History

The story of St. James Church is bound up with the beginnings of this country.

1731 – The original church was started by the people of Salem with help from theSociety for the Propagation of the Gospel in England.

1751 – A grant of land “for the first minister who would be called and ordained in Salem” was given by James Benedict and Timothy Keeler.

1761 – Measures to build a small church were taken since “a private house will seldom contain the people who went to Church.” The first church building was erected on Titicus Road on the border of the Van Cortlandt manor.

1766 – Epenetus Townsend, who was born on Long Island, became the first official lay reader. The following year two wardens were elected and Epenetus Townsend was sent to England for the Holy Orders.

1768 – The Reverend Epenetus Townsend was formally installed on May 29th. He gave a Book of Common Prayer and a Bible from England to St. James Church, which are kept at the North Salem Historical Society in their fireproof safe.

1778 – 1785 – The Revolutionary War and imprisonment of Reverend Townsend closed the church. The Rev. Townsend and his wife were allowed to sail to Nova Scotia with Loyalists, but the ship sank and all aboard were lost at sea.

1786 – St. James Church was incorporated under the laws of New York State, becoming one of the original twelve parishes in the Diocese of New York.

1792 – The church was re-incorporated as “St. James Church in the town of North Salem”.

1797 – The church building was in such bad repair that it was dismantled and the materials sold at auction.

1810 – The cornerstone for the second church building was laid at the present site. Money to help pay for this was given by Trinity Church on Wall Street in Manhattan.

1842 – A rectory was built on six acres of land owned by the church since 1766.

1869 – The third church building, the present one, was completed on the foundation of the second church, which had fallen into disrepair during the Civil War. It was paid for with money raised by the women of the church.

1912 – A second floor was added to the horse sheds behind the church to serve as a parish hall for the church and a meeting room for the community. Again, the women of the church raised most of the money.

1930 – The rectory and its land were sold.

1958 – The Parish House was completely renovated. The horse sheds were removed and new rooms built in their place, rooms that now house the North Salem Nursery School.

1985 – A hundred-year-old Odell pipe organ was purchased, refurbished, and installed in the church.

1989 – St. James Church is unyoked from its daughter parish, St. Luke’s in Somers.

1994 – The sanctuary was completely refurbished.

2015 – St. James completes a total renovation of the Parish House and renames it the St. James Village Hall to emphasize its intended purpose — to serve the needs of entire community.

St. James’s history is not just a story of land and buildings. It is a story of people, faith, belief, and determination, which we follow today.