City of Canby Kicks Off Sesquicentennial Celebration Next Week with Birthday Cake and Special Guest

We know what you’re thinking: “Dang, Canby! You look good for 150!”

Yeah. We get that a lot.

The city of Canby does indeed celebrate its sesquicentennial this year, meaning it’s the 150th anniversary of the town being platted (or, laid out, with streets and blocks) and named.

Carol Palmer, former chair of the Heritage and Landmark Commission and project lead for the sesquicentennial program, and other organizers have spent a lot of time researching the city’s centennial celebrations in 1970 — which were quite substantial.

The 1970 Canby Centennial Court, featuring, from left to right, Lynn Weygandt, Karen Johnson, Cathi Rabe and Pam Dominiak. Photo courtesy of the Canby Historical Society.

“The Sesquicentennial is also an opportunity to reflect on how our community commemorated the Centennial,” says HLC Chair Jennifer Giller. “Thanks to records stored at the Depot Museum and the city’s archive, we know city leaders conducted a six-month long program, which included several special events while integrating the Centennial theme into existing events.”

This time around, the city will be using “the same approach,” according to Economic Development Director Jamie Stickel.

“We will hold a few special events, but primarily rely on Canby’s full slate of summer programs to provide a platform for commemorating our 150th,” she said.

The city, working with the HLC, is kicking off Canby’s Sesquicentennial at 6:30 p.m. March 4th in the lobby of the Civic Center. Birthday cake, refreshments, commemorative buttons and more will be available. The program will also include recognition of an honored guest, Jeanine Kersey, great-great-granddaughter of Philander Lee.

1870 was a banner year for Canby and Lee played a key role in those events. The Oregon and California Railroad Company (O & C) purchased land from the Knight family and Lee to construct a rail line and establish a town.

The proposed townsite was surveyed and named for General E.R.S Canby, a Civil War hero who led the decisive Union victory in the Battle of Glorieta Pass, known to some as the “Gettysburg of the West.”

Lee filed the townsite plat with the county on August 9th of that year. Shortly thereafter, William and George Knight began construction of Knight Brothers Mercantile on what is now the site of Mattress World, establishing what is most likely Canby’s first commercial structure. (When Canby was officially incorporated in 1893, the first City Council met in a cramped storage room above the main store.)

“These events changed the economic, social, and cultural trajectory of the farming area known as Baker Prairie, transforming it into the community of Canby,” Palmer said.

Questions on the 150th program can be directed to Palmer at

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