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The village of Motley began its life early in the 1870's due to the Lake Superior and Puget Sound Railroad Company, which ran east to west, but the community was sustained by an active lumber industry. The earliest settler was Calvin Priestly, sent by the railroad company in the autumn of 1872. In 1878, H.B. Morrison built a large lumber mill. In 1881, Curtis and Lawrence also opened a mill one mile from the village-sawing lumber, shingles and lath. These two mills provided employment for arriving workmen and opened the door for settlement. Soon additional industries sprang up, as did a thriving retail community. A school, churches and other amenities were built.

In the 1920's, the lumber industry in Minnesota began to decline. As a result, other industries took its place. Raising animals for fur became profitable. A variety of animals were farmed such as skunk, fox, muskrat, and beaver. Turkey farming has also been an important industry in the Motley area.

A Lake of the Woods fisherman came through Motley needing to get rid of his catch of fish. Ed Morey traded corn for the fish and selling the fish immediately was a must. Thus, Ed Morey found his calling. The Morey Fish Company was formed and launched Motley as a seafood producing center.

Motley is the intersecting point of U.S. Highway 10 and 210. Two beautiful rivers, the Long Prairie and the Crow Wing, flow though the community. Motley is home to the Morey Fish Company and Trident Seafoods Corporation. The beauty of the city and its advantageous location make Motley the ideal setting for business and good living.