The original Doty Mill in the late 1800's
Photo provided by Mary Elizabeth Owen
Janesville's Doty Family
Leaders in Local Business and an Alley to Honor Them
Story by Teresa Nguyen
"The Doty Washer in the mid-19th century...was reputed to be the first washer patented in the United States."
Early Janesville Settlement
The Doty family of Janesville Wisconsin came from a long line of business leaders and entrepreneurs, many who were successful businessmen out east and made their way to Janesville Wisconsin in the mid 1800's.
The Doty family connected through marriage to several other prominent Janesville families including Lappin, Atwood and Owen, to name a few.
Through research and a fascinating visit with retired Janesville educator, Camilla Owen, a wealth of information was found. Camilla is a Doty family descendant and shared an amazingly thorough family scrapbook created by her aunt, Mary Elizabeth Owen.
Downtown Janesville in 1877
The family traditions of ambition and hard work continued through the generations, as Camilla is well-known for her dedication and leadership in the Janesville community through her coaching, board leadership and ongoing charity work. To read a story on Camilla written by Teresa Nguyen, visit:
The following is a timeline of some of the many innovative companies the Doty family owned and operated in downtown Janesville, including agricultural implements, washing machines, building tools, a box company, a feed mill and the grain mill!
In 1853, the Doty Manufacturing company began manufacturing agricultural implements.
In 1862, Henry A. Doty opened a feed mill, Doty 's Flour & Feed, which had a remarkably long run under one firm name.
Janesville's Doty Manufacturing Poster
In approximately 1865, the Doty Manufacturing plant changed ownership and renovations were made to the building. William Doty invented the Doty washing machine and went into business with his brother Ezra. The Doty washing machine business was very successful and increased rapidly until 1874. Their output was over 8,000 of these washing machines which were sold all over the United States!
Henry A. Doty, recognized as a highly respected businessman, was educated in Janesville’s “city schools” and then attended Janesville’s Commercial College, earning his degree in 1867. He became General Manager of his father’s Doty Manufacturing company in 1869, serving until 1873.
The ads for the Doty Washer reflected the times, when women were restricted to domestic life and laundering was solely the responsibility of women and girls. The earliest ad described how "...farmers' wives were not the only people who were happy to have the Doty Washer in the mid-19th century. Young girls and even invalids could do the laundry using this machine...". It boasted how the machine reduced the duration of the work, "Her total time at the washer was two hours, or about half the time it used to take her to scrub the laundry on a washboard!" And another ad showed how a woman could do the laundry even "dressed in her 1870's finery".
Ads for Janesville's Doty Washer in the late 1800's
Around 1879, the original mill, the Norcross and Doty Mill, was built. Henry Doty bought the mill, but then around 1880, the H. A. Doty Feed Mill on North Main street was totally destroyed by fire.
The 1880’s saw a high number of washing machine factories sprouting all over the country, which declined sales of the Doty, so Doty Manufacturing turned their attention to the manufacture of punching and sheaving machines, grain drills, machinists’ tools, stepladders and wind mills, though they continued making washing machines, as well.
About this time, a box factory was established by Henry A. Doty and was in business for a number of years, then sold in 1889.
In 1884, the original farmer’s mill was moved to Dodge Street and Edward P. Doty took over the business, known as Doty’s Mill.
In 1911, a fire burned the Doty Mill, located on Dodge Street. In a Janesville Gazette article from 1934, Mrs. Otto Lukas, daughter of owner Edward P. Doty, said that she remembered her father sitting “outside with a horse and buggy, selling salvage from the basement.”
Even in the face of disaster, Edward Doty held on to hope and was courageously determined to continue his business!
1912 saw the construction begin for rebuilding Doty Mill. The rebuilt mill became known for its cornmeal, graham and cereals.
Edward, son of Ezra Philo and Abigail (Austin) Doty, natives of New York state, died in the early 1930's at the age of 74. He was a lifelong resident of Janesville and was well known by area farmers as a successful miller and grain dealer.
Ezra Philo Doty and son, Edward P. Doty
In 1934, the Doty Mill on Dodge Street shut down when Mrs. Lukas retired. Plans were being made for the business to continue, but the Doty family’s long and successful era of running the mill came to an end.
The Doty Mill Alley Beautification Project - History Honored
Fast forward 83 years...
At the end of 2017, a team from the Leadership Development Academy of Rock County, called the Solid Six, decided to take on revitalizing an alley near Dodge and River Street as their LDA team project. This was at the location of the Doty Mill. The Solid Six team was made up of LDA students Rachel Andres, Jason Klingaman, Colleen Koerth, Tyler Mosley, Cory Olsen and Tracy Schroeder.
The goal was to help beautify the downtown as well as to create a safe and walk-able area adjacent to River Street, which became Festival Street. They also wanted to help customers with a clean, bright walkway to the rear entries of the Milwaukee Street businesses, while the new bridge was under construction. It was intended to be utilized as an inviting path to the new pedestrian bridge and Janesville's new Town Square.
The team aimed to include benches, colorful art on the IBEW building, awnings, overhead lighting, architectural and artistic features. The plan included new paving and the longer term goal to place historic pictures mounted to the rear of the Milwaukee street buildings.
The Solid Six Team from the Leadership Development Academy
At the start of the project, the team spoke with the late Ken Corey, long-time owner of Dubes Jewelry, who came up with the idea to name the alley. Dubes Jewelry had a hallway with a back door entrance on the alley. He chose Doty Mill Alley to honor the history of the local mill, which was in that same location.
In early 2018, the Solid Six held the first fundraising event at Mocha Moment.
By March of 2018, historical research began at the Archives building at the Rock County Historical Society. Archives Manager, Kristin Arnold, assisted in the search for historical photos for the team project.
By the summer of 2018, the alley was repaved.
Ken Corey (1925 - 2019)
In July and August of 2018, the first sketches of a new Janesville mural for the alley were created and made public by local artist James Richter. The mural pays tribute to our Janesville history, businesses and recreation.
By late summer of 2018, clean up by the LDA team began. Walls were power washed and new paint applied.
In early fall of 2018, artist James Richter began work on his colorful, eye-catching Janesville mural. To watch an NBC 15 news interview of Jim talking about his new mural, click here:
In October of 2018, beautiful lighting was installed by Westphal Electric, making it a safer place and a more useful space, especially at night events along Festival Street.
Local Artist, James Richter, painting the Janesville mural in Doty Mill Alley
Several community partnerships were involved in this project, including Westphal Electric, the “Renew” committee of the Local 890 Electrical Union Apprentices, Blackhawk Tech, Boys & Girls Club and support from the Trivium LLC building and others.
Thanks to the Solid Six LDA team, we can all enjoy this beautiful alley in memory of the Doty family - a family filled with inspiring individuals who have contributed so greatly to our rich manufacturing and business history in beautiful Janesville, Wisconsin!
• Rock County Wisconsin: A New History of its Cities, Villages, Towns, Citizens and Varied Interests, from the Earliest Times, Up to Date, (1908) by Historian/Editor William Fiske Brown of Beloit, Wisconsin
• Camilla Owen with information and photos provided by Mary Elizabeth Owen
• Tyler Mosley of the Solid Six LDA Team