In 1904 a band of God-fearing men and women saw the necessity of organizing in West Hyde Park a Sunday school in which their children could easily assemble to learn God’s Word. This Sunday School included both Methodists and Baptists, and Deacon J. L. Stanley served as Superintendent. This nucleus served as the only means of worship for most of the people because all of the Negro churches were located on the east side of town. Being led by the Holy Spirit, Deacon, J. C. Price, a member of Beulah Baptist Church, and Deacon J. L. Stanley called the Baptists together in West Hyde Park and founded the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in 1906, A parcel of land was bought on which to erect a temple of Worship in the 400 block of South Oregon Avenue, A small building housed these humble, but determined Worshipers for a few years. Rev. H.H. James was called as the first Pastor.
Other ministers responsible for leading this church during its infancy were Reverends Frank James, H. K. Morehead, J. H. Horton, W. Jones, J. R. Sanders, and P.H. James.
Rev. D.S. Moragne served as shepherd of the flock for ten years. The church, under his spirit filled leadership, flourished and evidenced his superior organizational skills.
In 1932 Rev. J. A. Davis took the helm and served for eight years. During this time the first parsonage was purchased.
Rev. P.H. Jackson, a building minister, began his tenure in 1939 and served until June 1951. Under this dynamic minister’s leadership, the church grew physically as well as spiritually, A utility building was constructed during his first year, and a parsonage adjacent to the church was purchased; construction began in march 1946, and New Salem marched into the new church in 1950, The Floral, Boosters, and Loyalty Clubs were organized during Rev. Jackson’s pastorate.
Rev. H.W. Wilburn served with vigor and enthusiasm from July 1952 through 1964. During this period new pews were installed, lot for parking was purchased, the communion room was added to the edifice and the Mother’s Board was organized.
The church called Rev, W. H. Gordon, a young energetic minister in February 1965. The young adults were inspired to increase their involvement under his leadership. The Young Adults Choir and the No. 2 Usher Board were organized; two young men, Bros. Harry Harris and Alfred Ward answered the call to the ministry and were licensed. Before Rev. Gordon was called to his mothers church in April of 1967, an Air Condition and Heating System was installed, and many necessary repair and beautification projects were completed.
Rev. J.W. Deering, then Director of the Baptist Fellowship Center picked up the reins in July 1967. He powerfully preached and taught tithing and the importance of Christian visitation, witnessing and soul winning. One of the greatest Revivals ever witnessed at New Salem was held during this reaching ministers tenure. Rev. Deering actively encouraged support of our church related educational institutions and continuously stressed the need for religious training. Rev. Harry Harris was ordained for the ministry om Jan. 7, 1968, A new parsonage was purchased in Oct, 1968..
In July 1969 the Rev. Howard Storr was installed as the new religious leader and served until April 1973. During his pastorate New Salem hosted the Women of the Baptist General State Convention in April of 1971 and the West Coast District Sunday School and B.T.U. Congress in 1972. Renovations during this period included the restrooms in the lower unit of the church and the paving of the parking lot.
Rev. J.P. Saunders, a neophyte, was called in 1973. Guided by this quiet spoken leader, the Brotherhood and the Junior Church were revitalized; the Baptist Young Women were organized. Brother George Martin answered the call to the Ministry and was licensed in July 1974. He was subsequently ordained in 1980. Six Deacons were ordained. In 1980 the Church hosted the West Coast District Congress of Christian Education. Rev. Saunders was instrumental in New Salem’s participation in the last Tampa Bay Area Billy Graham Crusade held at Tampa Stadium.
In 1981, the church hosted the Young Matron’s Department of the Baptist General State Convention of Florida. Olin Doby was the Church’s contestant in the Oratorical contest sponsored by the State Congress of Christian Education. After becoming the State’s winner, he continued to compete nationally and placed third at the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. which convened in Detroit, Michigan, in September 1981. A new bus was purchased in 1980, enabling the church to participate in a newly organized program of witnessing at area prisons in conjunction with the Prison Crusade. The Crusade for Christ Choir was organized in conjunction with the First Baptist Church of Keystone, and this choir has accompanied Rev. Saunders to many prisons throughout the state, and has done further witnessing on its own under the direction of Sister Lillie M. Madison and Sister Massalena Britt. Its annual program “On Fire For Jesus” is highly acclaimed throughout the city. The, Church’s membership continues to grow under Rev. Saunders’ leadership. The Church continues to receive praise for its modern and beautiful Sanctuary which was renovated in 1978.
1982 has shown continuous progress. The church continues to grow in membership and continues to play a vital role in the community. Much emphasis is placed on missions, especially within the community. The Baptist Young Women have become an active auxiliary of the church. The mortgage which was initiated in 1978 was satisfied in December 1982, well ahead of schedule. The church sent delegates to the National Convention, State Convention and the State Congress. Much emphasis is now being placed on religious education. A new member orientation committee is being planned and the christian education committee is being formed under the leadership of Rev. Saunders. As we continue to progress, we look forward to continued growth and success in 1983.