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Four Generations Span Spicer's History

Spicer was incorporated as a village in 1904. That same year Gideon Buck Doty and his wife, sensing the business opportunities in the new town, bought a hotel that had just been built by Lars Orddin. Gideon and his wife had previously homesteaded on a hill overlooking the west shore of Green Lake, a tract known then and now as Doty's Hill.

G. B.'s son, Claude, bicycled to Spicer from Butterfield, Minnesota, in 1898 at the age of 18. During his more than seven decades in Spicer, he collected fares on a Green Lake steamboat; owned many teams of horses, threshing machines (with four steam engines at one time), wood sawing machines; used his "beautiful team of large mules" to harvest ice from Green Lake; served the village as constable; gardened extensively, one year selling $600 worth of potatoes raised on seven lots; at the age of 86 butchered every Monday at the Engwall Locker Plant and minded the gasoline station, just below Doty's Hill, owned by his son Rudolph (Dutch).


Doty's Hill, 1940

At age 86, Claude reminisced in the Willmar paper (in the late 1960's) about his experiences on the steamboat, the "Iris," which Alf Nobles had built about 1900 and then sold to Port McDowell. On its four-mile round trip from Spicer to Crescent Beach every summer weekend, the Iris "hauled as many as a hundred happy weekenders at a time." Claude quipped: "My pockets used to get so loaded with 25-cent pieces that I thought my pants were going to fall off, or my pockets break." He said the Iris was eventually moved up to the Red River at Fargo.

As a sidelight to the stories on ice harvesting in this book, Claude Doty's memory of his mule team is revealing. "One day I didn't take my team on the ice because it was covered with several inches of slush, and I didn't feel it was safe. That day a four-year old team of horses went through the ice and drowned."

While Claude tended his son's gas station, the son, Dutch, and his wife, Lillian, drove two of Spicer's school buses. In interviews in the "Spicer Free Press" Dutch remembered seeing the slough setting of much of early Spicer; working in his father's sawmill; driving a team of horses through the gravel streets of Spicer to sprinkle the dust; during harvest, firing the large steam engines with straw; doing carpentry and block laying as his occupation; policing Spicer's dance pavilion during the 1930's; being a foreman for an ice harvesting crew; operating a gas station; and owning a school bus company.

Besides being a champion of "all work," Dutch has avoided dullness by avoiding "no play." Now, he has distinguished himself as a big game hunter-of deer, elk, moose-and sport fisherman.

He and Lil have traveled every state in the U.S.A., every province in Canada, Scandinavia and Japan.

Among their children is another Gideon, of Spicer Ice Castle fame; his story is recorded elsewhere in this history.

There are other Dotys of several generations. Readers will find them in the Families section.