In December 1772, the first schoolhouse in Windham was finished. Located in the middle of the new settlement – at the lower end of River Road – the school was taught by Samuel Webb. There is no fragment of this building left.

In 1778, the town voted to build a second schoolhouse in Gambo – now known as Newhall section – and it was completed before 1780. Other schools would be built on this same site later; today there is an apartment building located there.

Early schools were established as the need arose, so as population grew, so did the “district” schools. By 1789, Windham had six school districts. Schools were not generally built by the town, but often the neighbors in a district would construct a building or hold school in a private home or a building that wasn’t being used.

In April of 1798, at the town meeting, two more districts were added and the town voted to build a schoolhouse in each district; $1,000 was appropriated for this purpose; buildings were to be completed by October of that year.

As the town grew, districts – and schoolhouses – were added:  four in 1808, two in 1814, one in 1818, three in 1840 and finally in 1872 District 19 was added. In Windham then, by 1872, there were 19 one-room and a few two-room schoolhouses.

Citizens in each district selected a School Agent who would oversee the operation of the school in his district. All expenses for each district were borne by the citizens who lived there – books, furniture, repairs, salaries for teachers, furniture – everything.

Eventually, money was raised for schools at the annual town meeting and was divided up among the districts according to number of scholars. Funds received determined how long schools were open. Smaller districts with fewer students might only be open for one term.

School was held in summer, fall and winter. Men taught during the winter because of the bad travelling, shoveling required, etc. In District 4 in 1873, Julia Hawkes had only “five small scholars” in her summer term.

The state abolished the District School System in 1893 – consolidation had begun! A “high” school was to be established in each town. Some of the “common” schools (through grade 8) also held classes for “high” school. In Windham, the primary place for high school was the town house (today’s Historical Society) until a high school was built in 1910. That building is today’s town hall. Many of the early one-  or two-room schools are still being used in 2016, but not as schools.

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