Home » Illinois » Elsah

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
CDP, Unincorporated Borough, or MCD
Metro Area
St. Louis
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Perhaps, Some Oral Evidence
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Surely Not

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1990 851
2000 635 572 27

Method of Exclusion

Main Ethnic Group(s)

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


There is some debate among former residents about whether Elsah had an ordinance, but the weight of evidence seems to indicate there was at least an unofficial policy.

– A previous mayor remembers nothing of sundown laws or incidents that would suggest they existed.

– One long time Elsah resident(born in Elsah in 1928) remembers nothing of sundown laws or incidents.

– Another long time resident and former mayer remembers nothing of sundown laws or incidents. His wife, who came to Elsah to live in 1961, also remembers nothing about sundown laws.

There is another viewpoint, however.

– A student at college in Elsah during the 1950’s remembers the sundown law in the city.

– Another person was born in Elsah in 1926. Her parents were also born in Elsah. She remembers that there WAS a sundown rule, but doesn’t think it was a written law. She doesn’t remember any signs or visible manifestation of the rule. She just remembers it being discussed — probably in the 30s.

– One former resident, born in Elsah in 1926, could remember a specific event. When Principia College moved from St. Louis to Elsah in the early thirties, it brought black cooks from Principia’s previous location to work in Elsah. Principia purchased a house so the cooks wouldn’t have to commute daily about 35 miles each way. Catching wind of this plan, the Elsah village fathers said it was okay for black people to work at Principia, but they must leave by dark every day. To solve the problem, Principia purchased a station wagon for the black employees to use for their commute. He does not, however, believe there was a written law and remembers no visible signs.