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Nebraska woman is mayor and only resident of rural town

Kevin Murphy of Reuters reportsElsie 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.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

Elsie Eiler poses with the town population sign outside of the village of Monowi, Nebraska on April 28, with the abandoned town grain elevator in the background. Eiler is the person living in Monowi making it the only incorporated town, village or city in the United States with only one resident.

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.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

A 1908 photo of the town of Monowi.

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."

Rick Wilking / Reuters

Abandoned Louisa Street in Monowi is seen completely grown over with vegetation on April 28. At its peak in the 1930s the town had 150 residents but after the railroad left it began to decline.

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.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

An abandoned building that was once a general store leans into trees as it slowly decays in Monowi on April 27. The general store closed when World War II started and the owner moved out of town to serve on the draft board.

You can read photographer Rick Wilking's reflections on his trip to Monowi on the Reuters blog.

NBC's Bob Dotson reports from Monowi in June, 2005.