by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Canby's Historic Review Board is starting to look at the future of a giant oak tree that was on the original Philander Lee property and how to keep its historical significance remembered today and for the future.It’s not hard to see the lines of age and the weatherbeaten exterior that tell of many an Oregon winter and summer endured.

There’s character on the outside, from top to bottom there are stories to tell. But this face isn’t the face of a human being, but the countenance of a tree that likely has been around to see Canby work through its infancy, teen years, adulthood and now the maturity of one of Oregon’s thriving Willamette Valley cities.

It’s more than a tree, it is part of Canby’s history – at least that’s what Canby’s Historic Review Board thinks. And they want to make sure it, or at least its memory, is preserved for the next generation.

The tree in question is the big oak tree that sits on what was the old Philander Lee property, but now is Union Pacific property next to the Package Containers office.

While the tree appears to be in no imminent danger of being removed, board members have heard rumors of plans to perhaps cut the tree down.

“The Philander Lee tree is more than just a beautiful tree, is a big part of Canby’s history,” said Jaime Stickel, Main Street manager.

No one knows if the tree was planted by the Lee family but given its presence at the beginning of Canby’s beginnings, the board says it has a definite historical significance and wants to make sure that it is at least marked and noted in the city’s historical record.

The property, and the oak tree, have an interesting history. The first Philander Lee house was built in 1868 by railroad carpenters who were then laying rail lines through Baker Prairie. Lee came to the Canby area in 1849 and he and his family built a log cabin. Lee, on whose donation land claim the townsite of Canby was laid out, lived in a house next to the tree until his death in 1887 at age 84. The house and tree survived two fires in the 1970s – the first in September 1970 and a second in July 1978.

It is that history, at least 145 years of it, that the Historic Review Board feels is worth noting and honoring, even if time, disease or railroad need means the tree must be cut down.

“Whether it is a tree or a house or a commercial building, each historic piece helps to tell a little bit of Canby’s story, and what a wonderful story it is,” Stickel said.

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