The year was 1896. Plymouth was still a young city and the surrounding community was densely populated. A number of families of the German Reformed faith moved into the community. Because they had been brought up in the spirit of the Christian church, they were anxious to have a church of their own. On March 6, 1896 a meeting was called with eight families represented. At first they worshiped in the Congregational church every other Sunday but soon wanted a building so they could meet a t a time convenient for them. A lot was purchased from Carl Hecker and by the middle of October, 1896 the church on Smith Street was completed as a cost of $2,000. Most of the labor was done by the members. They chose to call it “Deutsche Reformierte Salems Geminde”. The Mission Board called Rev. Ernest Steinecker to be the first pastor. He assumed charge on December 3, 1896 and served until his death in 1902.
Rev Frederick Beisser who was just finishing his studies at Mission House was called by the congregation to be their full-time minister in 1903. By 1906 the membership totaled 209. In 1913 the church was enlarged and a wood furnace installed. English services were introduced in 1925 with English used once a month and German spoked on the other three Sundays. Rev. Beisser died in 1926 and on January 1, 1927 Rev. Herman Schmid began to ministry at Salem. Two complete services were then held each Sunday, one German and one in English. Other men’s and women’s organizations were flourishing in the church, many times helping out financially. At the time Rev. Schmid left to go to another church in July of 1948 the membership stood at 620. In July of the following year a call was extended to the Rev. Harold Ley. He came in 1949 and along with his other duties, began the Chapel Chimes, a newsletter which is still published monthly. By 1953 the congregation had grown to 719 and it became apparent that something had to be done about the parking on Smith and Forest streets and the crowded conditions of the church on Sundays. Plans for a new church had just been adopted when Rev. Ley resigned in 1956 to go to Pennsylvania. In early 1957 Rev. Lowell Ferguson was officially accepted as Pastor. The new Salem church built at 217 Salem Drive was completed in 1958 at a cost of $230,000. Time moves on and thus it was in June of 1968, just ten years after being built that the congregation burned the mortgage. An assistant pastor was called in 1969 with the Rev. Edmond Hennig serving in that position until his retirement in 1984. On the 75th anniversary a new organ was installed and in 1983 a library/study addition was added to the east side of the church. This was possible largely from memorial gifts and special requests form deceased members. In 1986 an associate pastor, newly ordained, began his duties at Salem. Rev. James Hoppert, who in July of 1988 became the Senior Pastor after the retirement of Rev. Lowell Ferguson. Rev. Ferguson retired on December 31, 1987 after 40 years in the ministry, 30 of them serving Salem. On April 21, 1991 Lowell Ferguson was named Pastor Emiratis and served in this capapcity until he joined our Lord on September 22, 1996. Other noteworthy events here at Salem include:
- December 1989: Rev. Arlan Schlundt of Blue Island, Illinois assumes his duties as Associate Pastor.
- January 1991: The number of Consistory members moves from 16 to 12.
- September, 1993: Christian Education is moved to a tie separate from either worship service (this format lasts until May 2007)
- A yearlong celebration marking Salem’s Centennial celebration begins on December 3, 1995, with services led by Dr. Reinhard Ulrich, who lifted up the congregation’s German Reformed heritage.
- March 10, 1996: Dr. Fred Tros, Wisconsin Conference Minister, is the guest preacher, as Salem celebrates the anniversary of its founding date.
- May 5, 1996: The Masons invite Salem to visit the site of the old church for worship services. Rev. Lowell Ferguson is the guest speaker and preaches his final sermon.
- October 6, 1996: Dr. Paul Sherry, President of the UCC, preaches at Salem as part of the Centennial celebration.
- November 10, 1996: The final celebration of Salem’s takes place as a time capsule is buried underneath the bell tower.
- December 29, 1996: Rev. Arlan Schlundt leads worship for the final time, as the congregation marks his retirement.
- March 1997: Lakeland College student, Lorri Steward, assumes part time responsibilities for your ministry, liturgy, and visitation at Salem.
- February, 1998: Lorri Steward is named Student Associate Pastor.
- October 25, 1998: Salem votes to approve a building expansion project which would include a Gathering Area, handicapped access, and expanded office space A capital funds campaign is also authorized.
- December 1999: The building expansion is completed and ready to use for the Christmas holidays. A dedication and open house are held on March 5, 2000.
- July 14, 2002: Lorri Steward is called as Associate Pastor.
- February 23, 2003: Lorri Steward is ordained.
- July 18, 2004: Rev. Lorri Steward resigns her position and a service of farewell is held.
- August, 2004: Letha Haucke assumes interim duties of youth and confirmation ministries. Dr. Tim Fullop provides interim pulpit supply, and later, Rev. Bill Plank assumes interim visitation ministry.
- October 24, 2004: Salem votes to begin a renovation project which includes modification of the chancel and additional storage space.
- October 30, 2005: With the renovation completed, a service of dedication was held this day.
- September, 2006: Rev. Edit Boda-Mercer is installed as our new associate pastor also assuming the duties of youth and 7-8 confirmation ministries.
- October, 2008: Rev. Boda-Mercer resigns as Associate Pastor.
- March, 2009: Dale Miller is installed as a Licensed Lay Minister.
- April, 2010: Marsha Meyer is hired as Salem’s Director of Youth and Family Ministry.
- July, 2014: Dale Miller resigns his position as Licensed Lay Minister.
The congregation has also sponsored radio broadcasts for over 50 years, and starting in 1986 weekly video taping of service has been done to serve residents of local nursing homes. The local food pantry was originally started at Salem over 20 years ago and continues to faithfully serve the community. Several sons & daughters of the congregation have become pastors. They are Rev. Gerald Wick, Rev. Calvin Helming, Rev. Stanley Kuck, Rev. A. Steinecker, Rev. Jean Paul Zemke, Rev. Robert Miller, Rev. Dr. Jeff Groene, Rev. Lorri Steward and Rev. Ashley Nolte. One daughter Naomi Krieger Ross is missionary in Japan has served her Lord there for 49 years.
It is evident that God has blessed us in abundance here at Salem over the years and continues to enrich the lives of all who worship here. All honor and glory go to him.