New Salem is ten miles southwest of Laneville in southwestern Rusk County. It was settled by planters before the Civil War on the stage route crossing the county from northeast to southwest and was named Salem by Oscar Wilson, in honor of his old home in Victoria County. After malaria diminished the population, the name was changed to New Salem. Col. John Pruitt was the major settler in the area. Settlement was rapid in the 1850s. In 1854 the New Salem Academy opened; the town was incorporated in 1856. A post office was established in 1849 with Poindexter Payne as postmaster. It was discontinued in 1955, and mail was sent to Henderson. The population was 100 in 1885 and decreased to eighty-five in 1896, when the town had three stores, two flour mills, and a Baptist church. During the twentieth century the population remained stable at 180 from the 1920s to the 1960s but fell to thirty-one in the 1970s. It remained at thirty-one in 1990. In 2000 the population was fifty-five.