In the late 1800's and early 1900's the settlers from Preble County, Ohio, brought their religious beliefs with them to Lenexa. Sundays were a "dress up day" when work was put aside for family and God. The church provided opportunity to gather, socialize, and worship with fellow parishioners.
Reverend Charles Schaefer was sent from the Board of Mission to help start the church. He lived in Ottawa, Kansas. The first meeting was held at Mount Zion schoolhouse. The services were held monthly and were preached in German and Sunday School was in English.
In the early days the land was donated to churches by the people. They were in the center of most activities, and that is why the churches were erected by stores, depots, and cemeteries. The influx of German families who practiced the Lutheran faith created a need for a church. Salem Lutheran Church was organized in the fall of 1885 with ten charter members whose names are listed on the constitution and by-laws, and it was written in German and English. The Herman Busch family donated two lots for a wood-frame church that was built by members at a cost of approximately $2,400. It was dedicated to the "Glory of the Triune God" on October 14, 1888. The first worship and baptism took place on November 22, 1885. The church was complete with hitching posts.
In 1893, a parsonage was purchased by the congregation. In 1903, a committee was formed and a pledge drive was held to raise $866 to build a new parsonage. Most pledges were $10, $20, and $30 and not attainable for some of the families. Thirty families pledged the $866 and the parsonage was built. In 1910, a stable was built for the parsonage and was in the southern portion of the lot, opposite the church. The parsonage served 13 different pastors and their families before it was torn down 68 years later and was replaced by a gravel parking lot. The present parsonage was purchased in 1972 for $30,000.
October 5, 1922, a tragic event happened to the church. The custodian was burning trash near the church and the wind changed and carried the flames onto the church. The building was a total loss except for several items rescued, which included the chancel furnishings.
A new church was dedicated 19 months later on May 25, 1924. The new church included beautiful stained glass windows, a new pipe organ and pulpit, altar, and baptismal font from the old building.
After 50 years the membership had climbed to 60 families, consisting of 160 communicant members and 190 baptized members. In the first 100 years there were 720 baptisms. Salem's pastors officiated at 367 funeral services during that time.
In 1960, a drive was in progress to build Luther Hall. Luther Hall was completed April 21, 1963. Luther Hall was built for the purpose of providing ongoing education programs, social gatherings, and a modern parish hall. At 75 years of age the church had 348 members. In 1972, the parsonage was torn down and a parking lot built in its place. A parsonage was purchased in the same year.
On May 27, 1964, the first Beacon was published. The one page paper (front and back) had pictures of the church, Luther Hall, and the interior of the church, as well as the latest news.
From the 1960's to the early 1990's, there were no major improvements to the church. Fellowship, such as picnics and potluck dinners, were been a big part of Salem's history.
There have been 25 pastors at Salem Lutheran Church. Salem has enjoyed a fine history of caring, giving, socializing, and worshiping members. Now Salem is 130 years old and continues to grow.