In the central part of the town and about three miles east of Willimantic, lies the peaceful village of Windham, known also as Windham Centre. This village exhibits but little of the activity and business life characteristic of the modern village, but here was once the proudest center of business and social and political influence in Windham county. Here passed scenes of political and patriotic prowess, and events of widespread fame which have become famous in the annals of the state, and made the name of Windham immortal. This was in early days the principal settlement of the town, and it continued to hold its prominence until the new center of Willimantic came into prominence, when it was compelled to yield the balance of power. As Willimantic increased in size and prosperity this once prominent and influential village correspondingly receded. She yielded slowly to the demands of her aspiring off-shoot, but was forced to submit to the will of the stronger. Windham is a quiet, luxuriant, well-preserved and attractive village, and a favorite summer resort.
The old cemetery of the town of Windham lies on the west side of the road toward South Windham, about a half mile from the center of the village. It contains two acres or more, well filled with graves. The grounds are plainly but neatly kept. Some hemlock, pine and fir trees are scattered about in it. The old part of the ground has numerous old gray stones whose inscriptions antedate the present century. The western part of the ground is more modern and contains several vaults and some granite monuments. A neat hearse house stands by the roadside. Among the family names conspicuously represented here, in the old part of the ground, are Allen, Ripley, Marsh, Hebbard, Manning, Webb, Elderkin, Huntington, Welch, Murdock, Fitch, Cary, Dodge, Young. Wales. Abbe, Bingham, Ginnings, Flint, Warner, Badcock, Follet and Tracy. Here we are pointed to the grave of the first settler of Windham, and besides the somewhat lengthy inscription to his virtues, a copy of which may be found in another chapter of this work, the monumental pile which rests over his remains also bears this legend:-
“Mr. John Cates, This Monument is Erected upon ye Towns Cost in 1769.”
One of the most fancifully carved slabs of the olden time contains this inscription:-
“This stone is erected in memory of Mr. James Flint, who died May 23d, A. D. 1788, in ye 66th Year of his Age. For 30 years he was a reputable Merchant in Windham, and always sustained the character of an honest man and a good citizen.”
One of the early ministers of the town church is thus represented on stone:-
“Dedicated To the Memory of ELDER Benjamin Lathrop who after faithfully discharging his duty as a Minister of the Gospel of Christ-worn out with bodily Infirmities calmly resigned his breath on the 16th of July, 1804, in the 79th year of his Age.”
On a heavy old brown stone table we read the epitaph of Colonel Thomas Dyer, who died May 27th, 1766, 72 years of age. His inscription is cut into the slab, but a die sunk into it bears the inscription to his wife as follows:-
“Here lies Interr’d the Remains of Mrs. Lydia Dyar the late Consort of Col’nl THOMAS DYAR of Windham. She was born January the 15th A. D. 1695, and died March the 12th A. D. 1751 In the 57th Year of her Age, And in firm Expectation of Eternal Life Through the Merrits of JESUS CHRIST.”
Besides the Congregational church, which is noticed elsewhere, this village contains a handsome stone structure, known as ‘St. Paul’s Episcopal church. The origin of the Episcopal church in this village dates about the beginning of the present century, though its first movements are enveloped in obscurity. Services were conducted about that time by Reverend John Tyler of Norwich, who visited this station occasionally. Services were held in private houses for a time, but in 1832 a society was formed and in the following year a handsome stone church was erected, which is still standing. The first service was held in it December 25th, 1833. It was formally consecrated by the Right Reverend Thomas Church Brownell, bishop of the diocese of Connecticut, April 11th, 1834. The first rector of this church was L. H. Corson, whose ministry here began December 17th, 1832, and ended in 1836. Since that time successive rectors have been William A. Curtis, 1836-7; Charles J. Todd, ’37-8; john W. Woodward, ‘384; Henry B. Sherman, ’39-43; Giles H. Deshon, ’43-5; Abel Nichols, ’45-6; A. Ogden, ’46-7; Joseph Brewster, ’47-; Henry Edwards, ’50-1; Sanford J. Horton, ‘5161; John H. Anketell, ’62; Alfred, H. Stubbs, ’65; Clayton Eddy, ’66-8; E. Huntington Saunders, ’69; Isaac W. Hallam, ’69-75; Richard K. Ashley, ’76, Richard C. Searing, ’84-6; Henry B. Jefferson, from May 2d, 1886, to the present time. Mr. Jefferson resides in Willimantic and has charge of St. Paul’s church in that village. The church here is in a prosperous condition. During the last three years the interior of the church has been greatly improved by the efforts of the ladies of the parish. The present number of communicants is twenty-three.
A Baptist church once existed in this village for a brief season. It was instituted in 1846. A house of worship was erected, but the society was weak and could give but a feeble support to the preaching of the gospel. After about ten years, services were abandoned, and the house was used for a year or two by an Old School Presbyterian society, which also had a feeble and short existence. The church being abandoned altogether, was taken down and removed to Baltic about twenty years since.
Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889