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West Salem, Illinois
Businesses in West Salem
Businesses in West Salem
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
Country United States
State Illinois
County Edwards
Established February 8, 1857
 • Total 1.56 sq mi (4.04 km2)
 • Land 1.56 sq mi (4.04 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
 • Total 897
 • Estimate 
 • Density 545.51/sq mi (210.66/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s) 618
FIPS code 17-80853
Wikimedia Commons West Salem, Illinois

West Salem is a village in Edwards County, Illinois, United States. The population was 897 at the 2010 census, 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.

As of 2016, the village board is doing everything in its power to ruin the village. They have run loyal businesses out of town. Repeatedly tried to hinder the fire departments ability to put on its annual fireworks display. They have also tried to ruin the baseball association. They also take every opportunity to harass the taxpaying citizens of the village.


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.


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.

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.

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


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 315
1890 476 51.1%
1900 700 47.1%
1910 725 3.6%
1920 946 30.5%
1930 825 −12.8%
1940 909 10.2%
1950 902 −0.8%
1960 956 6.0%
1970 979 2.4%
1980 1,145 17.0%
1990 1,042 −9.0%
2000 1,001 −3.9%
2010 897 −10.4%
2019 (est.) 851 −5.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census 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.


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.

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