Home » Indiana » Hagerstown

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
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Black People

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1930 1262 0
1970 2059 2059 0
1990 1835 0
2000 1768 5

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • German Protestant

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


Email 1/2008 michael@despammed.com

I grew up north of town; we had one black neighbor, whose name was Shorty. Well. His last name was Short. I don’t know his first name. He was from Muncie, that much I know, and wasn’t home a lot. Towards 1985 or so a cross was burned in front of his house (the FFA boys in my high school class (class of 1984) occasionally talked about doing that, but I doubt it was them — don’t *know*, mind you, but doubt it). This was after I’d left for college, so it’s hearsay.

He wasn’t home a lot, so I hope he just wasn’t home when it happened. Now the property is abandoned, as far as I know. I shook the dust off my sandals as soon as it was practical to do so. Hagerstown is not for the faint of heart, once you scratch past the surface.

Later — I’m thinking in the 90’s — I hear that a black family moved to a farm outside town by a mile or two. They had four kids. The bus driver made them sit four to a seat in the front seat — apparently to keep any white kids from having to sit next to niggers, would be my guess. School buses are built to seat three kids in a seat, of course. I don’t know who the driver was, and frankly this is also hearsay. But that family moved away again.

I saw a black man eating with some friends at the restaurant in town once, also in the 90’s, when I was visiting my mother, who lived in town at the time. He looked nervous. Or possibly I did, who knows? But that was the one and only time I ever saw a single black person in Hagerstown, Indiana.

If you have any more questions, I’d be happy to ask around the family — I live in Puerto Rico at the moment, but my sister lives in Economy, my dad’s still on the farm, and my mother lives in Richmond. So there are people to ask.

In 1983, we had a couple of foreign exchange students at the high school. (Actually, we had a lot of foreign exchange students through that entire decade, which I thought, and think, was fantastic.)

Anyway, one boy was from Israel, and dark-complected, as you can well imagine. And one girl was from Sweden, quite blonde of course. And of course, being *not from Indiana*, they spent a lot of time together.

So the FFA guys leaned on him. Not just grumbling amongst themselves, but actually went to him and warned him to stop hanging around the white girl.

Now, there was no actual violence, and in point of fact they both thought it was hilarious, sort of an incredulous future shock kind of thing. But the attitude was there.

A Hagerstown historian writes:
%u201CHagerstown, Indiana has been, in
folklore, “all white.” In the Nettle Creek Valley Museum
collection, however, two school photos from the
1890s have two black children. The town cemetery has
an early “colored” grave and other African American
If you ask the local old timers, they will tell you
that Hagerstown never had blacks and never wanted
blacks. Documentation suggests otherwise. Blacks
were, certainly, rare and probably generally unwanted.
I am not aware of a law or photos that explicitly or
implicitly stated a color line. The area pioneers were
German Baptists (Brethren) and Quakers. I believe that
both groups were racially tolerant. The dominant
pioneer group in all of Wayne County is the Quakers.
Brethren settled in the western end of the county
primarily near Hagerstown.
The Teetor family, major local industrialists,
employed blacks as household help 1900 or so until
after World War II. The factory, I have heard, refused to
hire blacks – fearing a back lash from the other
employees. (This comes from some of the same
people that stated that Hagerstown never had blacks!).