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Salem is a city in Washington Townshipmarker, Washington Countymarker, Indianamarker, United Statesmarker. Salem serves as the county seat , and its downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places (as are several local buildings).


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


As of the census of 2000, there are 2,555 households, and 1,635 families residing in the city. There are 2,745 housing units at an average density of 705.7/sq mi (272.5/kmĀ²). The racial makeup of the city is 98.74% White, 0.03% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.08% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race are 0.42% of the population.

29.2% of households have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% are married couples living together, 12.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.0% are non-families. 32.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.84.

The population consists of 22.4% under the age of 18, 9.8% from ages 18 to 24, 27.1% from ages 25 to 44, 21.2% from ages 45 to 64, and 19.4% from ages 65 or older. The median age is 38 years. For every 100 females there are 86.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.0 males.

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


Mayor - David Bower

Clerk-Treasurer - Patricia Persinger

City Council 1st District - Mark W. Hobson

City Council 2nd District - Pete D. Brown

City Council 3rd District - Ginger B. Morris

City Council 4th District - Wally Terkhorn

City Council At-Large - Nancy E. Fultz


Morgan's Raid

In June 1863, the Confederate cavalry under John Hunt Morgan had departed Tennesseemarker on what would later became 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 Corydonmarker. 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:

"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."

Famous residents

John Hay, private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State to Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, was born in Salem and is generally known as Salem's most prominent citizen. A variety of museums and local buildings make reference to Mr. Hay's connections to the town.

Roy Robertson invented the process for making 2% milk while working at the Salem Creamery, where it was first produced and marketed. He was unable to obtain a patent and the invention was credited to someone else.

Local Attractions

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 placemarkers 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.

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).

Every September, Salem celebrates "Old Settler's Day" at the John Hay Centermarker. Set in a village of authentic log structures, the festival features historical re-enactments, as well as local arts and crafts.

Recently, Lake Salinda in Salem has been rumored to be home to the Salinda Serpent after reports were made about sightings of a giant snake in the lake. This information was reported by the Salem Leader in early June.

Salem is also home to the legendary 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, AJ Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon. AJ 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.


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

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