Get count right, towns of 1 tell Census

Elsie Eiler, the sole resident of Monowi, Neb., outside the bar and grill she owns in the town. Elsie Eiler, the sole resident of Monowi, Neb., outside the bar and grill she owns in the town. (Nate Jenkins/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 8, 2010

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MONOWI, Neb. - The town of Monowi consists of a tavern, a few crumbling houses, four street lamps, one dirt road - and one person.

Elsie Eiler is Monowi’s entire population. Yet Census estimates from this summer say that there are two Monowians.

Small town or not, Eiler still wants the 2010 Census to be right. “Where’s this other person?’’ she said. “Let me know. . . . I don’t want to come back to my house at 11 or 12 and see someone else there.’’

Others across the country who live in the tiniest of tiny towns, from Indiana river country to the wind-swept Wyoming plains, feel the same way as Eiler about Census counts and estimates. Proudly holding onto their identities, with the line between existence and disappearance of their villages so narrow, they insist every person counts.

The Census estimates that there are four incorporated towns with just one person. But when contacted, residents in three of those places say they aren’t the lonely souls the Census says they are. The population of the fourth - Hoot Owl, Okla. - could not be verified by the Associated Press.

“Who’s that one?’’ said Thomas Saucier of Goss, Miss., one of the supposed one-person towns. “There’s 50 right here in Goss!’’

Told that some estimates of the country’s most microscopic towns haven’t gone over too smoothly, Barbara Vandervate of the Census Bureau said, “We’re doing the whole country. If we could do one state a month, it’d be much easier to count everybody.’’

And another thing: “If people don’t answer the questions, guess what? They don’t get counted.’’