Friday, November 1, 2019

Before the memory fades: The recycling of a Windham one-room schoolhouse

By Walter Lunt

It’s not a rare occurrence for the Windham Historical Society (WHS) to receive donations of antiques. The society accepts and preserves scores of historic items from Windham’s rich and storied past – everything from old-time tools to Victorian-era furniture.

The old schoolhouse 
What is rare is when a donation comes in at the exact time it’s needed – for example, to complete a museum display.

The Millett family of Windham recently offered a school desk from the early one-room Bodge schoolhouse. Lineous Millett, brothers Tom and Everett and sister Nancy Fish said the two-student desk, well used but in good condition, has been stored in the family barn for 85 years.

It happens that, within the past year, WHS has reconstructed and opened a typical one-room schoolhouse on the grounds of its Village Green at Windham Center. Preferring to furnish the 19th century themed schoolhouse only with desks, benches and materials original to Windham, the donation was a welcome and needed addition.

The ancient stand-alone desk has the appearance one would expect from decades of use and turn-of-the century construction – a wooden writing surface supported by an ornate cast-iron stanchion and adorned with the usual name engravings and graffiti.

The Plummer home with recycled building materials from t
he schoolhouse
What do we know about the Bodge School? Very little, it turns out. But one thing we do know, said Windham resident Gary Plummer, is that when the town closed down and sold Bodge School in 1934, his father bought it for the sum of $100,  disassembled the structure  and utilized the materials to build a house the Plummer family lived in for the next 80+ years.

Becky (Plummer) Delaware said the rebuild was done over a period of two years as time and funds permitted. “The floor downstairs was a beautiful fiddlehead maple from the schoolhouse.”
Gary’s father, Bill Plummer, had help with the tear-down from near-by resident Lineous Millett (grandfather of the aforementioned Milletts).

When Bill Plummer decided he didn’t want the contents of the school, Millett put the desk and some books in his barn where they remained until their use would come full circle and be returned to the WHS one-room schoolhouse this year.

L to R: Becky (Plummer) Delaware, Gary Plummer, Nancy Fish, School Marm Paula Sparks, Thomas Millett, Everett Millett, Lineous Millett, front Junior Historian Delia Tomkus with the Bodge School desk donated to the Windham Historical Society’s Village School

The schoolbooks, which were also donated to WHS, include an 1848 copy of “Weld’s English Grammar”, which points out in the preface “…prepared with special reference to the wants of the younger classes…” 

Page one explains how the teacher should direct the scholars to verbally sound consonant letters while writing them on slates. Another text, “The Beginner’s American History” – copyright 1902, opens with a chapter on Christopher Columbus and concludes with the assassination of President William McKinley.

The move renewed Gary Plummer’s interest in the history of the old Bodge school building. He has since been a frequent patron of the Windham Historical Society’s research library.

How did the school take its name? Where was it located? How many years was it in operation? And what do we know about its teachers and scholars? Details on Plummer’s research next time, before the memory fades.  

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