Learn Our History
Salem is one of the oldest churches in Kentucky. According to available historical records, its first parishioners began to gather and worship as Salem Church in 1784, upon the arrival of pioneer minister, Adam Rankin. In 1785, two delegates from Salem Church attended the conferences at Cane Run Meeting House that led to the founding of the Presbytery of Transylvania in 1786.
Although several of the early pioneer ministers held services at Salem, it was not until after the arrival of the Jacob Fishback family in 1787 that Salem was formally organized as part of the Lexington Presbytery (now Transylvania Presbytery) by the Rev. Andrew McClure. At that time, the congregation met in a log building two miles from the present site, not far from the pioneer road that led north from Fort Boonesborough to the Ohio River.
The Fishback family played an important part in the life of Salem Church and the establishment of churches in Kentucky. Jacob Fishback came to Kentucky in 1783 as a pioneer following the Revolutionary War, and first settled his family at the Forks of Dick's River, where Jacob became friends with and joined the church founded by Rev. David Rice. In 1787, Jacob received a Revolutionary War Land Grant for his services in the Virginia Regiment and moved his family to the new land, which was located in Fayette County (now Clark County), Kentucky, near the present-day village of Pine Grove. Jacob's son, Rev. James Fishback, became a prominent Kentucky citizen as a doctor, lawyer, and minister. For nearly 200 years, a member of the Fishback family continuously served as an elder of Salem Church, beginning with Jacob Fishback in 1787 and lasting until the death of Frederick H. Fishback on April 1, 1981.
The "Great Revival" was a significant period in the history of religion in Kentucky from 1797 to 1803, with most attention being paid to an event at Cane Ridge in August, 1801. Salem's Rev. John Lyle was an active participant and wrote about four days of meetings that took place at Salem in June, 1801. Similar meetings occurred at other churches around the region.
During much of its history, Salem was served by pastors who served other nearby churches. The Rev. Robert Stuart served Walnut Hill and Salem for some thirty years. Dr. Edward O. Guerrant, who led church extension work in Kentucky for years, began his active ministry at Salem. Another pastor with a long and distinguished ministry in several Kentucky churches was the Rev. S.M. Logan.
In 1870, the present building on Combs Ferry Road was dedicated on land donated by Jacob Hughes. In 1955, a Christian education-fellowship wing was added to the original church with the help of a gift from Mrs. Ernest Bowyer.