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Salem Reformed Church marks 250th anniversary

October 10, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Salem Reformed Church had already been around for 175 years when Cora Johnston became a member.

This year, Salem celebrates its 250th anniversary and Cora Johnston is still around, making sure the little church west of Hagerstown remembers its past as it prepares for its future.

"She is our star,'' said Mary Lou Bryan, noting that Cora Johnston is the congregation's oldest confirmed member.

Bryan is one of the organizers of the festivities, which will begin with the homecoming anniversary banquet tonight at 6 p.m.

Those who attend this banquet at the Four Points Hotel have been encouraged to wear Colonial dress.

Guest speaker at the banquet will be Paul H. Sherry, president of the United Church of Christ.

On Sunday, the 250th anniversary service will begin at 9:30 a.m., again with Sherry as guest speaker at the church service.

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Cora Johnston will be there for all those services - she doesn't miss a Sunday, she said.

Devotion and steadfastness are part of Cora Johnston's being. A 26-year career as postmaster of Maugansville, she has lived in the same house for 58 years.

"And I was born next door - I guess I didn't get very far,'' she said.

Dr. Conrad Clever was pastor when Cora Johnston was confirmed. "He was a good soul and he was there a long time,'' she said.

Longevity is a trademark at Salem Reformed. The current pastor, the Rev. J. Clark Hayes has been pastor for 30 years.

Life was first breathed into Salem Reformed Church in 1747 by Peter Deyshere, whose lay leadership led to the formation of what was then known as the Deyshere congregation.

That same year, the first log church was built on 50 acres of land donated by Peter Rentch. The Rev. Michael Schlatter was the first pastor.

The hexagonal log building was enlarged in 1806 and then replaced in 1822 with the stone building still in use today.

It cost $2,500.

"I remember the old picket fence that used to surround the church,'' said Cora Johnston. That fence was built 1822 and remained there until 1935 when the stone fence was erected.

She also remembers when there wasn't church in the winter because of the difficulty of getting to the building in the snow. Christmas was an exception to that rule.

"We had a potbelly stove to keep us warm before there was electricity,'' she recalled.

A stone church school was added in 1951 followed by the brick church school built in 1962.

In 1996, the church became assessible to the handicapped when an elevator was built.

"Church is a big part of my life,'' she said. "I was in the choir for 55 years and was the first woman elected to the church consistory.''

It just wouldn't be a 250th anniversary celebration without Cora Johnston.

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