Thomas Leonard came to this area in 1851 from New England. Pleased with what he found, he returned to New England to bring his family. His first home was a log cabin located on the site of the present Coulee Region Christian School. It marked the beginning of the settlement.
A mile to the northeast lay another village, Neshonoc, founded by Monroe Palmer. The two villages were rivals until the railroad came through the area. Leonard offered land free to the railroad it would construct a depot in the village, while Palmer wanted to sell his land to the railroad. With the coming of the railroad, Leonard’s village grew and Neshonoc died, with many of its homes and buildings’ being moved to what is now West Salem.
The first suggested name for Leonard’s village was Rupert. Finally the new name Salem was selected and after another Salem was discovered near Milwaukee, West was added to the village’s name.
With the railroad giving West Salem a real boost, the village slowly grew. Churches were established and businesses flourished.