Monowi is a village in Nebraska, United States, whose only remaining resident is a 77-year old woman named Elsie Eiler. Eiler lives in a mobile home a half-block from the only business left in Monowi, a dark, wood-paneled tavern, thick with smoke which Eiler runs. She also runs the town library, a tiny building jammed with 5,000 books left behind by her late husband who was a devoted reader. Elise is also the mayor of Monowi.
Elsie Eiler poses with the town population sign outside of the village of Monowi, Nebraska (Rick Wilking / Reuters)
Monowi's peak years were in the 1930s, when it had a population of 130. Monowi, like many other small communities in the Great Plains, lost its younger residents to cities that were experiencing growth and offering better jobs. During the 2000 census, the village had a total population of 2 - only one married couple, Rudy and Elsie Eiler. Mr. Eiler died in 2004, leaving his wife Elsie Eiler as the only remaining resident.
Eiler's life as its mayor and sole resident is surreal. Once a year she raises taxes from herself to keep the four street lights on and a few other basic amenities going. She runs the town's only business, the Monowi Tavern, and lives in the only remaining habitable building. She grants her own liquor licence and elects herself mayor. Her customers come off the highway that runs through Monowi or from nearby towns.
This town is an extreme example of what has happened across America's heartland. The depopulation of the countryside over the last 50 years has been called the largest migration in American history. Nowhere is that more starkly illustrated than on the Great Plains, which includes Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
A 1908 photo of the town of Monowi.
Monowi Tavern (Image courtesy: Flickr user Overduebook)
Abandoned Louisa Street in Monowi is seen completely grown over with vegetation (Rick Wilking / Reuters)
An abandoned building that was once a general store leans into trees as it slowly decays in Monowi. The general store closed when World War II started and the owner moved out of town to serve on the draft board. (Rick Wilking / Reuters)
Rudy’s library (Image: Wikipedia)
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