The Central Minnesota
Sustainable Development Plan



Our Story

Population:  671                              

Median Age:  41.1

Median Income:  $34,423

Area:  1.38 square miles

Most Common Industry:  Manufacturing; Wholesale trade; Retail trade



First the Dakota and then the Ojibwe Indians lived in the central Minnesota area, where the county straddles the Mississippi River.  French and English fur traders and voyageurs traveled through what is now central Minnesota from the 1600s to the 1800s. They used the rivers to transport their goods. The county was named for fur trading brothers, William and Allan Morrison.

 The Crow Wing and the Long Prairie rivers run through Motley just a few miles before joining the Mississippi River. The rivers played an important part of life in the area before roads were constructed.

Motley Village was platted originally by the Lake Superior & Puget Sound Company on April 7, 1879. 

 Motley at one time was the only station in Morrison County for the Northern Pacific Railroad. There was no town but the location was favorable for distributing lumber and lumber camp supplies.  A post office was established in 1874. In 1878 a large lumber mill was built giving employment to almost 100 workers.   By 1881 Motley had three large general stores and two hotels, with corresponding shops.  That same year a brick yard was opened that employed 20 men. 

 The First National Bank was established and chartered in 1905. In 1906 burglars drilled through the outer walls of the vault and secured $65 in cash found in a common till, but left before they blew up the safe, fuses were found about the place in the morning.  The village of Motley held its first fair in 1910; it is the longest continuously running fair in MN.  The population in 1910 was around 425 and Morrison County, 24,000.

 The village of Motley was incorporated in the late 1880’s but for some reason never legally recorded in the county records. The precise date has been lost.

 In 1909 a two-story brick school building was erected at a cost of $12,000. The district bonded for this for fifteen years, the bonds drawing 4% per annum.  The Motley Mercury newspaper was established in September 1901, the subscription rate was $1 per year.


Community members work together whenever the need arises.  The Fire Department, churches, Lions and American Legion to name a few all pitch in together to accomplish the many projects undertaken by this community.  Benefits, food drives or a clean-up day all see this community organized and pulling together to mutually reach a goal.

Local foods are showcased in the Farm-to-school Program at the K-12 schools and a Harvest Dinner banquet is held each year by the 4-H Club also emphasizing the foods available locally.

The local 4-H has taken the lead on addressing lake associations, farmers and others on eliminating phosphorus in the area ground waters.

On September 4, 2012 the “Gathering in Motley” was held.  This was a day-long event celebrating the history and family stories of the community.  Many descendants of the families that settled here returned to share their memories.

Residents identified these specific assets in Motley

Natural Assets:

Rivers in area-fishing


Agriculture-farming & ranching



Cultural Assets:

Farmers & ranchers



Human Assets:



Healthcare professionals

Educators:  combined w/Staples-Motley Schools


Social Assets:

Service organizations:  Lions, American Legion

Youth Clubs:  4-H

County Fair

Several churches

Staples-Motley FFA

Bingo night @ Heritage House

Motley Music Fest

Historical Society


Political Assets:

Good relationship w/Brainerd

Fair Board

State Representatives

County Commissioners


Financial Assets:


Community Foundation grants

Local donations



Built Assets:

Historic castle

New streets

Elementary & middle schools


Veteran’s Park




  1. Increase community cooperation - The participants at this workshop felt it was important to get community members to become more involved to help promote Motley.  This could involve coordinating a music festival to bring people together and to celebrate the rivers. 
  2. Build a Community Center - Residents would like to have a community center built that would help to bring the community together. 
  3. Bring in additional Businesses - Expand existing businesses to provide full range of services for residents such as clothing, Movie Theater, shoes.   


For more information on the City of Motley and all it has to offer, visit: