Salem Campground was established in 1828, and it contains The Salem Spring, an open-air tabernacle, over twenty comfortable cabins, and a seemingly endless beautiful landscape. The lands themselves are filled with a rich American history; and, the campground itself is still enjoyed today. For example, Salem Campground is famously known for hosting one of the nation’s oldest thriving annual camp meetings.
Salem’s participation in the annual camp meetings actually dates back to a long-held American tradition that was popularized by various Protestant denominations during the 19th Century. Historians have specifically credited a Presbyterian minister named James McGready for beginning this influential form of worship in Logan county, Kentucky. The camp meetings were created in order to extend religious services throughout various communities and offer spiritual guidance to the migrant populations moving west throughout this time period. Eventually, McGready and many other ministers spread theirs practices across the entire American southwest. Now we understand that their influence was a major reason behind the creation of our community’s beloved Salem Campground.
Salem Campground was established for this camp meeting tradition, but the owners did not erect the iconic tabernacle until 1854. During this era, families would travel to the campgrounds and attend four religious services per day. The campground was considered a Methodist institution for nearly a century, but it was never officially affiliated with the church. Additionally, an average family would spend the night at the campground by sleeping in or under their wagons, while wealthy families would sleep on wooden frames covered with straw in a make-shift shanty. Also, The Salem Spring was a good source of water for worshipers during the time, and it still provides over 30 gallons of 65-degree water per minute today.
Throughout the years, Salem Campground has experienced many changes. It is now an interdenominational institution, featuring a Methodist preacher each year and one Baptist or Presbyterian preacher on alternating years. They also renovated many of their facilities by building new cabins; interestingly enough, the campground did not install electric lights and plumbing until 1939.
Regardless of its many alterations, Salem Campground remains true to its roots. The campus contains approximately twenty cabins that were all specifically positioned around the 150-year-old tabernacle as a reminder of the camp’s history and purpose. The main facility contains private baths and a classic wrap-around porch withmany peaceful rocking chairs. During the week, campers are summoned to services and activities by Salem's bell. Morning Watch starts at 7:30 am, followed by classes at 9:30 am and worship at 11:00 am. The afternoons are filled with an abundance of activities for children and students. After supper, everyone cleans up and prepares for evening worship at 8:00 pm.
Overall, Salem Campground is one of the community’s most vital landmarks, and we strongly encourage you to visit.