When Henry E. Fries built a cotton mill in the woodland to the “Southside” of Salem in 1896, the need arose for a Sunday school and chapel for the workers and their families. The one who answered the need was Clarence E. Crist, a member of Home Church who was much devoted to Sunday school endeavor.
Br. Crist held his meetings at first at the factory, and then in a three-room cottage donated by Br. Fries, who himself was involved in the Sunday school movement at East Salem Sunday School.
Br. Crist’s Sunday school quickly grew so that a proper meeting house was built in 1904. It received the name Pine Chapel and was formally opened at its Christmas celebration on December 29, 1904. Bishop Edward Rondthaler presided over the lovefeast and candle service.
For more than 25 years Br. Crist conducted his Sunday school, and then the pressing years of age required him to set aside his labors. For a time it seemed that the entire work might be lost, but then in 1924 Trinity Moravian Church and its pastor, Douglas L. Rights, stepped in to take up where Br. Crist had left off. On November 16, 1924, Pine Chapel was organized as a branch of Salem Congregation under Trinity. James P. Crouch was called and served at Pine Chapel, at first as Sunday school superintendent and later as pastor, for 30 years.
Again Henry Fries and his Southside Cotton Mill proved generous by donating land for a new building on Goldfloss Street in 1928, and a neat brick church was erected. It was dedicated, again by Bishop Rondthaler, on April 28, 1929.
Over the years improvements have been made: classrooms in the basement in 1933, a parsonage in 1941, a Sunday school annex in 1951, a new electronic organ in 1974.
Like its nearby neighbor Immanuel, Pine Chapel has seen its neighborhood change. Southside Cotton Mill, later called Arista, the source of employment and stability for so many, no longer exists. Neighbors have died or moved away. But Pine Chapel remains a beacon of faith as it reaches 100 years and more of existence.