KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - Elsie Eiler is the most admired person in Monowi, Neb. She is also the smartest, wealthiest, best-looking and youngest.
“And the oldest,” she is quick to add.
When you are the only resident of a community, every title fits.
Eiler, 77, is the lone inhabitant of Monowi, a village in northeast Nebraska. That is unique, according to new 2010 U.S. Census data, which indicates Monowi to be the only incorporated town, village or city in the country with only one resident.
Monowi had two people in 2000, the census showed, but the other one was Eiler’s husband, Rudy, and he died in 2004.
“We probably have the record by going down in population 50 percent,” Eiler quipped. “I chose to stay here after my husband died. It’s home.”
Eiler lives in a mobile home a half-block from the only business in town — the Monowi Tavern. This is convenient because Eiler owns and operates the tavern. She and her husband bought the place in 1971 and she is there 12 hours a day serving drinks and food. Eiler also runs the town library, a tiny building jammed with 5,000 books that is dedicated to Rudy, a devoted reader.
While some shrinking communities let themselves become unincorporated, Eiler has done the required paperwork to keep Monowi a village. She serves as the village clerk, treasurer, mayor and council.
“I’m the whole thing,” Eiler said. There’s no need for any elections, she said, “because I’d be the only one to vote.”
Eiler received considerable publicity after her husband died and she became the lone resident of Monowi seven years ago. Some national news outlets and talk shows told her story. Visitors from around the world passed through Monowi to meet her.
“They have been real friendly and curious,” Eiler said.
The Census Bureau has not officially declared Monowi to be the only one-person town the United States, probably because it has not taken the time to examine state-by-state records only recently released, said Matthew Milbrodt, an information services specialists for the census.
But in a Reuters review of the data on thousands of cities, Monowi appeared to stand alone as a one-person incorporated village, town or city.
Ten years ago, the Census reported only two towns of one person — Lost Springs, Wyo. and New Amsterdam, Indiana. But both communities balked, claiming some people were not being properly counted as residents. The 2010 census shows Lost Springs with four people and New Amsterdam with 26.
Eiler said there is no disputing that she is the only person living in Monowi. She does not expect that to change any time soon.
“Hopefully I will be able to stay here,” Eiler said. “It’s where I want to be.”
Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune