Interesting Communication From Prominent Minister Establishes Facts Concerning Migration Of Bryan Family
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
For some time, historians in Roanoke County have been puzzled as to the origin of the name Salem, which is applied to the county seat, and is thought by many to have originated from Salem, New Jersey, through the migration of the Bryan family from that place.
Only recently a very interesting communication was received from Dr. Thornton Whaling, of Columbia, South Carolina, who is well known in this section, having been raised in Salem, and one of the ministers who have gone out from Salem Presbyterian Church, and served as Moderator of the General Assembly in 1924. Dr. Whaling is one of the South’s outstanding Presbyterian ministers.
Excerpts from the letter follow:
“The Bryan family emigrated in 1718 to America settling first in Pennsylvania, but soon went to Salem, New Jersey. William Bryan, who married Margaret Watson, a half-sister of Philip Freneau, of Philadelphia, came to Salem, Virginia, about 1760. His will is on record at Fincastle-which I read and copied a few years ago.
“His grand-daughter, Margaret Bryan, married W. C. Williams, who lived for many years in Salem, Virginia. Mr. Williams had much influence in the formation of Roanoke County. His picture hangs in the Court House.
Buried In Salem
“These statements are established by assertions and statements of my grandmother with whom I lived as a youth, but also by documents and reliable histories I own. One of them is the record of the Bryan family by William L. Bryan, now president of the University of Indiana.
“William Bryan, II, son of the original emigrant, and his wife Margaret Watson and William Bryan, the original emigrant, are buried in the old cemetery, which was once known as the ‘Bryan Burial Ground’ (East Hill), which was a part of the old Bryan farm on which my grandmother lived as a girl.
“The Main Street of Salem was once a road through the original Bryan farm. They and other descendants named Salem, Virginia, as a tribute to Salem, New Jersey.
“This is true of other Salems in other States also as settled by Bryans from New Jersey.”
-Prepared by Lisa King