ELSIE Eiler knows that the quickest way to get something done in the little village of Monowi in north-eastern Nebraska, is to do it herself.
And that’s not just in the tavern which she owns and where she is manager, barkeep, cook and bottle-washer too, but in Monowi generally, as she also holds down the roles of mayor, town clerk and treasurer of the one-person Monowi Local Council, and is librarian for the 5,000-volume Monowi Library.
And despite now being 84 years of age, Elsie also ensures the tavern sends its taxes off on time – to herself in her role as council treasurer to pass on to the State of Nebraska, that then sends it back to her as the local mayor to keep Monowi’s four street lights ablaze every night.
If it all sounds a little bizarre, it is. Elsie is the only resident of Monowi, which is America’s only one-person town or village, although it was two-persons for a near 30-years, until her husband Rudy died in 2004.
Monowi was founded in 1902 when a rail line was extended there to open up the surrounding area to cattle ranching. The population peaked at around 150 in the 1930s, but the town died in the late 1960s when the railroad pulled its services with declining cattle shipments.
Yet despite its receding population, Rudy and Elsie Eiler built the Monowi Tavern in 1975, with Elsie’s “Coldest Beer In Town” (a sign outside proclaims), hamburgers, and hugely-popular pork fritters and crackling, still luring not only owners and workers from surrounding farms and ranches, but out-of-town groups from retirees to bikies, curious to visit this one-person town and tavern.
Many also borrow old books from Monowi’s Rudy’s Library, which Elsie built to house her bookworm hubby’s extraordinary collection of 5,000 books and journals.