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Washington County is full of rich history!

The History of Salem, Indiana

Salem is a small, tight-knit community, and was founded in 1814. The historic downtown square is made up of 19th and 20th century commercial buildings in Italianate, Gothic, and Classical Styles. Many styles of architecture can be found in our homes from Queen Anne to Second Empire to Craftsman and many more!

We are very proud of the historically significant people that have come from our quaint town including:

  • John Hay, Secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State to Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt;
  • Sarah Parke Morrisson, first female to be enrolled and graduate from Indiana University;
  • Lee Sinclair, Salem banker who purchased controlling shares of the West Baden Hotel and rebuilt it in 1901 to become "The Eighth Wonder of the World", according to the locals in French Lick, Indiana.

Did you know 2% milk was developed in Salem, IN? Roy Robertson invented 2% milk while working at the Salem Creamery. In the 1940's, Audra Qualkinbush, one of the owners and a home economics teacher, asked Robertson to perfect a new product that had less butterfat. At the time, consumers had no choice between whole and skim milk. Robertson worked over a year perfecting the process to remove the fat and replace it with other milk solids to give it a rich taste milk lovers would enjoy. He was never recognized nor profited from his creation because he never patented his process.

Salem has also experienced new growth that has been great for our small town. In 2016, Salem welcomed in Walmart. Many citizens were afraid of the negative impact it would have on our community and small businesses, but Walmart has been nothing but an asset to the community. In 2018, our Walmart was awarded The Helen Walton award! This is the highest honor and award for excellence in community leadership any Walmart can receive in the nation! Other businesses have followed as our east side continues to grow.