History of Schools of Windham, Connecticut

In the early history of the town schools received less attention in Windham than might have been expected in a town of such prosperity and intelligence. ” A school to be kept in Thomas Snell’s house ” appears to-have been for some time the only provision made in that direction. The committee appointed to manage the schools may have ordered them in different neighborhoods, however. In 1711 the town voted to have no more school committees, but to leave the matter in the hands of the selectmen. In 1713 the town ordered two school houses, one to be eighteen feet square and set upon the Green, ” not above twenty rods from the meeting-house;” the other sixteen feet square, to be set in the eastern part of the town. John Backus and James Badcock were chosen a committee to secure their erection. The first was soon completed, but the other was delayed a year or two. The first reference to schools which we find on the records of the town was made in December, 1702, when the vote of the town directed the selectmen to agree with a schoolmaster or mistress— “scollars to pay what the rate falls short.”

Thus schools were managed in a very imperfect way, with but little improvement for many years. Soon after the revolution, however, some efforts were made to raise the standard of public education. For a time an academy was maintained, with the learned Doctor Pemberton as its principal. Though at a later period, for lack of permanent funds, it was unable to retain so popular a teacher, yet it maintained a respectable standing, and was well sustained by Windham and its vicinity. Public schools were yet poor, but efforts were made for their improvement. In 1794 thirteen school districts were set off, each being designated, according to the custom of the time, by the name of some prominent resident. Thus they were numbered and named as follows:

1.   Frederick Stanley’s
2.   Solomon Huntington’s
3.   Jabez Wolcott’s
4.   Timothy Wales’s
5.   Eliphalet Murdock’s
6.   William Preston’s
7.   Zebediah Tracy’s
8.   Josiah Palmer’s
9.   James Cary’s
10. Joseph Palmer’s
11. William Cary’s
12. John Walden’s
13. Zenas Howe’s

Private schools were often sustained indifferent neighborhoods. Among other tutors who at times held sway in the academy were “Master” Abbott, Roger Southworth and Socrates Balcom. About 1825 the growth of Willimantic seemed to demand superior accommodation for its school, and a new brick school house was built. The heterogeneous collection of youthful representatives of different nations and ideas was, however, a hard school to govern, and the school committee, it is said, on one occasion sent expressly to Sterling for a schoolmaster with a will and a hand strong enough to keep the boys from cutting and marring the woodwork of the school house.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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