Alexis Beckstead, president of the Oneida Stake Academy Foundation, recently disguised himself to show the building to elementary-aged children.
PRESTON – For nearly 20 years, saving Oneida Stake Academy has been at the forefront of many hard-core citizens of Franklin County. Construction of the Academy in Preston began in 1880 and was completed in 1884. Community members formed a foundation and began trying to preserve the historic building when it was moved in 2003 from the land. from Preston School District to its current location at 106 East Oneida.
Necia Seamons served for 18 years on the board of directors of the Oneida Stake Academy Foundation. She said the Preston Building is one of the five remaining academies still standing.
There were 50 academies built from Alberta, Canada to the Mormon colonies in Mexico in the late 1800s. Many academies were turned into state colleges and universities. Brigham Young University, Weber State University, Snow College, and BYU-Idaho were all part of the academy’s educational system that lasted from 1870 to 1930.
“There are buildings still intact in Colonial Juarez, Mexico; Snowflake, Arizona; Cowley, Wyoming; and, one in Provo which has been transformed into a beautiful public library, “she said.” At first it was about saving the magnificent building, but now it’s not just about saving a building, it’s about saving something that reminds us of a people who have valued their rights and chose to value the education of their children. ”
The Transcontinental Railroad brought Protestant and Catholic missionaries to the Utah Territory to build schools. Lest the students be evangelized by the educational milieu of the time, Brigham Young founded the Brigham Young Academy in 1875 in Provo and another in Logan in 1877.
The schools were successful and the leaders wanted academies built in every stake in the church at the time.
“We have documented over a million people educated in the university system,” she said. “People gave of their time and talents to work on their school because they understood that it was up to them to make sure their children got a good education.
The early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were banned from teaching in public schools by the federal government, and leaders feared their students would get their dose of religious studies in schools. Parents and religious leaders were also skeptical about teaching their children without bias against their religion.
“We can rebuild the building, but the people of the time gave so much of themselves, “she said.” It was volunteer work. People were called on missions just to build academies.
The first church members had been out of Missouri for only 40 years and they built the academy.
“The concepts they learned were crucial because in our society today people want the government to take care of them,” Seamons said. “You can’t build a community with a ‘me first’ attitude. This is why building is important so that people can see the values it takes to build community.
The only other buildings in the area constructed in the same manner were the Logan Temple and the Logan Tabernacle.
“These buildings were built with the same values,” she said. “We can see what people are capable of doing when we work together for a common goal. “
Alexis Beckstead, president of the Oneida Stake Academy Foundation, said it will be a beautiful building for the community to enjoy when completed and will be a place to host community events, concerts and other productions.
“Before COVID hit, we had repaired and replaced the rock along the bottom of the building and around the windows,” she said. “We installed new windows and insulated the interior of the building.
After moving the building in 2003, it took them a while for the building to be weatherproof and structurally sound.
“It looks like not much is happening, but there is still work to be done and it is progressing,” she said. “We recently received great grants from the Larry Miller Foundation and the George S. and Delores Eccles Foundation which have been wonderful. We also get local grants.
She said they spent nearly $ 4 million to move the academy and build the foundation, stabilize it and put a new roof on it. She expects it will cost an additional $ 3 million to finish the interior. This could change with rising construction prices.
“It’s a fun project and the potential of what we are doing will have a huge economic impact on the community.“Beckstead said.” We have a lot of people from Logan who lived in Preston at one time who are interested in the advancement of the building. “
Beckstead said people are reaching out to foundation members to find out about the progress of the building.
“We cannot open the building to the public due to insurance issues,” she said. “We will always have a booth at the fairground to answer questions and receive donations at the rodeo flea market. “