Salem Baptist Church was formed from Upper king and Queen Church, in 1802, and is located in the village of Sparta. The “Great Revival”, which spread over Virginia in 1788, stirred Tuckahoe and Upper King and Queen Churches mightily, causing these two congregations to meet upon the site of Old Salem Church, which was half-way ground, under an arbor, in a great series of revival meetings; which were held for several summers preceding the organization of the church, and it was on this spot where the first church building was subsequently erected. Salem was constituted in 1802.
The first house of worship was an exceedingly crude wooden structure without ceiling of any kind and without a stove or any other means of heating the building. This was followed by another wooden structure rather more comfortable, but still inconvenient and unsightly. In 1852 a large and handsome brick building was erected. It is not known how many members constituted the church at the time of its organization. This church was situated about six miles east of Sparta. Some of our oldest members now living remember going to Old Salem, then a member of the Rappahannock Association, to conventions, associations and all-day protracted meetings with dinner spread upon outdoor tables under the trees, now almost a tradition.
Theodore Noell was the first pastor and was converted and baptized in 1773 under the preaching of Lewis Craig, who was among the first Baptists who endured persecution in several places in Virginia. After the resignation of Elder Noell, the church was served by Elders Spilsby Woolfork and John Sorrell. All three of these men were plain and uneducated but of deep piety and unbounded energy, and their influence for good was felt in the community and the surrounding country.
Andrew Broaddus I was baptized by Elder Noell May 28, 1789 who was his guide in his religious faith and afterward united with Upper King and Queen Church. He was ordained to the ministry October 1791. In 1820 he became pastor of Salem. He had been reared among these people but was of national reputation and a man of splendid and varied gifts. He was called to some of the greatest city churches of his day. He refused the Degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1843 from Columbia College, of Washington, D. C. He was a author of prominence and a prolific writer. He wrote several books, some of which were “A Form of Church Discipline”, “Dover Selection of Hymns”, “History of the Bible”, sermons, essays, poems, etc. The original Richmond Seminary adopted a seal designed by Andrew Broaddus I which with only the change of name to the University of Richmond has been used ever since. He was the greatest man who bore the name Broaddus up to this time. Henry Clay called him “the past master of eloquence.” His life was full of interest and instruction. It would be difficult to record the accomplishments of this man of genius in an age of comparative darkness, encompassed by difficulties, without instructors, and without books. He served pastorates in several counties in Eastern Virginia but preferred to live in the country amid the various and pressing engagements of his ministry.
It was during the pastorate of Andrew Broaddus I that there was a split in Salem Church because of the temperance question, liquor being one of the foremost evils existing in the churches in those days. In 1846 the minority group left Salem and joined Mt. Calvary, founded in 1818 at Sparta, the history of which is very little known. They called Andrew Broaddus II then a young minister, as their pastor. In 1849 there were 174 white members and 28 colored members reported. Salem was served by Andrew Broaddus I for 28 years and he passed away at the age of 78 amid the scenes of this early life revered by all for his many talents and virtues. He was succeeded by his son, Andrew Broaddus II, December 1848. Mt Calvary in the meantime in 1856 had dissolved their constitution on account of a number of their members moving to the west. The remainder of their members joined Salem which later moved to Mt. Calvary’s more commodious meetinghouse at Sparta. The name was also changed from Mt. Calvary to Salem.
Andrew Broaddus II was a man of great strength of mind, character and leadership. It is worth the while to mention the names of the young men who were called to the gospel ministry while he was pastor: Mordecai Broaddus, Henry G. Segar, Albert Anderson, Maurice E. Broaddus, known and spoken of as Andrew Ju, and was born in Caroline County, May 17, 1818. After attending the various neighborhood schools, he attended Rappahannock Academy, a boarding school of high grade, then Richmond Academy and later Columbia University in Washington, D. C. An interesting sidelight to Salem’s history and during the early years of the pastorate of Andrew Broaddus II was in the year 1854, a colony of homesteaders, composed of members of Salem, numbering 80 white persons and 120 Negroes, possibly slaves, set out for Texas. It is said that the caravan, which was made up of covered wagons and oxcarts, when in motion, was a full mile in length. On the first leg of their journey they reached Richmond, and spent the night; the next stop was Petersburg and so on until they reached their destination, which was in the vicinity of Caldwell, Texas. They built a Baptist Church and named it Salem after the old Salem they once knew. This colony was headed by a man named Andrew S. Broaddus, who was a prominent lay member of Salem, a lawyer by profession and also served one session in the Virginia Legislature. He later became prominent in his adopted state as District Judge. To this day the descendants of these ambitious and brave homesteaders keep their identity and have spread throughout the great state of Texas. Many have become wealthy, influential and of high standing.
At a later period the Civil War intervened. Under slavery many colored people were members and attended the churches of their masters. After their freedom was given them, the effort to secure their own homes was no greater than the effort to secure places of worship, for the colored people have always possessed a remarkable religious sense. They had always wanted a separate and distinct place to worship even in many localities before the Civil War. White ministers preached to them occasionally, but ministers of their own race were always in charge. Some could read the Bible. The colored people continued to worship in the church, Mt Calvary, (then discontinued), until the spring of 1866. Rev. Andrew Broaddus II suggested that they could still remain members, provide they sit in the galleries and obey the rulings, or that the majority could withdraw and constitute their own church. This suggestion brought about the purchase of an acre of land where Jerusalem Church stands, now a thriving country Church under the leadership of Rev. Andrew P. Young, D.D.
Andrew Broaddus II purchased a farm near Sparta, “White Plains”, which has been the home of the Broaddus family for the succeeding generations. He pastored many churches in Caroline and adjacent counties at different intervals, namely, Upper Zion, Carmel, Bethesda, Bowling Green, Bethel, Upper King and Queen and others. He held the pastor ship of Salem until compelled by the infirmities of old age to resign in 1896. Upon the retirement of Andrew II, his son Andrew III, was next in line. To be a lineal descendant of several generations of preachers may be a blessing or a handicap as one uses or abuses the relationship. Andrew Broaddus III was born at “White Plains”, near Sparta, March 29, 1853 and was baptized by this father on this 16th birthday in a nearby mill pond. He was educated in the neighborhood private schools, Richmond College and the Southern Theological Seminary, then located at Greenville, South Carolina. He received the degree of Bachelor of Laws from Richmond Law School. Not satisfied to continue his legal profession he resolved to obey the Divine call, and was ordained for the ministry at Old Salem Church September 12, 1875 by a presbytery of Rev. Thos. G. Dunaway, Rev. H. W. Montague, Dr William A Baynham, and his father, Andrew II. He served successfully as the honored pastor of the following churches: Fork Union, North Hampton, Lancaster, Bowling Green, Bethel, Providence, Mt. Hermon and Upper Zion. He was called and entered upon the duties as pastor of Salem, January of 1897. The church records show that at the first meeting of the year a committee was appointed to tender Brother Andrew Broaddus III a call to the church. A vote was taken and the report was accepted. The church agreed to pay the salary of $240.00 for his services for the rest of the year, with services twice a month. Later in 1899 the church decided to have a full time pastor with supplementary salary. Andrew Broaddus II resigned as pastor in 1896 but not until April 19, 1900 did he pass to his reward. On June 8 a memorial service to his memory was held at Salem Church. One year later a memorial window to the three Andrew Broadduses was unveiled in the recessed pulpit August 15, 1901. Dr. George W. Beale was the speaker for the occasion. Evangelistic meetings were held through the years and Rev. Broaddus was assisted by such men as Reverends Frank B. Beale, Dr. J. S. Dill, Dr. J. W. Derieux, Dr. W. L. Ball, Dr. Aubrey Williams and Dr. W. C. James. On July 10, 1902, the one hundredth anniversary of Salem Church was held. Rev. Andrew Broaddus read the historical sketch of the church. Dr. W. E. Hatcher made the anniversary speech, the subject of which was “The Value of the Local Church.” A portrait of Andrew Broaddus I was presented by a kinswoman, Miss Bettie Broaddus of Baltimore, also a portrait of Andrew Broaddus II was presented by John W. Sale of Richmond. Following this was an address by Rev. Frank B. Beale. In the afternoon Dr. George W. Beale delivered an address on “Baptists and Religious Liberty.” There were also other ministers present, Reverends J. AT. Haley, J. S. Boils, W. T. Hunley, and Dr. R. H. Pitt.
On October 7, 1902 delegates from thirteen churches met at Mt. Hermon Church and formed the Hermon Association. The Woman’s Missionary Union of the Hermon Association was formed the same year with Mrs. C. F. Sugg as Associational Superintendent. At that time there were eight Missionary Societies and one or two Sunbeam Societies. Our own Missionary Society, better know in former years as “The Ladies Aid Society” had it early beginning many years previous to the organization of the Woman’s Missionary Society. Several of our older ladies enjoy the blessed memory of working to raise money for church and local demands, one-half of the amount raised was given to the three Boards. We started and maintained a Building and Repair Fund which took care of repairs and for interior decorating, such as buying furniture, carpet for the pulpit and aisles and building the portico on the front of the Church at a cost of $563.00 which was completed in the year of 1906. This fund also supplemented the pastor’s salary in the times of stress. It was the Ladies Aid Society, which cultivated the missionary spirit and the grace of giving down to this present day. During these years the membership had almost doubled and there was special need for Sunday School facilities. Rev. Joseph Watts, representative of the State Mission Sunday School Department, held a Sunday School Institute and introduced a graded system which was in the spring of 1912. As the result four classrooms were added at a cost of $1038.00. These were finished and dedicated in the fall of 1913.
During the years of Rev. Broaddus’ ministry another of Salem’s sons, William O. Beazley, was called into the ministry. Mr. Beazley was a man of fine personality and endowed with many gifts. He was ordained from Salem July 7, 1910. He held degrees of A. B., A.M. and Ph.D From1915 until this death in October 1918, he was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lexington, Virginia. A few years prior to that he was Professor of Philosophy and Biology at Hampden-Sydney College.
During the 29 year of leadership, Andrew Broaddus III won the hearts of those he served by his preaching gifts and his pastoral devotion to his flock. In the early twenties the Honorary Degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by Richmond College. In commemoration of this most unique and remarkable record, the Centennial of the three successive pastorates was celebrated at Salem in 1920. As an expression of their high esteem for the present pastor a handsome silver loving cup was presented to him. During the last years of his ministry his work among his people was done in spite of bodily weakness and physical pain. Thus on October 1, 1926, Dr. Broaddus passed to his Heavenly reward at his home and his dust reposes with that of this fathers in the Broaddus section of the cemetery adjacent to the church where the three Andrew Broadduses, I, II and III, served an unbroken pastorate for 106 years.
Now the church had to double its efforts to find a pastor and build a pastorium. Three acres of land adjacent to the church were donated by Samuel E. Pitts, and an attractive and comfortable building was erected and ready for occupancy in less than a year at the cost of $4,000. Never did Salem go without preaching services on Sunday and supplies were always available. Dr. Rolvix Harlan supplied the pulpit with one service a month for more than a year.
When a call was extended Rev. E. V. Peyton, he and his family took up their residence in the new pastorium in January 1928. Salem and Mt. Hermon Churches now formed a field and Rev. Peyton became pastor of the two churches. His speaking gifts and his gifts of leadership and personality promised much usefulness, but his pastorate was short. However the church was strengthened spiritually and there were many additions. The church and Sunday School attendance was gratifying. There was an active B.Y.P.U. (Baptist Young Peoples Union) organized to train our young boys and girls in leadership, all under the supervision of the church.
The following amendment to Article IX in the Church Constitution was adopted at a business meeting March 3, 1928: “The current expenses of the church shall be based on the voluntary principle in lieu of the assessment plan, that is the members of the church be requested to subscribe to the support of the church according to their ability, and an annual every-member canvass, under the supervision of the Finance Committee, be conducted for this purpose.”
Not until 1928 was it the custom for the female members to attend the quarterly business meetings of the church. The government of the church was administered by the male members and all matters of discipline as well.
Mr. Peyton’s resignation was effective in October 1929, and in August 1930 Dr. T. C. Allen accepted a call to the field. The influence of his deeply consecrated life, his interest in the Mission Boards, his liberal example of giving toward these and other interests of the Kingdom are felt in this church to this day. During his ministry the membership steadily increased and special interest in the W.M.U. work was quickened. Our women and young people were all organized, and with the new Standard of Giving to the Cooperative Program and the duplex envelope system proved to broaden our vision of service in the Master’s vineyard. It is here that we wish to pay tribute to Mrs. Effie B. Norment, who was president of our W. M. S. for over 22 years. She was selected superintendent of the W. M. U. work of the Hermon Association and served faithfully for 20 years.
It was during Dr. Allen’s leadership that we saw the need of greater extension as there were inadequate facilities to give the young people the much needed recreation. However, later a building fund was started, and the money was converted into War Bonds, but not until 1950 did we see our dreams taking shape in the form of our Educational Building. Dr. Allen, feeling that his work had been completed resigned September 1936.
In March 1937 Mr. J. Frederick Parker, then a student pastor of Bethesda, accepted the call to Salem and Mt. Hermon, which was the usual field; but Bethesda was brought into the field temporarily. These three churches called for the ordination of Mr. Parker to the ministry, and he was ordained at Salem August 1, 1937. The spiritual progress was good, and about 80 members were brought into the church during his pastorate. The physical progress was marked. Rev. Parker resigned June 1941 and entered the Navy as a chaplain.
In November 1941 Rev. I. E. Provence was called to Salem and Mt. Hermon. He came to us prepared for his work. He was educated from Baylor University, Houston, Texas and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Louisville. His evangelistic efforts within the church community and far beyond, knew no limit. He visited every home in his effort to enlist persons in church and Sunday school. Revival services were held once a year, and many more members were added by baptism. A large group of members from Upper Zion came by letter seeking church affiliation due to the establishment of the A. P. Hill Military Reservation. The building fund, which had already had its beginning a few years before, had been increased by subscriptions, with the hope that plans would soon be ready to put into place a building that would take care of the needs of the church. During these years Mr. Provence and his members were a happy family and there was loyal cooperation of both pastor and people. After serving in this field for four years, he tendered his resignation to take effect October l, 1945.
On Sunday, April 7, 1946, Rev. Curtis Holloman, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia, was the visiting minister and preached from Salem’s pulpit. He had been ordained from his home church and had completed his graduate work at the University of Richmond and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Louisville, Kentucky. Salem and Mt. Hermon extended him a call to this field and he began his pastoral duties in June of 1946. It would not be fair to me or our present pastor, Rev. Curtis Holloman, to estimate his value as pastor and leader, and this will have to be left to future histories of our church. Yet, I may venture to say that he is an ambitious, persevering, energetic leader and keenly alert to the progress of the affairs of the Kingdom. This year marks his eleventh year as pastor of Salem and Mt. Hermon. His efforts have enlivened and invigorated his churches and from all appearances are in a harmonious and progressive condition. I only wish for him a long and honorable ministry, guided by truth and animated by love. During these eleven years the physical progress of the church has been marked. The present enrollment is 332 members. Church attendance is good. The yearly budget amounts to approximately $8,516.00. Other needs include increased pastoral support from time to time, refinishing and care taking, refurnishing, improving the buildings and grounds, care of the cemetery and evangelistic meetings every summer.
Compiled by Sadie Travis Pitts, 1878-1970