The Full Story
In the early 1880's, Swedish missionaries conducted a preaching mission in northern Wisconsin. Multiple nights of ministering and worshiping together stirred individuals to start meeting together on a regular basis. Thus, the organization of the Swedish Baptist Church was established on July 8, 1883. In addition to meeting for a worship service, Sundy School was held in various homes in the 1880’s. A disagreement in the church led to a split; a meeting was called which led to mutual confession and forgiveness. The individual congregations dissolved and started anew together. On December 14, 1890, the Swedish Salem Baptist Church was established with 45 members - Salem means shalom or peace. In peace, the combined members purchased a building which was located on Third Street and Tenth Avenue West and housed the congregation from 1890-1891.
In 1892 Salem moved to a new building located at 623 Second Avenue East and remained in that building for 90 years. From 1893-1908 Salem fostered seven sister churches. In 1900 gas and electric lights were installed, in 1936 English became the official language of the church and in 1946 the name was changed to Salem Baptist Church of Ashland. During the 1950’s education became a primary focus of the church, a transportation ministry began to bring adults and children from outlying areas to Salem. An education wing was built in 1951 to accommodate the increased numbers of attendees. In 1970 The Salem Center at 701 Ellis Avenue was purchased to house the growing youth activities.
With much discernment and prayer, a property at 1616 Beaser Avenue was purchased and construction of a new church began in August of 1981. In 1982 Salem moved into its newly constructed facility on September 12th with worship beginning at 10:30 a.m. in the old church, the pulpit and congregation moving caravan-style to the new building to conclude the service. Reflecting on that time, one member shared that “One of the greatest things to happen during the building was the oneness of spirit – getting to know each other, working together, and sensing God’s presence and leading.”
Throughout the next three decades God continued to use Salem in multiple ways to reach the Chequamegon Bay Region. The focus of the church during this time remained on families, particularly children, while still celebrating those in later seasons of life and all those wanting to move forward on their spiritual journey. During this season, Salem partnering with the Bay Area Youth Network (BAYNET) to minister to teenagers of the Bay Area. Salem purchased an additional building next to the church, 1518 Beaser Avenue, to provide additional space for additional youth ministries.
Also, during this season, Salem became even more intentional about outreach into the community and beyond. Through ministries birthed out of Salem, Believers Reaching Individuals for Christ’s Kingdom (BRICK), a regional food pantry and Crossroads Outreach Center, supportive services to the community and individuals as well as other ministries addressing various needs and opportunities in the Ashland area, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been, and is, being lived out in both word and deed.
On October 31st, 2015, an arsonist set fire to the church. Approximately 65% of the facility was engulfed in flames before authorities arrived; the building was completely destroyed which launched Salem into yet another new season. Salem remained committed to meeting and spreading the gospel message to the Northland, so we became a church who stored all our meeting supplies in trailers and set up weekly in various locations. Local schools provided gymnasiums and/or auditoriums for our services, we would set up and tear down every Sunday.
Through this time of transition, it became clear that we were to relocate to a new location and in complete agreement a 34-acre parcel of land was purchased on Farm Road. The new location is nestled amongst a backdrop of pine, spruce, hardwood trees just two miles from our Beaser Avenue site. We broke ground in 2016 and contracted with builders who would allow parishioners to work alongside the trained carpenters. Precious memories were made, and relationships built during work events – true to our Baptist heritage, workdays always including a meal enjoyed together.
We moved into our new facility located at 400 Salem Drive in the summer of 2019. The 36,000 square foot building affords Salem ample space for various ministries and gatherings alike. In addition to Salem-sponsored events, we are committed to sharing our new church building with the Ashland community as we continue to pursue the mission for which we hold fast, To see people transformed into totally devoted followers of Jesus.