For Gilford Steamer’s June 3, 2004

Gilford Residents Value Schools and Schooling

Each June the Thompson-Ames Historical Society invites Gilford students and teachers to share history projects completed during the school year.

This year’s sharing will take place at 7:00 p.m., Monday, June 7th in the Society’s Meetinghouse, at 24 Belknap Mountain Road, in Gilford Village. Of course, the evening’s program is open free to the public.

Projects to be shared this year will include a range from elementary through high school. Diane Alting’s third—grade class has created an ABCS of Gilford coloring book which the students hope to unveil as part of their sharing. Students in Michael Zulauf’s AP American History class will share their generational survey in respect to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Also to be included that evening will be a report about the wonderful efforts of the 2002-2003 AP American History students whose "Grange hand-dig" a year ago set the stage for the pouring of cement to up-grade the cellar of that 1857 building in time for Gilford’s 2003 Old Home Day.

This annual spotlighting of Gilford students’ history projects began more than twenty years ago when Middle—School teacher Diane Anderson approached T-AHS President Raymond Wixson to request T-AHS’s financial support to enable her students to participate in New Hampshire History Day activities. The support was granted with one request attached, that the students share their History Day projects during T—AHS’s June meeting. Each year since then students’ history projects have been the focus of the June program at Gilford’s Thompson-Ames Historical Society.

As the headline for this "Highlights of History" article indicates "Gilford residents value schools and schooling". This was true even back to the days when Gilford was known as the "Gunstock Parish" portion of Gilmanton.

In Gilford’s 1995 history, Adair Mulligan states, "In 1794 Gilmanton voters agreed that each citizen should pay his proportion in building or repairing the schoolhouse in the district to which he belonged. School inspectors, later called the school committee, were elected for each district and hired the teacher, set its own curriculum, ruled in disputes over discipline, and built and cared for its own schoolhouse, right down to providing wood ready for the stove.

At its first town meeting after its incorporation in 1812, the new town of Gilford voted to raise $492 for the support of its ten district schools. The limitations of transportation forced the town to maintain a large number of tiny schools, one in each neighborhood. "Children walked to school, although those living on the fringes of a school district sometimes boarded with more centrally located families during times of difficult travel. The little district schools functioned as community centers where neighbors gathered for sings or spelling bees and in the colder months, religious meetings," we learn from The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire.

Gilford Academy, a private institution founded in 1820 and rivaling Gilmanton Academy founded in 1794, was highly successful and respected but was lost to Laconia when that town separated itself from Gilford some years later.

The number of one-room schoolhouses in Gilford dwindled over time until by 1938 only the Village, Lily Pond, and Intervale district schools remained in use. That year 79 Gilford students were-educated in Gilford while 32 other elementary students were sent to Laconia along with their fifty big brothers and sisters.

That year Gilford decided to abandon its remaining one-room schoolhouses in favor of a consolidated school which would be built on four acres of Ernest Sawyer’s dairy (formerly Benjamin Rowe’s).

Funded in part by an $18,000 Public Works Administration grant, Gilford’s red brick consolidated school opened a year later with four second-floor classrooms to house grades 1—8, a 225-seating-capacity auditorium for stage productions, meetings and entertainment, and first-floor classrooms for manual training and domestic-science, in compliance with the school reform legislation of 1919.

The "School Days" theme area in Thompson—Ames Historical Society’s Meetinghouse includes three one-room schoolhouse desks and one from the 1939 consolidated school to give visitors a feeling for Gilford schools of by—gone days.