West Salem, Illinois

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West Salem, Illinois
Location of West Salem in Edwards County, Illinois.
Location of West Salem in Edwards County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 38°31′16″N 88°0′32″W / 38.52111°N 88.00889°W / 38.52111; -88.00889Coordinates: 38°31′16″N 88°0′32″W / 38.52111°N 88.00889°W / 38.52111; -88.00889
CountryUnited States
EstablishedFebruary 8, 1857
 • Total1.57 sq mi (4.06 km2)
 • Land1.57 sq mi (4.06 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
 • Total897
 • Estimate 
 • Density555.13/sq mi (214.36/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)618
FIPS code17-80853
Wikimedia CommonsWest Salem, Illinois

West Salem is a village in Edwards County, Illinois, United States. The population was 897 at the 2010 census,[3] down from 1,001 at the 2000 census.


According to tradition, in 1830 a man named Walser traveled through the area where the town later was located. When he returned home to Salem, North Carolina, he told of the beautiful forests, prairies, streams, and wild game he had seen. A number of Moravian families, hearing these reports, moved from North Carolina to take up land in this area. The earliest of these settlers was Adam Hedrick, who purchased his land on August 25, 1830. Second was Peter Hinkle, who claimed his land on May 30, 1831.

From 1841 to 1846 the new Moravian settlers were working with the headquarters of the southern province of the Moravian Church in Salem (Old Salem), North Carolina, in establishing a congregation. William Eberman, the Moravian pastor at Hope, Indiana, was sent to visit and preach for them in the fall of 1841. Many other settlers followed, until by 1843, more than 80 families lived within a 3-mile (4.8 km) radius of what was to become West Salem, most of them Moravians. But in 1843, it was Martin Hauser, a Moravian home missionary also from Hope, Indiana, who would be instrumental not only in starting a Moravian Church, but also in helping to establish the town. On Saturday, May 25, 1844, a meeting was held in Peter Hinkle's barn, where heads of 15 families came forward and signed the Brotherly Agreement and Constitution that formed the new Moravian congregation. On his way home to Hope, in 1845, Hauser stopped at the federal land Office in Palestine, Illinois, to buy, in the name of the church, 120 acres (0.49 km2) of land on which West Salem is presently located. He was acting as attorney-in-fact for Rev. Charles Kluge, President of the Synod of the Southern Provincial Conference of the Moravian Church of North America.

In the years that followed, the new community of West Salem began to thrive but also to experience challenges as well. In 1849, more than 60 immigrants from Germany arrived, hoping to build homes and gravitating towards the Moravian Church. They were warmly received, but before long trouble developed between the Germans and the original English-speaking settlers. Language differences caused part of the difficulty, but the old German ideas and customs added to it. The congregations separated into "divisions", one English and one German, each with its own official board and its own pastor, but sharing the use of the church building and cemetery. After nine years of this arrangement, they became two separate congregations on February 7, 1858. The Germans retained the old church, and the English built a new church on the south side of the public square. This building was dedicated on August 14, 1859. The English retained the old cemetery, while the Germans laid out a cemetery adjacent to it. On April 10, 1892, the German congregation dedicated a new building, the present Moravian Church. Eventually the German American group began using the English language and gradually came to accept American ways. On June 13, 1925, the two congregations were reunited. The two cemeteries, which were gradually growing together, also were united at that time.

West Salem was not incorporated until 1857. When the Moravians first began arriving in the area, and Martin Hauser realized there was potential for a settlement, the group chose the name "New Salem", since they had traveled to Illinois from Salem, North Carolina. However, when it came time to establish a post office, it was discovered that Illinois already had a New Salem located near Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln had lived and operated a store. Accordingly, the settlers had to choose a new name and decided to call their village "West Salem", because it lay west of Salem, North Carolina, where they had come from. To the confusion of travelers ever since, this left West Salem east of Salem, Illinois, incorporated two years earlier. Records of the Illinois Secretary of State show that the official incorporation of West Salem took place on February 8, 1857.

The settlement was organized as a village on February 5, 1898, with 69 voting for organization and two voting against. Its first recorded Board of Trustees was William Foster Sr. (president), J.H. McDowell, J.B. Michael, E.G. Altner, George Pixley (clerk), A.L. Hammaker (treasurer), and J.B. Michel.

The first recorded organized board meeting of the village of West Salem took place on August 24, 1914. Those taking office were President Charles Pixley and Trustees James Fry, Leona Voigt, Dow Harrison, Arthur Clodfelter, E. Greathouse, and Charles Couch. Stuart Walser was clerk. Records in Village Hall do not show how these persons became the first officers, but they do not show an election of April 1915. At that time, those elected drew lots for one- or two-year terms. At the August 1914 meeting an attorney, John A. McNeil, was hired for $50 to draft a complete set of ordinances. These ordinances set boundaries and territories, set the fiscal year and meeting times, approve a corporate seal, set rules for committees and village officers, street labor, concerning peace, special elections, tax levies, annual appropriations, gaming, local improvements, establishing a prison, fines, traffic laws, etc. Thirty-one ordinances were approved by the end of 1915.

In 1951 a much needed water system was put into operation. Water was supplied from the shale pit and a lake. In 1962 a sewer system was completed, and outhouses finally went away for good. In March 2002 the village of West Salem signed a 40-year water purchase contract with RE Water Corporation. A 150,000 water storage tank was erected at the water plant.

In 1957 the West Salem Centennial Committee used funds to purchase land to be used as a park and baseball recreation area since the prior area was now being used for industrial development. The new park was called Centennial Park. The area has been used for youth baseball, as well as for circuses and other community events. One of the most popular events is the annual fireworks display held around the 4th of July every year and sponsored by the West Salem Volunteer Fire Department.

In 1965 property was bought for a village hall at 106 East South Street. A building was erected housing the volunteer fire department and the office for the clerk and treasurer, as well as a meeting room and the police department. In 1998 property just east of the village hall was purchased and the building was extended. In 1967, the West Salem Public Library opened their doors.

West Salem celebrated its centennial in 1957 and its sesquicentennial on June 29-July 1 of 2007.


West Salem is located in northeastern Edwards County, 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Albion, the county seat. According to the 2010 census, West Salem has a total area of 1.56 square miles (4.04 km2), all land.[3]


West Salem is within the Wabash Valley seismic zone. On April 3, 1974, an earthquake of magnitude 4.3 struck at coordinates 38.549N 88.072W, just to the northwest of town, and caused minor damage such as toppling chimneys and tombstones.[4]

On April 18, 2008, at 09:36:56 UTC (04:36:56 Central) a moderate earthquake of 5.2 magnitude was centered near the village. It was felt across southern Illinois, central Indiana and eastern portions of Missouri including St. Louis, 123 miles (198 km) away.[5][6][7]

On November 20, 2012, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake shook the village and was felt in Evansville, Indiana.


Early industry[edit]

While West Salem is located in a rural area, it has had several types of industries.

As early as the 1850s a cooper's shop was in operation to supply barrels for packing fruits. A three-story frame building was built by Frederick Luther in 1878. It was used as a flour mill and was operated by a stationary steam engine. A saw mill was also operated in conjunction with the mill. In later years the Mallison Brothers also operated a flour mill and grain elevator.

By June 4, 1891, the West Salem Gazette was painting a rosy picture of the fruit industry here. Blackberries, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and other fruits were raised very successfully. West Salem also once boasted a pure ice and power plant located south of the present Baker Seed Elevator.

Brick industry[edit]

The industry that probably did most for the early development of West Salem was its brick plant. A letterhead of 1918 states that the plant had a capacity of 22,000 bricks a day. At its peak it employed 50 men, who earned an average wage of $18 per week. The First Christian Church was built with bricks produced by this plant.

Champion Laboratories[edit]

It was the brick industry that gave West Salem local renown, but it has been Champion Laboratories that gave West Salem national recognition as a major supplier of automotive filters.

In the 1950s the West Salem Industrial Foundation, which later became known as the West Salem Development Association, began a drive to attract new industry to the West Salem-Bone Gap area. A sum of $12,000 was reached initially. The plan was to pay $10,000 to an agency to find a tenant for an as yet unbuilt industrial building. Howard Gaither, Arthur McDowell, and John Beehn were instrumental in the process of seeking a manufacturing business for the community. Late in 1954 an oral agreement was reached with the firm Potter and Brumfield. Under it Gaither, McDowell, and Beehn would invest cash and Harry Clemmons would invest his machinery (he owned Kleen Pak Manufacturing) in a new company known as Kleen-Pak Corporation. Howard Gaither, one of the founding fathers of Kleen-Pak/Champion, served as company president from 1955 to 1981 and Harry Clemmons served as Vice President before selling his stake in the company.

Construction of the original building began in February 1955 after the company was founded and with more community leaders coming on board for support. In 1958 Kleen-Pak merged with the Pyroil Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1956 Pyroil had purchased Champion Laboratories of Meriden, Connecticut, a filter assembly operation. Champion moved to West Salem and merged with Kleen-Pak. The merged companies continue to prosper. In 1966 an Albion plant was constructed and new buildings and additions have been made since.

In September 2007 all production operations at the West Salem facility were moved to the Albion facility. Champion is currently owned by United Components, Inc., located in Evansville, Indiana. Champion is the largest manufacturer in the U.S. of automotive filters for both new vehicles and the aftermarket. Champion employs more than 1,500 people in its manufacturing facilities in Edwards County, Illinois.

Oil industry[edit]

In the early 1980s West Salem experienced an oil boom. At one time as many as 32 wells were pumping oil. Coming at a time when most town and county budgets were seeing red ink, the West Salem village audit of the fiscal year ending in April 1981 revealed a surplus of just over $3,500, due to the oil boom.

Vision Alliance Corporation[edit]

Vision Alliance Corporation is a venture started by Don and Joni Millman of West Salem. It was started to provide contract manufacturing and sub-assembly services to Tier 1 suppliers in the automotive industry and to offer jobs for the village of West Salem and surrounding area.

The "vision" started in July 2002. Shortly after Don received his MBA, he was informed that his current job was being relocated 90 miles (140 km) away. They were faced with either moving with Don's current job or finding other options that would allow them to stay in the area close to their family. Using a business plan developed during the completion of his MBA, Don and Joni set out to raise capital and find a home for the business.

They approached the West Salem Development Association for help in finding a place for Vision Alliance to build. Steve Thomason, Association President, informed them that the "Engineering Building" owned by Champion Laboratories, Inc. was available to the Association and, if wanted, the Association would procure it for Vision Alliance Corporation. Once a facility was found, then raising capital became more feasible and Vision Alliance Corporation was incorporated.

In February 2006 Vision Alliance Corporation received its first contract award to supply assemblies to Xenia Manufacturing Inc. On March 13, 2006 Vision Alliance Corporation began production. A second contract was awarded in May and another in October 2006 raising the employment to 11 full-time and 4 part-time employees.

Newspapers and communications[edit]

Several underground blogs and websites exist in the West Salem area. The town's newspaper, the Edwards County Times-Advocate closed in 2014.[8]

The West Salem Advocate began publication on February 1, 1900. The founder of the Advocate, W.S. Baichley, published the paper until March 1940 when he retired at the age of 72. Upon his retirement, Baichley sold the business to H.F. Gerlach of Evansville, Illinois. In 1959 Joe Stoll purchased the paper from Gerlach. The paper remained in the same location, but in 1976 faced competition for readership for the first time. Harry Bradham had started a new publication called the Independent Times. With two newspapers in the small community, the competition was fierce and Stoll sold the Advocate to Harry Bradhan in 1984.

Harry Bradham continued to publish both the Times and Advocate for a period of time, but a merger was inevitable. In 1986 the Edwards County Times-Advocate hit the newsstands. Harry Bradham continued to publish the paper until his death in 2004, following a bout with cancer. The paper was sold by the estate of Harry Bradham to Mike and Sybil Conley of Trenton, Illinois. For the first time since the paper's inception, it was not locally owned.

In August 2006, Erin (Bradham) Fenton, the niece of Harry Bradham, purchased the paper from the Conleys, making the paper once again locally owned.


The first school house located within the limits of West Salem was a frame building about 20 by 22 feet (6.1 by 6.7 m), erected in 1850-51 and taught by Martin Hauser. On November 8, 1853, Stephen Gunn sold a tract four rods (20.1 m) square (an area of 0.10 acre) out of Lot 43 lying just across the street south of the present site to the trustees for school purposes for $2.00. A two-story four-room brick building was erected on the present site in 1880 at a cost of about $4,000. This building was later enlarged by the addition of four more rooms. The district was greatly enlarged in 1947 by the annexation of Hedrick, Gates, Burton, and Armstrong schools. A modern addition was erected in 1952 at a cost of $135,000. The old building was razed and the new part was completed in 1960 at a cost of $119,000. Kindergarten was added in 1951-52.

West Salem is currently part of Edwards County Community School District #1.


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2018853[2]−4.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[9]

As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 1,001 people, 422 households, and 278 families residing in the village. The population density was 642.2 people per square mile (247.7/km²). There were 462 housing units at an average density of 296.4 per square mile (114.3/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 98.80% White, 0.40% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.10% Asian, and 0.60% from two or more races.

There were 422 households out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.7% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the village, the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 21.4% from 45 to 64, and 20.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.5 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $27,031, and the median income for a family was $33,417. Males had a median income of $27,938 versus $20,772 for females. The per capita income for the village was $15,179. About 6.4% of families and 11.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.6% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.


  1. ^ "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jun 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved February 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): West Salem village, Illinois". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  4. ^ USGS Illinois earthquake history Archived 2009-04-16 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Television reports, KSDK, "Early Today", "Today in St. Louis at 5:00", April 18, 2008
  6. ^ "5.4 earthquake rocks Illinois; also felt in Indiana". ap.google.com. Associated Press. 2008. Archived from the original on 22 April 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  7. ^ Magnitude 5.2 - ILLINOIS
  8. ^ Wells, Len. "After 114 years, West Salem, Illinois, newspaper prints final edition". Evansville Courier & Press (Oct. 30, 2014). Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  9. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  10. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  • Historic Moravian Cemetery website
  • Champion Laboratories (Edwards County Times-Advocate, Mon. August 19, 1985)
  • Oil Industry (Edwards County Times-Advocate, Sat. August 21, 1982)
  • Industry (Edwards County Times-Advocate, Tues. February 6, 2007)
  • The Edwards County Times Advocate
  • Edwards County Sesquicentennial 1814-1864
  • West Salem, Illinois, Celebrating 150 Years, Commemorative Edition
  • 1814-1980 Edwards County, Illinois Past and Present
  • Charles Boewe, The Town on the Square: Portrait of a Vanished World (Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2008)

External links[edit]