At the meeting:
There were 28 persons present. There was no business meeting in order to shorten the meeting due to the extreme heat. There was no meeting in July and minutes of the June meeting were not read.
Frances Cobb presented the treasurer’s report. July income was $287. Expenses were $74.81. The balance in checking is $3,788.53.
President David Boyle introduced Jemima Shirley, the guest speaker. Shirley briefly recounted how she discovered some ten or more years ago that her Jay ancestors were buried in the Salem Methodist Church Cemetery. She and family members cleaned up the cemetery in 2002 and 2003. It had been completely overgrown for many years. It is estimated that there are 250 graves, most without formal markers other than a simple headstone with no inscription.
She then gave a history of the Salem Community which began sometime before 1837. The church and school were formally founded in September 1837. Since the church had likely been meeting for some time, it may have been the earliest Methodist Church in Walker County. At the time of the founding of the church, there were a half dozen or so houses and a school nearby. Most likely, the church stood near where the Mary and Faris Lawrences’ home stands today.
The congregation was vital and active until after the War Between the States when a new chapter was begun with the founding of Bethel Methodist Church with many of the same members. The Salem Community predates the Noble community and was active with a post office and school until the 1890s or later. Shirley identified the charter trustees as William G. Harris, William Conley, Francis Bird, Jesse Self, and J. C. Laughridge.
Shirley has developed a list of persons likely buried at Salem besides the ones with markers. These include members of the Self, Jay, Harris, Denton, Tipton, Garner, Culbertson, Lambert, Hood and Chastain families.
Due to the time and money invested by the Jay descendants, there is a walkway with a metal bannister leading down the hillside to Town Creek. Unfortunately, the county contractor completely demolished the parking pad which the family had paid for when the county rebuilt the bridge over Town Creek.
Boyle gave a summary of what happened to the people of Salem Church after the war. Most went to the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church, a northern Methodist Church which was founded in 1867 and later moved to the east end of Reed Road where a school was also established. Many of the same names occur as at Salem, especially Tiptons, Birds and Loughridges.
Boyle discussed the political climate in Noble after the war when communities and families were still split over secession. Apparently, there were many unionists around Noble since the Bethel Church chose to be affiliated with the Northern or national Methodist Church instead of the Methodist Episcopal South. Boyle also described where the families went after the Bethel Church was dissolved in 1967. There is a history by Rev. Queon Smith on the history of Bethel Methodist Church.
Lemonade was served while members of the Noble Neighborhood Association went to have pictures taken on the new bridge by a reporter from Chattanooga News Channel 3.
The next meeting will be at the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26 with Mr. Jack Shelby speaking about law enforcement in Walker County and his memories of living in the old Walker County jail when his father worked there.
Submitted by David Boyle.