Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

Salem United Church of Christ


Based on a narrative compiled by C. Willis Dunlap
for the church's 100th anniversary celebration in 1983

In 1882, a group of concerned citizens of Millertown held many meetings to plan for the construction of a church. After several months of hard work, permission was granted to build a church. Named The Reformed Church, it was built near the west bank of the Tunkhannock Creek. The first member of record was Isaac Stauffer who was greatly responsible for the organization of the church. The name of the church was later changed to Salem Reformed Church.

The plot of land was purchased from William Wallace and his wife Myrtle Wallace for the sum of twenty dollars. The deed was made to Samuel Hay, Ephriam Hay and John Barnhart as trustees of the Reformed Church. The church was located in Millersville, sometimes called Millertown. The lower end of the town was called Stauffers. Later these towns became Pocono Pines and Pocono Lake.


The building is of plank construction with no studding in the walls. The heat was furnished by a potbelly stove, which could burn wood or coal. It was located in the center of the church. Light for night services was provided by kerosene lamps, which were placed in the center of the ceiling. The custodian had to use a large stepladder to pull down the chandelier to fill the lamps and to make repairs.

The church bell, which was tolled to call the services together, was molded in 1884 and has hung in the steeple for many years.

In July 1883, the Rev. Franklin W. Smith of Germanville, Lehigh County, accepted the call to become the minister of the Tannersville Charge, which consisted of churches in Tannersville, Jackson and Millersville, or Stauffers. He remained as minister for two years and three months, when he accepted a charge in Pleasant Valley.

Rev. Smith was of German ancestry and many times during his sermon would use a few words of sentences in German and then would translate into English. He preached his first sermon for Salem on July 15, 1883.

Rev. Smith solemnized the first communion on January 27, 1884. The first marriage of record was solemnized on April 6, 1884, between Francis Christman and Carrie Kester. The first communicant’s class was confirmed on May 3, 1884. The catechumens were: Alice Stauffer, Barbara Custard, Ida Sansenbach, Richard and Milton Bonser and Lewis Miller.

On April 14, 1886, the elders and deacons of the Tannersville Charge called the Rev. G.B. Smith for its pastor. A sum of $500 and rent of a house were offered in payment as long as he remained pastor of the charge. Rev. G.B. Smith remained pastor until his death on March 5, 1893.

The Rev. Paul W. Spangler became the pastor of the Tannersville Charge in August 1893. He resigned in February 1897, to assume the pastorate of another change.

The Rev. William Brong was called to the pastorate of the Tannersville Charge, July 1897. Soon after Rev. Brong began his duties at Salem Church, he saw the need for a church at Locust Ridge.

In October 1897, he preached his first sermon in German in the public school building in Locust Ridge. A plot of land was purchased by the trustees, Henry Miller, Emmanuel Berger and Lewis Smith from Daniel Berger for the sum of one dollar. The church was to be named Faith Reformed Chapel. Some of the members of Salem Church, who lived in Locust Ridge, withdrew to become member of Faith Chapel. Later on this church merged with Salem Church. A newsletter, A Parish Helper, was published under the direction of Rev. Brong, which contained news of the churches.

Rev. Brong also started a Faith Reformed Chapel and Sunday school in Long Pond, which has since gone out of existence. Rev. Brong remained with the Tannersville Charge until the end of December 1902, when he accepted a pastorate in Northampton County.

Rev. R.F. Goss assumed the pastorate in July 1902 and remained for five years. There is no record of his activities. His salary is recorded at $750 per year plus a parsonage.

The Sunday school was a very important part of the church’s activities. In 1905, there were seven classes with a total of 51 participants, primary to adult. Teachers at that time were William Anthony, Lillie Hay, Harvey and Jennie Werkheiser, Nettie Miller, Isabelle Dunlap and Emma Hay.

In December 1908, the Rev. James Monroe Shellenberger was called as pastor of the Tannersville Charge, at an annual salary of $700 and the parsonage. He remained for more than 42 years, retiring in June 1951. He also served as pulpit supply pastor for a few years after retirement.

There is no record of the number of miles he traveled for church activities, number of sermons preached, number of weddings, confirmations, baptisms and funerals he conducted but these must have been considerable in a period of 42 years.

During Rev. Shellenberger’s pastorate many changes were made in the church. Electric lights and a hot air furnace were installed.

In 1924, the trustees decided to build a Sunday school or recreation room, but land was needed. Charles F. Gravel sold a plot of land for the sum of one dollar. The Sunday School Room and part of the parking lot are sited on this plot of land.

The addition was build at a cost of more than $7,000. A loan of $6,500 was made with the Security Bank in Stroudsburg at 6 percent interest. The loan was paid in full in a few years. Personal gifts and profits from many projects helped to raise the funds. J.J. Wildrick of Blakeslee was the contractor.


In 1934, the Evangelical denomination and the Reformed denomination merged to form the Evangelical Reformed Church, often referred to as the E&R Church.

In 1940, the Charles F. Gravel Estate sold 8,600 square feet to the church for the sum of one dollar. This land was used for a parking lot on the east and north sides of the church.

In 1944, Frances J. Faust and Mary E. Faust donated 8,654 square feet of land to Salem Church. This plot of land is located in the rear of the church.

In 1947, a mural of Christ in the Garden was painted on canvas and placed on the wall in back of the altar by the Roth Brothers of York, Pa. The Ladies Aid Society donated the mural.

The Alpha Bible Class (women) was an important organization that raised money to meet church expenses.

The Faith, Hope and Charity (F.H.C. Class, young adult women) were formed when the Alpha Bible Class became too large. Later the two classes merged into one adult class.

In 1945, members and friends of the church purchased new pews as memorial to family and friends.

In 1946, the H.P. Henning family purchased a new altar in memory of James Henning who was killed in Italy during World War II. The new church furnishings and decorations were dedicated on June 9, 1946.

The Rev. William Foose succeeded Rev. Shellenberger and was elected to the Tannersville Charge on September 1, 1952. He remained at Salem Church until December 1956, when he became chief administrator of Phoebe Home in Allentown.

During Rev. Foose’s pastorate a well was drilled and running water was installed for the first time at Salem Church.

In February 1957, Rev. C. Walter Long came to Salem as pastor. During his tenure, the memorial stained glass windows were purchased and installed in the sanctuary and Sunday school rooms. Most of the windows were purchased by members or friends of the church and dedicated as memorials for relatives or friends.

In 1957, lavatories were installed in the Sunday school addition.

Rev. Long remained at Salem Church until March 1959, when he accepted a call to the UCC at Schoenersville.

Ira and Eva Knorr gave two small tracts of land (about a half acre) to the church. This parcel is located on the north side and provided a circular driveway around the church.


On June 25, 1957 the Evangelical Reformed denomination merged with the Congregational Christian denomination and the merger was renamed The United Church of Christ.

The Rev. Elmer G. Meissner became pastor of Salem U.C.C. in August 1959 and served for 24 years. During his tenure, many changes occurred. In October 1961, a new Wurlitzer organ with chimes, was purchased. The Ladies Aid became the Women’s Guild and many fundraisers were held under their auspices. In 1967, a paved parking lot was constructed. In 1973, a new altar rail was installed at a cost of $650, paid for by the Guild. Rev. Meissner published a newsletter called “Our Parish Visitor,” providing news and activities of the church community.

John Fischer, Robert Fischer and James Keiper renovated the large Sunday school room and the primary classroom. Oil burning furnaces were installed for both the sanctuary and Sunday school. Aluminum siding was installed on the exterior, and the Selig Company landscaped the grounds.

In 1963, the Northeast Penn Conference was organized with 176 churches over 12 counties. Salem Church is part of this conference and has received helpful assistance from conference over the years.

Following Rev. Meissner’s retirement, the congregation numbers fell precipitously but the remaining congregants worked hard to keep the church from closing. Salem continued as part of the Tannersville Charge and services were conducted by charge pastors.

In 2000, a decision was made to call a part-time pastor to serve the Salem church. Lyman Baier and his wife, Sharon, answered the call. He was the first pastor to serve Salem exclusively. During the five years of his tenure he was instrumental in the growth of the church. He conducted two confirmation classes, instituted Communion service on the first Sunday of each month except during Lent.

He was creative in introducing drama plays into the worship services, for example playing Judas in a reenactment of the events of Good Friday and instituted “soup and sandwich” Lenten programs and special evening worship services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. He also conducted Vesper Services on the beach at Lake Naomi.

New chalices were commissioned. Church member Ray Hutton fabricated two chalices that were dedicated to their use during a Communion Service.

Pastor Baier actively served on the Top of the Mountain Ecumenical Council and was a member of the board of directors of Penn Northeast Conference. He also provided spiritual care to the residents of Phoebe Home.

The stained-glass windows throughout the church building were beginning to show the strain of years of weather, and the enormous task of restoration was begun. This project was headed by Elder Howard Deis, and in the course of three or four years was successfully completed. Many of the families who originally dedicated windows graciously supported the project. Rededication of the windows occurred as each was completed.

Purchase of an adjacent property and the razing of the old structures enhance the church’s appearance in the community.

Under the guidance of Sharon Baier, the newsletter was revamped into a community-wide mission outreach. The newsletter is published eight times a year bringing the Good News of God’s Love throughout the area. Pastor Baier wrote inspiring “Pastor’s Corner” articles and the tradition continues.

In 2005, Pastor Baier retired and the daunting task began in search of a replacement. In the interim Salem Church was ably served by Pastors Lynn Breedy and David Berryman from Zion UCC and Nevin Kirschner, as well as supply pastors from PNEC.

In March 2007, the Rev. John Stowell was called to serve as part-time pastor. A Service of Installation was conducted in October, welcoming Pastor Stowell to the pulpit and the heart of the church.

God has abundantly blessed the church with people who are willing to give of their time, talents and treasure. We look forward to a bright future with God’s help committed to the mission to serve Him and spread His Word.

Salem United Church of Christ
Old Route 940
Pocono Lake, PA

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