Old Block Church

   The above is a picture of the first church built in Salem Township, and probably the first one in Steuben County.  It was erected in 1841 or 1842 and is built of poplar and black walnut, the logs being hewed to about sixteen inches square, and the workmanship is very fine indeed.  When it was built the workmen went to the woods on a certain Monday morning and began cutting the trees, and the following Sunday the building was dedicated to Divine worship.  The seats were very rude and made by placing planks on horses made of rails, except six large seats with backs made by a carpenter and placed on either side of the pulpit, they were called the “aristocratic seats.”   An aisle ran through the center of the room.  There was a door at the front, three windows on each side and one at the rear.  The building faced the west and stood east of the present Block Church and were the cemetery is now located.  It was built by the Methodists and occupied by them and the Presbyterians, both of which societies being organized in 1839.
   A man by the name of Griffith organized the Methodist Church with the following charter members all of whom are dead except Mrs. Susan Bell, who was then Miss Susan Butler:
   Robert Bell; Marla Bell; Benjamin Cromwell; Mary Butler; Miss Susan Bell; Eli M. Teal and wife; Edward Hammond and wife.
   The Presbyterian Society was organized August 10th, 1839, by O. Littlefield, with thirteen charter members, all of whom are dead.  They were as follows:  Moses S. Parsell; Hannah Parsell; John Wilson; Dinah Wilson; Marla More; Andrew Harvery Wilson; Mrs. Fannie Butler; Mrs. Malita Butler; John Brown; Mrs. Betsy Brown; May Ann Wilson; Margaret Ann Wilson; Elizabeth Wilson.
   Those societies worshipped in the school house until the church was built.  The old Block house was abandoned for church purposes in about the year 1857, and was bought by J. N. Osterhout for the sum of ten dollars, moved it about one mile and occupied it with his family for near thirty years.  The Presbyterians then built on the site of the church building that stands there today, what was known as the Singing Hall, where the two societies worshipped until the building was destroyed by fire, when in 1867, the Methodists erected a new building at Salem Center, a mile and half south.  The Presbyterians and United Brethren built the present edifice where the old Singing Hall stood, but when there was a division in the latter church, the building was given entirely into the control of the Presbyterians.
   If the walls of the old church could speak they could tell of many incidents and scenes of joy and sorrow, times when people gathered to look at the pale faces of their dead for the last time on earth, and again when there was loud shouting and singing, and when some enthusiastic brother or sister “got the power,” which was quite a common occurrence in those early days.  An aged lady who formerly worshipped in the old church, said to the writer only a few days ago, “I tell you those were great days, and when some one got ‘the power’ and a score or more were shouting and singing at the top of there voices, it seemed that the year of Jubilee had come sure enough.  It seems to me the Lord does not come as near his people now as he did in the early days in Steuben County.”
   Adelbert Wood, son-in-law of Mr. Ousterhout, now occupies the old house as a residence.  On the right of the picture is seated J. N. Ousterhout.  Next to him is his wife and back of her their son Ralph, and at his right in the order are the other members of their family.  Miss Alta Ousterhout, Mrs. Lillie Morrison, Mrs. Viola Wood, Escue Ousterhout, Mrs. Cora Clay and Mrs. John Slick.

Source: Steuben Republican Newspaper, 19 Sep 1900 p.1 c.5 

Submitted By: Jean Ann Childers
E-mail: jachild1@frontier.com