The historic ice storm that pummeled the Canby area this weekend also dealt a crippling blow to one of the area’s last remaining one-room schoolhouses, located on the former Mark Prairie homestead on South Mark Road near Canby.
On the night of Lincoln’s Birthday, Feb. 12, two large oak trees toppled over on the 120-year-old structure, causing massive damage.
“We have some of the worst-looking damage I’ve seen anywhere in the county so far,” said Mark Prairie Historical Society president and family descendant Judi Aus. “The tree fell on the back part of the schoolhouse and caved in the roof. We have oak tree limbs and oak trees down everywhere.”
The trees fell on the back part of the property, a section of the building that is slightly newer than the original one-room schoolhouse. Originally used as a woodshed, it was eventually attached and turned into a kitchen.
Aus said a tree service is scheduled to come out this week to begin the removal process. Fortunately, the schoolhouse was insured, and the historical society is already working with their representative.
“We’ve got a good team and we’re dividing up responsibilities,” Aus said. “The community is being so helpful, and I’m just so grateful for that. We’re so blessed in so many ways.”
Aus and MPHS board member Blaine Sessions entered the schoolhouse Monday to recover some artifacts, including a 40-foot canvas banner of uncertain origins, which contains the name of a number of local and historic businesses and is at least 70 years old.
“Please be assured the board of MPHS is working tirelessly on this situation and will keep you all informed as to what the next steps will be,” the historical society said in a blog post Monday. “As always, thank you for your continued support.”
For those who would like to support the schoolhouse and its recovery and continued restoration, donations may be made by mail or on the society’s website.
Local historian and Mark Prairie board member Peggy Sigler said the grounds had been previously surveyed by an arborist, but these particular trees had not been identified as potential fall hazards. The Aurora Colony Museum has offered to safeguard items at their collections storage, Sigler noted.
Built ca. 1900, the Mark Prairie Schoolhouse was part of the unified Canby School District until 1946, when it closed to students.
However, it continued to serve the community, hosting family reunions, wedding receptions, parties, picnics, church groups, 4-H and other clubs.
It has also been a cultural center for the remaining Mark family descendants and — for nearly 100 years — has been the site of an annual family reunion and potluck each summer.
Photos courtesy the Mark Prairie Historical Society: