Salem, Indiana

Coordinates: 38°36′15″N 86°5′56″W / 38.60417°N 86.09889°W / 38.60417; -86.09889
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Salem, IN)

Salem, Indiana
Washington County Courthouse, in the town square
Washington County Courthouse, in the town square
Location of Salem in Washington County, Indiana.
Location of Salem in Washington County, Indiana.
Coordinates: 38°36′15″N 86°5′56″W / 38.60417°N 86.09889°W / 38.60417; -86.09889
CountryUnited States
Town founded1814
 • MayorJustin Green (R)
 • Total4.02 sq mi (10.40 km2)
 • Land4.00 sq mi (10.36 km2)
 • Water0.02 sq mi (0.04 km2)  0.50%
Elevation748 ft (228 m)
 • Total6,371
 • Density1,592.75/sq mi (615.02/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code812
FIPS code18-67464[3]
GNIS feature ID442876[2]

Salem is a city in and the county seat of Washington Township, Washington County,[4] in the U.S. state of Indiana.[5] The population was 6,319 at the 2010 census.[6]


Salem was laid out and platted in 1814.[7] It was named for Salem, North Carolina, the hometown of one of the city founders.[8]

The Salem post office has been in operation since 1816.[9]

Morgan's Raid[edit]

In June 1863, the Confederate cavalry under John Hunt Morgan had departed Tennessee on what would later become known as Morgan's Raid. Traveling through Tennessee and into Kentucky, Morgan eventually crossed into Indiana; he reached Salem on July 10, 1863, coming north from Corydon. Upon entering Salem at approximately 9 a.m., Morgan immediately took possession of the town and placed guards over the stores and streets. The cavalrymen burned the large, brick railroad depot, along with all the train cars on the track and the railroad bridges on each side of the town. Morgan demanded taxes from the two flour mills that belonged to DePauw and Knight, and from the Allen Wollen Mill. Morgan's men looted stores and took about $500 from the area before departing about 3 p.m.

Of the brief action at Salem, Col. Basil W. Duke, Morgan's second-in-command and brother-in-law, later said:[citation needed]

"They did not pillage with any sort of method or reason; it seemed to be a mania, senseless and purposeless. One man carried for two days a bird cage containing three canaries. Another rode with a huge chafing dish on the pommel of his saddle. Although the weather was intensely warm, another slung seven pairs of skates around his neck. I saw very few articles of real value taken; they pillaged like boys robbing an orchard."

African Americans in Salem[edit]

In 1898, Salem was recorded to be a sundown town, where African Americans were not allowed to reside.[10] The last Black person who lived in Salem was Alexander White. The minister of the Salem Methodist Episcopal church married Alexander White and his wife Eliza Jane Demars on May 5, 1830. White ran a hotel in Salem.[11] He was murdered in Salem in 1867. The killers were not punished, although one of them, Harvey Zink, was tried for the crime.[12]


Salem is primarily an agricultural community, surrounded by typical Indiana forests and farmland and small bodies of water. The primary crops grown in the area are corn and soybeans. Homes in the area are of a variety of styles, with a portion of residential homes having Victorian architectural design.

According to the 2010 census, Salem has a total area of 4.018 square miles (10.41 km2), of which 4 square miles (10.36 km2) (or 99.55%) is land and 0.018 square miles (0.05 km2) (or 0.45%) is water.[13]


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers, and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Salem has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[14]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[15]

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $29,256, and the median income for a family was $37,179. Males had a median income of $27,521 versus $21,952 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,299. About 8.5% of families and 11.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.6% of those under age 18 and 5.7% of those age 65 or over.

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[16] of 2010, there were 6,319 people, 2,622 households, and 1,599 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,579.8 inhabitants per square mile (610.0/km2). There were 2,932 housing units at an average density of 733.0 per square mile (283.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.5% White, 0.4% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.3% from other races, and 0.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.

There were 2,622 households, of which 32.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.4% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.0% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 29.1

The median age in the city was 38.3 years. 24% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.6% were from 25 to 44; 24.2% were from 45 to 64; and 17.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.5% male and 53.5% female and 22.3% Non-binary.

Arts and culture[edit]

Annual cultural events[edit]

Every September, Salem celebrates "Old Settler's Day" at the John Hay Center. Set in a village of authentic log structures, the festival features historical re-enactments, as well as local arts and crafts. Friday Night on the Square is the official kick-off to Old Settlers' Day weekend. The town square is barricaded from cars and the people of Salem meet to enjoy the festivities which include food booths, commercial booths and sometimes even scavenger hunts.[17]

Museums and other points of interest[edit]

The downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places, as are several local buildings.

The Carnegie Library in Salem was one of nearly 2,000 libraries built in the United States including 164 in Indiana in the early 20th century with funds donated by steel conglomerate Andrew Carnegie. Salem received the grant in February 1904, broke ground in August 1904 and opened in July 1905. Still in use today, the Carnegie Library in Salem is one of just one hundred in the state of Indiana still being used for its original purpose.

Located in the center of Salem's town square, the Washington County Courthouse is generally known as Salem's most famous and recognizable landmark. The courthouse has historical place markers surrounding it, and at the southeastern corner of the grounds, there is a memorial to veterans killed in action during conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The birthplace of John Hay has been a National Historic Site since 1971 and is located in Salem. The building was originally used as a school house and was built in 1824. It has been restored and furnished in the 1840 period.[18]

Public art[edit]

In 2021, Rafael Blanco (artist) debuted the “Salem Heritage” mural. This 17-foot by 80-foot mural[19] in Salem features portraits of six women who have made significant and historical contributions to the city. The women are Granny Lusk, Lula Desse Rudder, Bradie Shrum, Sarah Parke Morrison, Terry Hall, and Emma Christy-Baker. Each woman was born or lived in Salem. Granny Lusk's family arrived in Washington County in 1817 and she informally practiced medicine in the community. Lula Desse Rudder was the first woman in the state of Indiana to be licensed as a pharmacist. Bradie Shrum was an elementary school teacher in Salem after whom Salem's elementary school is named. Sarah Parke Morrison was born in Salem in 1833 and was the first woman student at Indiana University, the first woman to graduate from the institution, and later the first woman to be a member of the faculty. Terry Hall, who coached women athletes at both the high school and college level, is the "winningest coach in University of Kentucky basketball history." Emma Christy-Baker was born in 1865, "the great-grandaugher of freed slaves." She was one of the first women, and the first African American person, the Indianapolis Police Department hired.[20]


Salem is also home to Salem Speedway. It is a half mile high banked paved oval that was first built in 1947. Many of the most legendary drivers of the past 50 years have raced there including Ted Horn, Parnelli Jones, A. J. Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Larry Dickson, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon. A. J. Foyt at one time held the world record for a half mile oval at the speedway. One of ESPN's first televised auto racing events was held there in 1979.

Parks and recreation[edit]

Riley's Place

Unusual for a town of this size is a large children's playground, "Riley's Place" at DePauw Park. Named after Riley Jean Tomlinson, a local toddler who accidentally drowned in a swimming pool, the park was built in 2001 and contains two- and three- story wooden castles and other structures for children's play (along with swings, slides, and similar playground equipment).



Southern Indiana Transit System provides deviated fixed-route and demand-response bus service in the city.[21]

Notable people[edit]

1988 bomb scare[edit]

On July 5, 1988, 13 homemade bombs placed inside brown grocery bags were discovered near bridges and buildings around the town containing sticks of dynamite. However, due to faulty blasting caps, none of the bombs exploded. Had the explosives gone off, it would have severed the town from outside aid.[24]

Two men, John Hubbard and Jerry Conrad, were convicted on all counts in September and October 1989. Prosecutors allege that Hubbard had a long-standing rivalry with Democratic State Representative Frank Newkirk Jr.[25]


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 16, 2022.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Salem, Indiana
  3. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "Salem, Indiana". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  6. ^ "Salem City, Indiana". US Census Bureau Quick Facts. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
  7. ^ History of Lawrence, Orange, and Washington Counties, Indiana: From the Earliest Time to the Present. Higginson Book Company. 1884. pp. 759.
  8. ^ Stevens, Warder William; Davis, Lulie (1916). Centennial History of Washington County, Indiana: Its People, Industries and Institutions. McDowell Publications. p. 607.
  9. ^ "Washington County". Jim Forte Postal History. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  10. ^ "John Hay". Richmond Daily Palladium. Richmond, Indiana. August 20, 1898. p. 2. Retrieved April 28, 2022 – via Chronicling America. John Hay, the new secretary of state, was born in Salem, this state, about sixty years ago. That place has the unenviable distinction of being the only town in Indiana where negroes are not allowed to live.
  11. ^ Robbins, Coy D. (1995). Reclaiming African Heritage at Salem, Indiana. Maryland: Heritage Books. p. 133. ISBN 0788403257.
  12. ^ Campney, Brent M.S. (2019). Hostile Heartland: Racism, Repression, and Resistance in the Midwest. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0252084300.
  13. ^ "G001 – Geographic Identifiers – 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2015.
  14. ^ Climate Summary for Salem, Indiana
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  17. ^ "Old Settlers' Days". John Hay Center. Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Birthplace – John Milton Hay". The John Hay Center. Archived from the original on July 28, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  19. ^ Sidery, Sara (August 19, 2021). "Vibrant new mural spotlights untold history, significant contributions of local women". WDRB. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  20. ^ Hamilton, Lana (December 14, 2021). "Revisiting the Faces of the Mural". The Salem Leader. p. 3.
  21. ^ "Southern Indiana Transit System". Retrieved September 5, 2023.
  22. ^ "Washington C. DePauw". DePauw University. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  23. ^ "PICKLER, John Alfred, (1844–1910)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  24. ^ Salem Journal; A stranger, violence, visits a small town
  25. ^ Man guilty of planting 13 bombs in Indiana City New York Times. 11 October 1989. Retrieved 17 December 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Indiana Historical Commission. Archaeological and Historical Survey of Washington County (August 1924). Wm. B. Burford.

External links[edit]