1692-1892; A Memorial Volume of the Bi-Centennial Celebration of
the Town of Windham, Connecticut, containing the historical addresses,
poems, and a description of events connected with the observance
of the two hundreth anniversary of the incorporation of the town,
as held in the year 1892."
Published by the Committee, Hartford, CT, 1893
Windhams Second Century &SHY;
Windham has always taken a good degree
of interest in her schools. Early in her second century she had a
good academy at the Green, and
thirteen populous districts with well kept schools, and later, about
1850, Dr. Jabez Fitch maintained a very creditable academy at South
Windham, known as the Grove Seminary, and the academy building is now
standing on the hill east of the railway station and in the rear of the
Warner House, being sometimes used for public gatherings. Several well-to-do
citizens of the borough sent children to school there. Dr.
Fitch was a very strict disciplinarian and demanded thoroughness of his
pupils. An unfortunate occurrence resulted in the death of a young man
whom he punished brought his labors here to a close. He afterwards went
to South Norwalk and there built up a private school of considerable
reputation, some Willimantic boys being sent there, and he conducted
it until his death.
The first public school house built in the borough was in the Second
District, and stood on the site where now stands the little cottage
nearly opposite Charles B. Jordans house on Pleasant street.
Next was built a larger structure located on the north side of the
midway between the present spool shop and No. 1. Mill. Then a two-story
wooden structure was built a little west of what is now the Linen Co.s
dye house; and in 1831, near this same site, was built the famous old
stone school house which was Willimantics chief educational
influence for nearly a generation, an is treasured in fond memory in
many hearts here to-day assembled, and in many more that are widely scattered.
Here are some of the sterling minds who taught Willimantics young
ideas how to shoot: Roger Southworth, Samuel L. Hill, Dr. Calvin Bromley,
Dr. Eleazer Bentley, Wm. Kingsley, Robert Stewart, Leander Richardson,
Wm. L. Weaver, Fred F. Barrows, Henry W. Avery, Harriet Moulton, Martha
Chipman and Remus Robinson. The advent of the Linen Co. displaced this
historic structure, and in 1865, the Second District took up its quarters
in the Natchaug building as at present.
The first school house in the First District of Willimantic, stood
about where the Windham Co.s east dwelling house is on West Main
street. This was a small building and was later removed to the lot now
occupied by the First District buildings, and enlarged.
In 1847 the central and oldest building of the present three were built,
and this, like the old stone school house in the Second District,
served for many years as the educational center of that part of the town.
In this district taught such sturdy pedagogues as John G. Clark,
Horace Hall, Leonard R. Dunham, Dr. Wm. A. Bennett, Wm. L. Weaver, Saxton
B. Little, E. McCall Cushman, Jabez S. Lathrop, Perry Bennett, John D.
For many years these two districts were rivals, but in 1887 came the
union town High School, then in 1889 the State Normal Training School,
with its model advantages for the First District grades, soon to be enjoyed
also by the Second District grades.
I must not pass over the private High School maintained by David P.
Corbin in Franklin Hall about 1862-5. It was a school of high
character, and attracted a large number of young men and young women
from this and neighboring towns. Mr. Corbin followed Mr. Powell who was
first principal of the new Natchaug school, and was himself succeeded
by Thomas Hart Fuller, John B. Welch, Wm. L. Burdick and George A. Cadwell.
In the First District the principals
since John D. Wheeler have been Wm. A. Holbrook, Chas. F. Merrill,
Chas. F. Webster, Roderick W. Hine, Frank A. Young and F.A. Verplanck.
Frank H. Beebe has been principal of the High School since its inception
The Catholic parochial school was established in 1878, drawing about
200 pupils at that time from the public schools, chiefly in the Second
District, and now numbering nearly 700 pupils, drawn from the families
of Irish and French extraction in all parts of the town.
The reason for the establishment of parochial schools, here as elsewhere,
was the absence of purely religious instruction in the public
schools and the belief of Catholics that it should be given there. The
Protestants were thus made to realize also, that in many
instances too much of a Protestant bias had been given to the public
At the present time there is a tendency toward making the parochial schools
public. It is not generally believed wise to grant public money
to parochial schools while they remain such, not because they are Catholic,
but because it is felt to be unwise to maintain separate
sectarian schools of any sort from the common fund. On the other hand,
the patrons of the parochial schools, many of them tax-payers and all
sharing directly or indirectly the burdens of the town, feel that they
bear a double burden for schools when paying tuition at the parochial
school. The new Faribault plan of Archbishop Ireland, by which parochial
schools are to be committed under Catholic teachers to public charge
but with no religious instruction save by Catholic missionaries at their
own expense after regular school hours, may prove an entering wedge for
an harmonious settlement of the whole matter.