Welcome to Monowi, Nebraska, population 1. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, Monowi is the only incorporated town in the country with only one resident, Oddity Central reports.
As the only person living in Monowi, 84-year-old Elsie Eiler, is the town’s mayor, clerk, treasurer, librarian, bartender, among other functions. Every year she hangs a sign in the tavern advertising mayoral elections and then votes for herself. Federal law also requires her to produce a municipal road plan annually to secure state funding, and pay $500 in taxes to keep the water and electricity turned on. She also does the required paperwork to keep Monowi’s incorporated status and prevent it from becoming a ghost town.
“When I apply to the state for my liquor and tobacco licenses each year, they send them to the secretary of the village, which is me,” she told the BBC. “So, I get them as the secretary, sign them as the clerk and give them to myself as the bar owner.”
“I’m happy here. I grew up here, I’m used to this, and I know what I want.” Eiler added.
Back in the 1930s, Monowi was a stop on the Elkhorn Railroad with a bustling population of 150, three grocery shops, several restaurants, and even a prison. Eiler was raised on a farm on the outskirts of town and met her husband Rudy in primary school. After graduating from high school, Rudy enlisted in the US Air Force. While he served in the Korean War, Eiler moved to Kansas City to pursue work with an airline.
“I went to work for an airline with the dream of becoming a stewardess,” she told BBC. “I didn’t much care for the city; Monowi had always been home.”
Eiler married Rudy at 19, and they raised two children in Monowi. In 1971 the couple decided to reopen the tavern that had belonged to Eiler’s father. By the time the Monowi Tavern opened, however, the little town had begun its decline. After WWII, rural economies collapsed throughout the Midwest, and entire communities began to disappear from the US heartland.
In 1960 the church held its last funeral for Eiler’s father, and then between 1967 and 1970 the post office and only remaining grocery store shut down. The school closed in 1974. In the mid-70s both of Eiler’s children moved away to find work, and by 1980 the town’s population had plummeted to 18. Twenty years later Rudy and Eiler comprised the entire population of Monowi until Rudy passed away in 2004.