5 Towns With A Population of Exactly One Eccentric Weirdo
Today, my understanding of the meaning of the word “town” is thoroughly tested. Say “town” to me, and I’m generally able to cook up a mental image — a scattering of homes and businesses, a couple kids playing some sort of antiquated game like jacks or stickball. One of the consistent variables in my mind’s eye, one that’s apparently not necessary, is multiple people.
If a town or similarly quaint settlement has only a single occupant, all sorts of etymological questions start popping up in my head. What’s the bare minimum we’re working with here, since clearly my mental qualifiers were wrong? If I go camping, does that include me founding and then disbanding a town over the space of a weekend? Could something be called a city with only one resident just based on building heights and concrete ratios? These are things I didn’t think I’d have to consider pre-nuclear apocalypse, but yet, that seems to be the case.
Here then are five towns with a single occupant…
I can’t tell you if Monowi, Nebraska has a classic “now entering” sign with a population counter that’s outscored by most baseball games. If they (and can you even say they in this situation?) did, it would have dropped from two to one in 2004, with the death of Rudy Eiler. The person likely swapping out those number tiles would have been Monowi’s singular resident, Elsie Eiler. She remained, still operating the restaurant and bar they ran together, the Monowi Tavern.
What’s even more unique and strange about Monowi is that it isn’t some off-the-grid, unregulated wildland. It’s an official town recognized by the government, one that receives federal funding and has a local government with, I assume, a rare 100 percent approval rating. Elsie is the town’s mayor, handling the needs of her single constituent, herself. It’s a fascinating life, one that I can only assume involves an incredible amount of Sudoku, and people traveling to see the town provide its resident with human interaction and restaurant customers. There might not be a place that more definitively proves the saying, “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
Hibberts Gore, Maine
Given that Monowi’s only business does rely on word-of-mouth, since it’s not like there’s foot traffic to speak of, Elsie has been perfectly happy with media coverage. The same isn’t true for the single resident of Hibberts Gore, Maine, a woman who would much appreciate me not sharing her name. She moved to the Gore (which I am just learning is a small, unincorporated bit of land) after a divorce, which certainly seems like the kind of event that would take you to isolated woods. A little less Eat, Pray, Love, a little more Sit, Stare, Sleep.
We’ll leave the tale of her incredibly independent living there, just as she’d prefer, saying to Sunday Salon, “These people from these big papers come. Why? What have I done? It’s a bunch of lines on a map. Nothing else. What have I accomplished? What have I ever done to make anyone’s life better? What good for the planet? What good for people? What good for anybody? Why? It’s hogwash. It’s a crock.”
It probably didn’t help her distaste for journalists that a Boston Globe reporter wrote a story on a single home, with a single occupant, and managed to get most details of wrong.
Unfortunately, Buford, Wyoming is now a true ghost town, with no longer even a single citizen to haunt. But for a period from 2008 to 2012, it did indeed have a population of one, the proprietor of the Buford Trading Post. A man who was apparently as unique as you think, being a Buddhist who was eventually arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. Reading about places like this, the immediate and reasonable question is always “why?” And Buford does have an answer to that, even if there’s no one to give it.
Buford is right on I-80, and before that, it served railroad workers making their way west. It was a natural pit stop that, at one point, did have at least a respectable population of 2,000. This arguably prime location might mean Buford’s coming back, though probably not in a big way, having been purchased by a Vietnamese businessman named Mintu Pradher, who sees it as both a curiosity and an oasis for truckers on a pretty desolate patch of highway.
Deep in the hills of France, there’s another self-contained human community. The entire idea of these sorts of places is deeply charming — or terrifying if you have agoraphobia, I suppose — but the commune of Rochefourchat adds in a setting out of a storybook to push it over the top. It’s a verdant slice of isolation with a spectacular view, and a bit of old castle ruins to complete the picture.
Besides castles past, there are only two other buildings: a church that’s for show, given that the population can’t support both a pastor and flock simultaneously, and a single house. That homeowner, Josette, is the only occupant of Rochefourchat, who moved there with her husband, until the inevitable halved the population of both their marriage and chosen living space. It’s a whole lot of history for one lady to enjoy, too. It’s existed since 1796, when Rochefourchat was established by a French trader.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.