New Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Sanford, Florida was founded in 1870 on land that was donated by General Henry S. Sanford; for whom the city itself was named. New Salem was one of the first black churches in what was then Orange County.
In the 19th century, a church was not really a church without a church bell. On April 17, 1871, General and Mrs. Sanford donated a bell to the church. The bell tolled fifteen minutes before each service. The original church bell currently sits in the churchyard of the Moriah House of Prayer (formerly known as Mt. Moriah Primitive Baptist Church).
The first site of the church was on 8th Street and Palmetto Avenue and it was a wooden structure with lanterns for lights. The worship services would last until the late evening hours with every one making a joyful noise unto the Lord. Transportation for the members consisted of a horse and buggy or mule and wagon. After years of complaints by surrounding white citizens, the church was eventually burned down as a show of racial intolerance. This tragic event caused the members of the church to gather for worship services in each other's homes. Unfortunately, a division among the congregation arose at the turn of the century. However, even this seemingly tragic situation was blessed by God, as it led to the formation of many flourishing churches and denominations that originated out of New Salem.
In later years, New Salem was rebuilt on 12th Street and Cedar Avenue. In October 1943, history repeated its cruelness as the church was again burned down. During this fire, all church records were destroyed. This period also saw the formation of Macedonia Primitive Baptist Church.
In 1944, the foundation of the third New Salem Primitive Baptist Church was laid in bricks. During this time, a storm swept through Sanford and destroyed the foundation. However, with the will of God working through Rev. Simeon Austin and many loyal members, the church was rebuilt with stone.
In the latter part of 1945, the congregation, led by Rev. Austin, marched into the fourth foundation at 1500 West 12th St and Oleander Ave. with joyful and triumphant voices praising God for the victory. Of those triumphant saints, Deacon Garfield Armstrong was the longest surviving warrior before his death in 1985.
Rev. Simeon Austin pastured for 8 years before his death. His name is placed on the cornerstone of the church in memory of his devotion to God and his service to the church.
In 1948, Rev. P.H. Frison succeeded Rev. Austin. Rev. Frison served the congregation of New Salem for 19 years. To date, he is the longest serving pastor of New Salem. Under his leadership the church grew financially and in membership. The church was renovated with more modern facilities and land was purchased to build a church parsonage. Also under his leadership Brother Bertis Herring was ordained as an elder. Elder Herring would go on to pastor the following primitive baptist churches: St. Joseph, Palatka, Fl.; Mt. Carmel, St. Augustine, Fl.; Bethlehem, Sanford, Fl. and St. Paul, in Deland Fl.
In 1967, Rev. O.W. Williams became the pastor of New Salem and the church continued to progress and prosper. During his 15 years of service, an annex was added to the church, carpet, a PA system, and air conditioning were installed. Also during his tenure a parsonage was constructed, furnished, and paid for.
In September 1983, Elder Eli Simpson became the pastor of New Salem. During his 14 years of service the church continued to prosper and strengthen spiritually. Physically, the church was painted, new concrete floors were poured, new pews, new carpet, new speakers, and a baptismal were installed; and a concrete driveway entrance to the parking lot was poured. On August 2, 1991, a charter was implemented to incorporate the church. The name, as it is today, is New Salem Primitive Baptist Church of Jesus Christ, Inc. During the middle of 1992, the church purchased the land once owned by the late Mother Olive Teate. In June 1994, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the use of the church parsonage to become a multi-purpose building for the Temporary Living Center of Central Florida for counseling services. In August 1997 the church purchased the house and land across the street for additional parking. The church also installed new windows in the sanctuary. Also during this time Minister Harris, Minister Craig Hawkins and Minister Wilbert Jefferson were licensed to preach the gospel. Minister Jefferson would go on to be ordained and pastor New Hope Primitive Baptist Church in Orlando, Fl.
In 1998, Elder Warren K. Little became the pastor of New Salem. During his service, the land next to the church was purchased from Mrs. Louise Gibson for additional parking. Also, Minister John Knight was licensed as a minister by the church during this time.
In November of 2000, Elder Henry Buxton became the pastor of New Salem through ordination services in Ft. Pierce, Fl. Throughout his years of service, he exhibited a great love for the congregation.
In February of 2004, Elder Ivory Amos became the pastor of New Salem. He exhibited an intense love for the Lord and for evangelism. During his years of service many projects were implemented to improve the physical structure as well. The parsonage was renovated, new doors in the foyer were installed and the railings outside of the church were replaced. Elder Amos died Feb. 6, 2007 and his home going services were held Saturday Feb. 10, 2007 in Mulberry, Fl.
In July 2007, Minister C.J. Haynes was selected to become the next pastor of New Salem. Minster Haynes was ordained as an elder of the Primitive Baptist Church in Oct. 2007 during the annual East Florida District Primitive Baptist Association meeting. Firmly believing that 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge' Elder Haynes has focused on the spiritual growth of the church. He has begun several ministries, such as an annual Community Appreciation Day (aimed at evangelism and providing food and clothing to those in need), audio recording services for the homebound (and for evangelistic purposes), establishing the Crawford/Harper Scholarship Fund (for the financial support of New Salem's full-time college students), a Pay-For-Grades program (to award current New Salem members for excellent scholastic achievement), a new members class (to indoctrinate newly converted members to the teachings of the Bible and the ways of the Primitive Baptist), and continuing education classes for the advancement of the Saints. In January 2011, New Salem completed the purchase of nearly an acre of land, across the street from the church, from Mr. Azmi Ideis, for additional parking and future church expansion. In October 2011, Elder Haynes was elected as the 2nd Vice Moderator of the East Florida District Primitive Baptist Association.
Under Elder Haynes' leadership the church has continued to grow in membership and finances. However the best is yet to come!