The first effort of which we can learn in behalf of the schools of this locality was made in 1722. The people here then petitioned the town of Pomfret to which they then belonged that they might be exempt from taxes for building a school house in the center of that town, and also that they might have part of the money that was appropriated from the treasury of the colony to help them to keep a free school in their section. The request was granted by the town, and a school was then established here. For many years after that a school was provided, And in time a school house was built and then school was kept by a master three months and by a mistress eight months in each year, the mistress holding her school in different places to accommodate the smaller children. This one school house stood on the Green and was quite elaborately finished, with ceiling of pine boards, double floor below and single floor in the chamber, chimney lined with brick as high as the mantle tree, three windows glazed, a convenient writing table, benches to sit on, and a lock.
After the society had been enlarged by the addition of Mortlake greater school accommodations were required. In 1752 the society was divided into four districts bylines running east, west, north and south from the meeting house to the bounds of the society. It was then ordered that school should be kept in five places, an-equal length of time in each place, viz.: 1, at the Widow Cleveland’s, or Benjamin Hubbard’s or near there; 2, at Leonard Cady’s; 3, at Mr. Dimon’s, or near there; 4, at Samuel or William Williams’s; 5, at the school house in the center of the society.
In 1762 the school districts, which perhaps had from time to time increased in number, were remodeled, and the residents in each are shown in the following list
” District 1. Containing Captain Spalding, Prince’s place, that farm that was the Reverend Mr. Avery’s, Nathan Cady, Adonijah Fasset, David Kendall, John Kimball, Reverend Mr. Whitney, Stephen Baker, Ezekiel Cady, Uriah Cady, Daniel Tyler, Thomas Williams, Samuel Cleveland and Joseph Cady.
” District 2. All the lands and houses of Colonel Malbone that are in the society, William Earl, Moses Earl, Jonas Frost, Jedidiah Ashcraft, Joseph Hubbard, Abner Adams, Benjamin Fasset, Nehemiah Adams, John Hubbard, Daniel Adams, Noah and Paul Adams and Samuel Wilson.
” District 3. To contain Peter and Richard Adams, Widow Allyn, Lieutenant Smith, Sergeant Woodward, Reuben Darbe, Jonas Cleveland, Josiah, James and Joseph Fasset, John Allyn, Lieutenant Spalding, Elijah Monrose, Joseph Dyer, Jonathan Backus, Andrew Lester, Captain Prince, Nehemiah Prince, Thomas Wheeler, William Copeland and Moses Smith.
“District 4. To contain Nehemiah Bacon, Joseph Scarborough, Samuel Jacques, James Bennet, Joseph Ross, Widow Barret, Lieutenant Smith, Doctor Walton, Barnabas Wood, Deacon Scarborough, Colonel Putnam and Thomas Eldredge.
” District 5. To contain Samuel Williams, Jr., William Williams, Jr., Deacon Williams, Samuel Williams, Ebenezer Weeks, Rufus Herrick, Jedidiah Downing, Widow Davyson, Benjamin Fasset, Jr., and Amoral Chapman.
” District 6. To contain John Litchfield, Israel Litchfield, Darius Cady, James Darbe, Senior and Junior, Samuel and Eleazer Darbe, Nathan Kimball, Benjamin Shepard, Nehemiah Cady, Caleb Spalding, Daniel, Nahum, John, Henry and Benjamin Cady.
” District 7. John Fasset, James Copeland, Gidion Cady, Samuel Winter, Nathan Witter, Asa Tyler, Lieutenant Hunt, the farm that was Thomas Stanton’s, Jacob Staples, Jethro Rogers, James Bidlack and Aaron Fuller.”
The school house was now moved to a suitable place in one corner of the common, and ” fitted up as well as it was before.” School houses were provided for the surrounding districts as soon as possible. A school was kept at least two and one-fifth months a year in each district.
In 1783 an attempt was made to establish an academy here. A teacher whose qualifications were vouched for by the Governors of Cambridge College,” where he had been educated, was employed by some of the enterprising citizens to teach Greek and Latin and ” any other branch of literature taught at any private school in the state.” The committee in whose charge this enterprise was placed was composed of Daniel Tyler, Jr., John Jefferds, Joseph Baker, Eleazer Gilbert and Jabez Allen. Failing to succeed in this effort, the town gave more care to public education, and committees were appointed to take charge of the school monies and to hire schoolmasters.
In the early part of the present century the Reverend Samuel J. May, then minister of this town, was very active in agitating and promoting the cause of the common schools, and through his activity, influences were set to work which extended to the county and state, and resulted in widespread and much needed reforms in the school system. Being placed on the school committee, he was astonished to find that the public schools were inferior even to those of Massachusetts; that the much vaunted school fund was actually detrimental in its workings; and that people generally were losing interest in schools which cost them nothing. By greater strictness in the examination of teachers, and more thorough supervision, he gave a new stimulus to the Brooklyn schools, and so aroused the attention of other public spirited citizens that they agreed to unite with him in bringing the question before the consideration of the general public. A call was sent out asking the towns throughout the state to send delegates to Brooklyn for the purpose of considering the character and condition of the common schools of the state. The educational convention was held in May, 1827. Its novelty elicited a large attendance from Windham and adjoining counties. Reports by letter or delegate from nearly a hundred towns revealed such deficiency in teaching and administration as to surprise and mortify the citizens of the state, thus arousing them to measures of reform, which in time effected an entire revolution of the system and its details. As a result of this convention a society of the ” Friends of Education for Windham County ” was organized, with George Sharpe for president, which for sometime continued to hold meetings and circulate information.
Some efforts had occasionally been made in the direction of a high school, and in 1829 an academy was formally incorporated, the proprietors of the enterprise being Benjamin E. Palmer, Vine Robinson, Philip Scarborough, Daniel P. Tyler and William Hutchins. A suitable building was procured and considerable pains taken to build up a flourishing school. Scholars came freely from surrounding towns, but were apparently more impressed by the court sessions and social attractions of the village than by the instructions received. Ex-Governor Gaston of Massachusetts, Hon. Abraham Payne of Providence, William S. Scarborough of Cincinnati, Brigadier General Tyler of Montgomery, Alabama, were among the notable men who at times received instruction in the Brooklyn Academy, during its prosperous life, which passed many years ago.
The number of children of school age in this town in 1858 was 500; in 1881, 510; in 1887, 623; in 1889, 610. These were in 1889 .divided among the school districts as follows: No. 1, 115; 2, 32: 3. 19; 4, 14; 5, 50; 6, 7; 7, 7; 8, 19; 9, 347. In this town there are, 1 graded school of 3 departments and 1 of 5 departments. The estimated value of school houses and sites is $20,400. The total school expenses for the year were $5,594.89.
Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889