Early History of the Salem Chapel Church of Christ
at Glen Easton, West Virginia
compiled by Bruce Daugherty
The beginning of the church meeting at Salem Chapel in Glen Easton I believe is an important story that needs to be shared. Though the details are unique to the congregation meeting there, their story was replayed in many places throughout the Ohio Valley. To understand this beginning, it is necessary to get a historical perspective on what was happening in the Restoration movement at the time.
After the Civil War, the issues that had appeared before the War, threatened division in the Restoration movement. The Missionary Society controversy, especially with the War Resolution of 1863 which had condemned the South, divided brethren into North and South sectional fellowships. The use of instrumental music in worship became more and more prominent, especially in Northern congregations which had not suffered as much loss of property due to the War, as congregations in the South. In addition, liberal and modernistic approaches to Scripture had begun to be practiced by some preachers and within some of the colleges affiliated with the Restoration movement.
Social and economic factors played a part in the division. Larger, “well-to-do” congregations in cities began to build elaborate, fashionable meeting houses. Rural congregations condemned the expensive buildings and furnishings as excessive and indicative of an abandoning of Restoration principles to return to denominationalism. By the turn of the century the Restoration movement was divided into two major groups: the Disciples of Christ or Christian churches and churches of Christ.
In 1905, brethren meeting in Glen Easton, West Virginia wanted to have a gospel meeting with T. H. Kirkman as the guest evangelist. Kirkman had a conservative reputation and was known for his stance against instrumental music in worship. An element in the congregation at Glen Easton opposed having Kirkman for the meeting. J. M. Rine, a local school teacher in Marshall County and a part time evangelist, determined to go ahead with the meeting and made plans to use a local school house. A report of that initial meeting was sent to the Christian Leader: “Bro. Kirkman of Central City, W., came up in this part of the country last month to hold a meeting at Mt. Joy and one here on Robert’s Ridge, but Bro. Kirkman, being opposed to all innovations, they tried to get rid of him at Mt. Joy and they closed the church-house doors against him here at Robert’s Ridge.” (Field Report, 12).
This incident led to the establishment of a separate congregation at Rine’s home on Robert’s ridge, just over the hilltop from Glen Easton. The following January, Kirkman was again called to hold a meeting in the new building. He gave his report: “I was called to Marshall County, W. Va., Lord’s day, January 21, to preach the opening discourse of Salem Chapel, about three miles from Glen Easton, by way of the county road about a mile and a half across the fields. This house is between one-fourth and one-half mile from the digressive house. I came here last November by the request of Bro. J. M. Rine to hold a meeting. The digressives would not open their house. Bro. Rine thought he had secured the schoolhouse, but after the first night we were turned out of that also. We went from there to Bro. Rine’s house and preached there four or five days. Then Bro. Rine and Bro. Skelton Standiford put their shoulders to the wheel, and as a result, they have a neat little house to worship God in. There were several from a distance who gave liberally of their means to assist the brethren here in their undertaking, but the brethren paid for the house as it was put up, and when we came here there was no debt against the house. I will continue my meeting here a few days.” (Kirkman, 12). The members who remained at Glen Easton derisively predicted that the small building would soon become a “sheep pen.” Years have passed. The “digressives” meeting in town at Glen Easton disbanded years ago. The Lord’s sheep continue to meet in the pen provided by Rine.
J. M. Rine, J. R. Harris, and E. D. Conner of Moundsville were evangelists who kept up regular preaching and teaching at Salem Chapel. Their graves are in the cemetery lot adjacent to the church building. Preachers from Moundsville, Hundred, and Cameron, West Virginia also were frequently found with the congregation. In addition, gospel meetings by various preachers were a part of their history. Note this report: “Splendid meeting at Salem, near Glen Easton, W. Va. Good audiences and better interest I have never seen. Fifteen baptized, three from the Christian church, and one restored. . . . The Moundsville preaching brethren attended several times each. Bro. Frank Ice had charge of the song service. The meeting should have continued but my physical condition was at low ebb. God willing, I shall be with them again in about two years. We did the baptizing at Moundsville.” (Dennis, 11). Another report states: “Closed a fine meeting at Salem, near Glen Easton, W. Va., last night. Twelve were baptized. It was a wonderful meeting. Several preachers attended and assisted. Bro. Hadwin preached at afternoon service of our all day meeting. . . . There are some fine brethren in this section. The preacher doesn’t have to soft pedal the Truth when preaching at Salem. They love to hear the gospel and certainly know how to encourage a preacher. Their congregation is at peace and they are determined to keep their congregation active by developing the young talent with which they are abundantly blessed. I promised to return in spring of ‘37, D. V.” (Butterfield, 12).
Through the years the “young talent” developed into faithful leaders and preachers that served the church meeting at Salem Chapel and surrounding area. Among these were sons of J. R. Harris, Glen an evangelist who preached in the Ohio Valley and Paul, who served as an elder at the Hillview Terrace congregation in Moundsville. Another preacher who left his mark was Bert Brown.
Paul and Glen Harris at their Father's gravesite, Salem Chapel cemetery
The Lord's sheep continue to meet at Salem Chapel. The flock is small but ably led by their elders, Don Harris and Fred Morris. They generously contribute to several good works and ministries. They are great supporters of the West Virginia School of Preaching at the Hillview Terrace congregation in Moundsville.
Butterfield, Tom W. “Field Report - Barnesville, Ohio” Christian Leader 49 (Oct. 1, 1935):12.
Dennis, Fred E. “Field Report - Marietta, Ohio,” Christian Leader 46 (Oct. 4, 1932):11.
“Field Report - Moundsville, W.Va.” Christian Leader and the Way 19 (Nov. 14, 1905):12.
Kirkman, T. H. “Field Report - Nye, W. Va.,” Christian Leader and the Way 20 (Jan. 30, 1906):12.