New Salem Baptist Church, a historic Black church in Tams, West Virginia, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The church is the sole remaining building in the Black coal camp community established at Tams and is also a physical reminder of the once-bustling coal town’s racially segregated past. The congregation consisted of Black miners and their families who resided in the northern section of Tams, while white and recent European immigrant groups lived in separate areas.
The Gothic Revival style church was built in 1921 after the board of trustees of the congregation approached W. P. Tams, Jr., who owned the company town, requesting that a church be built for them. Tams obliged and provided the funding for the construction of the church. The congregation was able to repay Tams in 1928 and received a clear title to the property. Unfortunately, a reversion clause in the deed reportedly states that the parcel will revert to ownership by the present Western Pocahontas Land Company should it cease to be used as a house of worship.
The church building currently serves a small congregation dedicated to the continued preservation of its built history with admittedly limited resources. Calls for its preservation have been publicly discussed through local news media for several decades, and in 2016 the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia listed the church as a West Virginia Endangered Property.
In 2021, the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia received a grant from the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office to conduct a National Register nomination. PAWV is delighted to report that as of 2023, the New Salem Baptist Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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