings in it also. We never want to forget that in my time I have seen them shout all over the church, so the Spirit of the Lord is still very much alive in this wicked time.


For many years the Salem Church and cemetery has had the best attended Memorial Service of any church in the county. For years this service was always held on May 30. The graves were and still are, beautifully decorated with flowers and flags. In fact, it would be hard to find a grander display of American flags and elaborate floral arrangements that are seen at Salem Cemetery each Memorial Day. There is always a program of preaching and good gospel music. In years gone by the singing, was by singing classes from area churches along with the host church choir, while in recent years much of the music has been by quartets.


An outstanding feature for youngsters was the “stand” each year when one could purchase hot dogs, lemonade and ice cream. Children would earn money setting tobacco, performing other chores and spend it all at Salem Decoration Day. Occasionally there would be “dinner on the ground” instead of the “stand.” The carry in dinner has been more common in recent years.



            The area residents identify Salem Church with May 30 that it became common for people to ask “Are you going to the thirtieth of May?” meaning, are you going to Salem on Memorial Day? Such enormous crowds have attended this special service through the years that one must arrive early to find a parking place in sight of the church. In recent years the decoration service has been held on the Sunday before the 30th, because of the people who live away can come to the decoration service.


            The Salem Church has had a strong Sunday school for many years. Delmar Mills, another grandson of Franik Mills and son of Bud Mills served as Sunday school superintendent for 35 years. He was also a trustee of the church for 35 years. His son Rev. Edward Mills also served as superintendent before entering the ministry. Clellie Overstreet was superintendent for 29 years and he will always be remembered as the first one there, sweeping the porch and anything else that needed to be done. At the present time, John L. Davis is our superintendent.


            Mrs. Edna Witt taught Sunday school class for several years. Twelve of her students became ministers. Mrs. Nannie B. Davis, Clellie Overstreet and many other Sunday school teachers have taught at the church over the many years.


            In 1971 we had another addition added to the church, the fellowship hall which is used for dinners, planning meetings, prayer meeting and an extra Sunday school room.


            In 1998 we had a donation of carpet put on our porch, which really made the old porch look nice, with new handrails.


            In 2000 we installed central air and heat, along with a new Lighted church sign. We keep on updating our church. No matter what we do on faith the Lord always helps our church finish it.


            We should always remember our church should be nicer than our own homes, because this is the Lord’s house, but we don’t want to get too fancy and forget our Dear Lord Jesus Christ.