A historic church that has long served as a landmark in Morrison County was destroyed by fire early Friday.

Morrison County deputies found the Darling Township church, which is on Hwy. 10, north of Little Falls, fully engulfed in flames shortly after they were called about 3:15 a.m. The Randall Fire Department kept the fire from spreading to a nearby wooded area but was unable to save the church, which stood for more than 120 years.

Authorities believe the fire was intentionally set and is being investigated as arson.

Although the church closed its doors for services in 1969, it has long served as a community landmark. If not for the church, most people wouldn't know they were passing through Darling, said Darling Township Supervisor George Zilka. "There's nothing else that marks except I think there's a sign along the railroad that says Darling," he said.

And now it's gone. That's a bit jarring because "it's just always been there," Zilka said. The idea that someone intentionally set it on fire is "disappointing."

The Minnesota Arson Reward Project is offering up to $5,000 for information that leads to a conviction in the case.

Anyone with information about the fire should call the arson hot line at 1-800-723-2020 or the Morrison County Sheriff's Office at 320-632-9233. The State Fire Marshal's Office is assisting the sheriff in the investigation.

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788