In Boyd County, northern Nebraska, USA, there is a remote town, Monoway, only 8 kilometers from the South Dakota border. This small town is the smallest and loneliest town in the United States. According to the U.S. census data, there is only one resident here. It is the only three-level administrative district in the United States with only one person.
But in fact, the town of Monowi has not always been alone.
The town of Monowi was founded by Czech immigrants. In the 1930s, there were hundreds of people living in the town. By 2000, there were only residents Elsie and her husband Ludi left in the town. And Ludi died in 2004, leaving only Elsie alone.
In this small town with the smallest jurisdiction in the United States, Elsie also serves as the mayor, accountant and cashier of the town, and runs the only tavern and library in the town. As the sole resident, Elsie also pays taxes to the town every year to keep several streetlights and other infrastructure in town running.
The history of the rise and fall of the lonely town dilapidated buildings and facilities
On the side of the road hundreds of meters away from the town of Monowi, there is a huge green signboard with the name of the town in English – Monowi, and a big “1”. Regarding the number “1”, first-timers think it means that this place is 1 km away from the town, but in fact, “1” refers to Elsie, the only resident of the town.
Along this dusty and muddy road, only a few scattered and crumbling houses can be seen on both sides except for the undulating weeds in the wind. The church that was once located in the middle of the town is now overgrown with weeds, empty and full of old tires. Outside the church, there is a long-decayed grain conveyor parked full of traces of time.
Because of the lack of popularity, other buildings in the town were slowly abandoned, gradually dilapidated and collapsed, and overgrown with weeds. At a glance, the dilapidated buildings make the town even more desolate and desolate. But in the past, these buildings also had high hopes.
In the second half of the 19th century, many Czech immigrants with American dreams came here by train on the emerging railway. They gave this wilderness great enthusiasm and used the name of a flower – Monowi (local American dialect), Come name this future home. In 1902, the town of Monowi was established with everyone’s good expectations.
After decades of reproduction, the town ushered in its own golden age in the 1930s. At that time, the number of residents in the small town reached 150 at one point, and infrastructure such as post offices, churches, banks, and schools sprang up.
It’s a pity that the good times didn’t last long. In the era when the town was supposed to be glorious, a giant sandstorm “black storm” swept across the entire central United States, and large tracts of fertile land suffered as a result. Farmers prayed in the wooden huts, but it was of no avail. Although the small town of Monowi is not a direct victim, with the subsequent diversion of the railway and the rise of the automobile industry, this small town that relies on the railway to take root and the agriculture to sprout and grow has been hit hard.
Under such circumstances, more and more young people are not satisfied with the status quo and choose to go out to work. Only those old people who have witnessed the ups and downs of the town or who were the founders of the town stayed behind. The town was like a balloon that had just inflated, and was deflated by half before it was inflated, and then gradually declined.
In March 1960, the father of Elsie, a town resident, passed away. The Monowi Church held the last funeral, and then it was abandoned to this day. Only the building frame of the church is still standing. The town’s post office and grocery store also closed over the next few years. In 1974, the only school in the town was permanently closed because it had no students. By 1980, there were only 18 residents left in the town; in 1990, the town’s residents were less than double digits; in 2000, only Elsie and her husband Ludi were left alone, and they jointly ran a tavern; in 2004 After Ludi died, Elsie became the only resident of the town of Monoway.
In order to protect the town, he holds several positions and elects himself as the mayor every year
Elsie has become the undisputed mayor of the town of Monoway, and she can complete a series of procedures for running for mayor herself.
The process is carried out strictly according to the procedure. Even without competitors, Elsie needs to post a notice of the mayor’s election every year in her own tavern, the only place of business in the town. Then, she will participate in the election on time within the notification time, cast a vote for herself, and finally pass the results of the ballot and announce that she will be the mayor of the town for the new year.
Elsie’s only proof of her status as mayor is her “mayor’s badge”—a pink badge made for her by the sheriff of a neighboring town bearing the town’s name on it. Of course, Elsie never worried about losing the mayor’s position to others, after all, there was no other candidate besides her.
Elsie, who is now very old, has devoted almost her whole life to the town of Monowe. Elsie grew up on a farm on the outskirts of town, and met her future husband, Ludi, in the only classroom at Monowi School in third grade. The two are childhood sweethearts. When they were in middle school, they took the bus together every day to go to the school closest to the town.
Later, Rudy enlisted and Elsie left for Kansas City, dreaming of becoming a flight attendant. Fate did not disappoint the lover, Elsie married Ludi when she was 19 years old, and the two returned to Monowi to live. Ludi bought the old tavern that once belonged to Elsie’s father, renovated it, and reopened it in 1971. When not running the tavern, Rudy and Elsie would snuggle up and read. Mystery novels, historical novels, and books about American western stories are all carefully treasured by the two.
At that time, Ludi’s biggest dream was to build a library of his own. But he never could wait for that day—the town library was not established until more than four months after his death. After the library was established, Elsie lovingly ordered a wooden sign at the door, which read “Rudy’s Dream Come True (2004 Rudy’s Dream Come True)”. Elsie, who lost her lover, decided to wait for this place full of memories of herself and her lover, and continue to run the only tavern in the town by herself.
As the only current resident of the town, Elsie has to wear several hats—mayor, clerk, accountant, librarian, bartender, and more. She succeeded in becoming a somewhat “enviable” existence. After all, it is difficult for others to have such a special experience in their entire life.
Of course, as the mayor, Elsie also has her own “official duties” to deal with. U.S. federal law stipulates that the town mayor needs to formulate a municipal plan every year, carry out necessary paperwork, and collect taxes to ensure the normal operation of the town. So Elsie raises $500 a year in taxes from herself to keep the town’s utilities (a few streetlights and water pipes) in working order. At the same time, she will also carry out the necessary paperwork exchanges to prove that there are people in the town, so as to prevent Monowi from becoming a “ghost town” cut off from the outside world.
Elsie, who is the mayor, handles official duties very interestingly. When Elsie’s bar needs to apply for a tobacco and alcohol license from the government every year, the government will send the license to the mayor’s secretary (Elsie himself), and then the secretary Elsie will hand over the license to the accountant Elsie for signature confirmation, Finally, the license was issued to the tavern owner Elsie.
Except for such a “busy” Elsie, tourists usually see her alone in a white building on the side of the road. The paint on the exterior wall of the building has been mottled and peeled off, and the slogan on the wall enthusiastically reads; “Welcome to Go to the world-famous Monowi Tavern, which has the coldest beer in town!”
Elsie has taken care of herself and the town by herself, and she will go to the nearby “big city” with more than 200 residents Purchasing, I will also go home alone after work to read books, make phone calls with my children, watch soap operas, etc.
Despite living alone, Elsie is having a good time.
Small-town life isn’t lonely at the only tavern
After Ludi’s death, the number of people in the town of Monoway changed from 2 to 1, making it the loneliest town in the United States, and Elsie, who ostensibly owned an entire town, also became the loneliest resident.
But Elsie’s Tavern is never alone. Except for Monday, which is a rest day, the tavern will open at 9:00 am on time.
The tavern has many regular customers, and they basically live forty to fifty kilometers away from the town. We have known Elsie for many years and come to see Elsie from time to time to see if she needs help. There are even people who come from more than 300 kilometers away just to meet old friends. Guests help sweep parking lots and pavements when it snows, and volunteer as bartenders when the tavern gets busy. And Elsie will make hamburgers and hot dogs for everyone in the kitchen when the guests come, and incorporate her own gratitude into it.
In Monowi, Elsie is not alone, her tavern is always full of people. The picture on the left page shows the tourists staying in the tavern, the cats in the town, and the globe put on a thumbtack in the library; the picture on the right page shows Elsie herself and the tourists in the tavern.
In addition, there are many traces of strangers in this special tavern: tourists who come here admiringly, drivers passing by for a cup of coffee… The white bulletin board of the tavern is covered with various graduation notices, christening invitations, holiday greeting cards, etc. Every Sunday evening, a card game in the tavern also attracts many people.
”There’s always people coming and going,” Elsey said in an interview. The globe at the entrance of the library and the four thick guest books in the Monowi Tavern can prove it.
There are some traces of thumbtacks on the globe, which are the testimony of people from different countries and places “visiting here”. However, it is really difficult to insert thumbtacks into the globe, and tools such as hammers are needed, so future tourists will choose to leave a message Leave your name in the book.
In fact, besides two children, Elsie now has 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. The nearest family member lives more than 100 kilometers away from the town. But she is still reluctant to leave Monowi. She has received tourists from 47 states in the United States and more than 40 countries around the world. It can be said that she is in the most “lonely” corner of the world, waiting to be discovered by the world.