Incorporated in 1794. Originally named New Salem because the settlers who established the town came in a body from Salem, New Jersey, arriving in the spring of 1792.
The first civilized habitation on the land now occupied by the City of Salem was a hunter's camp established in 1785 by Nicholas Carpenter, who used it as a crude hotel for himself and his men who drove cattle from Clarksburg to the Ohio River at Marietta which was the nearest market.
Samuel Fritz Randolph purchased the property on which the village was founded in 1790. Randolph had started with a caravan of pioneer settlers from Salem, New Jersey, who crossed the mountains in 1789 and made their first stop at Woodbridgetown, Pennsylvania. Randolph, a number of Davises, some Maxsons, and others came on to what is now Salem, after a two and one-half year track form the sea coast.
Salem was the first settlement of Seventh Day Baptists west of the mountains. It is now the home of Salem International University, founded in 1888, and the Industrial Home for Youth, established in 1898. Glass has been a major industry. it is the birthplace of United State Senator Jennings Randolph and writer Granville Davison Hall, author of Daughter of the Elm, The Rending of Virginia, and many other historical books.
Location of the Annual Applebutter Harvest Festival held the second weekend in October, featuring crafts, foods, street square dancing, cloggers, country and western music, gospel music, Blue Ribbon Applebutter contest and Blue Ribbon Apple Pie contest. The theme for the festival is "Turn of the Century."
Class IV city; population, 1,596; elevation, 1,047 feet; volunteer fire department; elections held every two years on the first Tuesday in June.