In 1840, Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo were bestselling authors. Antarctica was discovered that year and most new babies were named Mary or John. The governor of Maine was John Fairfield. People were for the most part still cooking on hearths and fireplaces.

The year before, Windham celebrated its 100th birthday when almost 2,300 people lived in town.

In 1839, these citizens lived in 361 houses and most of them were farmers. Those who didn’t farm (and some who did) worked at one of the several mills or other businesses. These included five sawmills, a chair manufacturer, a woolen mill, a mill that made wooden kegs, three grist (grain) mills, seven grocery stores and two tanneries where leather was produced. In those days, when travel was made possible by horses, Windham had 10 blacksmith shops that made horseshoes among many most essential tools.

The town owned two properties: the town house (or town hall), which cost $750 to build, and a poor house (farm and buildings) that cost $2,500.

The 884 residents aged 5-18 were educated in one of 18 schools. The 18 districts were named Anderson, Little Falls, Gambo, Pleasant River, Windham Corner (today’s Windham Hill), Amos Hawkes, Kennard’s, Bakers Corner, Dole’s, Ireland, Scotland, Canada Hill, Plains, Windham Upper Corner (North Windham), Hodsdon’s (Windham Center), Friends, Great Falls and Outlet.

Among these school districts Ireland (East Windham) had the largest population, with 78 children in the school on Nash Road near Falmouth Road. The Outlet school near the Raymond line had the fewest pupils, seven. Each of the 18 districts was administered by citizens in the district, who first of all petitioned the town to get permission to build a school or start a school. The citizens set the tuition, hired the teacher(s) and furnished the school, including the books, slates and supplies.

Schoolhouses were generally one-room and within walking distance of all in the district.

In 1840, Windham had a post office in South Windham, North Windham and at Windham Hill. There were two doctors in town, the Parsons brothers, at Windham Hill.

Abraham Anderson was the oldest person in town at 82; he had been born in the Province fort. The oldest building was the home of Reuben Elder on River Road, which had been built by a Mayberry.

Statistics for 1900, just 60 years hence, show how the town had changed, due partly to the Civil War and other elements causing people to leave. In 1900, the census shows a total population of just above 1,900 – total population was down by around 400 from the 1840 census. School population was half of the 1840 number. Many of Windham’s “district” schools had already begun consolidating.


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