March 2021


New Amsterdam, Indiana

So yesterday was my big trip to New Amsterdam, Indiana, one of four towns in America with a population of 1 (one), according to the US Census of 2000. Except, it wasn’t.

Koko and I left Bloomington at 1 and made our way south to the Ohio River. For those of you unfamiliar with southern Indiana, it is very hilly and very scenic, quite unlike the flat as a pancake, boring as possible, maize growing northern Indiana that you might recall from your trips on the Indiana Tollroad or going from Indianapolis to Chicago.

We managed to find the correct road to New Amsterdam as we came south out of Corydon, on State Road 135. The further we got away from State Road 135, the narrower the road we were on became. After we passed Valley City, the road was about 125% wider than my car, the petite (by American standards) 1999 Saturn SL1.The road made its twists and turns, we passed a cemetery, made a left turn and entered New Amsterdam (established 1815, according to the sign at the end of town).

It was painfully obvious the second we arrived in town that the census was off as I counted four people on the lawn of the first house we passed.

I parked my car out in front of one of the two churches I saw in town, and we walked back to the sign, took pictures of each other in order to prove that we had indeed made it to New Amsterdam, and then wandered across the street to the house that had four people on the lawn.

It was a husband, wife, and two kids. He was building a ladder to climb into a pool, and the kids were splashing around in a wading pool. The family’s dog was lying in the shade by the porch. All in all, they appeared to be enjoying their Saturday afternoon.

They were also surprised to hear that the US Census thought the town had a population of one.

“The town’s population used to be a lot bigger, until the flood of ’37,” we were informed.

They didn’t mention the tornado of ’03 as a major event until I asked about it.

The exact population of the town was unknown, but they did say it was less than a hundred.

Koko and I then wandered down the street, around the corner and into Shaffers General Store, the only establishment in town with an “open” sign on its door. We wandered around for about a minute while some locals were sitting in the back talking. They never said hello and I felt as if we were intruding upon their space, so we made our way out the door and back down the street. About 15 seconds after we left the store, the sign that said “open” was flipped over.

By my count, I saw a total of 9 people in town, not counting the 3 people getting in their car to leave the cemetery.

4 comments to New Amsterdam, Indiana

  • IUMike

    My guess from what you’ve described is that the people never filled out their Census forms, and no Census workers felt brave enough to intrude on them (flipping the sign…how rude!). Maybe a cult has taken over.

  • Chris C

    Nothing says get the F out of town quite so nicely as promptly closing your establishment in broad daylight.

    The town has an official population of 1. Perhaps you unwittingly walked into a home.

  • BNoble

    Where have all my ancestors gone? There used to be some of them who lived in New Amsterdam as well as in Kentucky across the river. They used to have boats to take people back and forth before there were roads.

  • I’m thinking of moving to New Amsterdam and doubling the population, which would make it the fastest growing city in the nation.
    Seriously, I formerly reported for a newspaper, The Corydon Democrat, whose coverage area includes New Amsterdam. I believe I have only been there twice. The second time was when I took a date there — really, I took a wrong turn on the way to a Halloween costume party and ended up in New Amsterdam (wearing a chicken costume), which was about 20 miles from the site of the party. Needless to say, we’re no longer dating.
    By the way, the Harrison County census takers were apparently asleep on the job; the town has about 30 people, which is quite an undercount. Imagine New York City’s count being off by that proportion.