History of Stratham Schools

When members of this small seacoast community first petitioned for a town charter, one of their key desires was for a school. Education in the town started even before a school was built, when a teacher was hired to teach at private homes. Seventeen years after the town acquired a charter, two school houses were erected. The new schoolhouses were built with minimal luxuries and amenities for 20 pounds each or the equivalent of $100. Seating within the school was comprised of benches without backs or writing tables. There was not even a record of a chalk board in the building. They did have one writing table where students learned to write with a goose quill pen. All of the supplies and furnishings totaled 1.1 pounds or about $10. Twenty-eight years later two more schools were built dividing the town into four districts each within walking distance for every Stratham resident.

The Ridge School, Division 1, c.1910-20
78 Portsmouth Ave.

Stratham Hill School, Division 2, 1940
240 Portsmouth Ave.

Winnicutt or Winniconic School, Division 3
Built 1835, 6 Barker Rd.

The first teacher ever mentioned in town records was Samuel Goodhue. He taught different parts of the year in the four different schools in Stratham. Probably the most memorable teacher was Lawrence Dowling, teaching from 1756 to 1785. He was highly regarded according to early town records. It is an interesting fact that he was allowed to teach as he was a Catholic and Catholics could not vote until the late 1800s. Other notable teachers are Phineas Merrill who was an author, John Scamman who was a Judge in the Court of Commons, and Daniel Clark who became a U. S. Senator. Not until 1773 were funds voted in to pay for more than one teacher within the town.

[Stratham School Rules April 7, 1806]

The first Stratham Memorial School was attended by all the elementary level students starting with its dedication on October 25, 1951 until 1990 when a new building was built. The original Stratham Memorial School now houses most of the town offices and the library. It is known as the Municipal Center. In present day the Stratham Memorial School educates grades Preschool through 5th Grade, while the Cooperative Middle School (a regional school) located in Stratham contains grades 6-8. Stratham students attend Exeter High School (a regional school) for grades 9-12.

Stratham School Rules 1813

(From History of Stratham, by Charles M. Nelson)

1st. Every scholar must attend at school hour with clean face & hands, the hair combed & in proper order, nails suitably cut and clean, and if with bare feet those as clean as circumstances will admit.

2nd. On entering the school each one is to make obeisance by bow or courtesy to the teacher, then deposit the hat bonnet & loose clothes in the proper place & take the appropriate seat.

3rd. No whispering is to be used on any pretence.

4th. No one can change the seat but by the direction of the Teacher.

5th. No one is allowed to meddle with the property of another in any instance.

6th. On entering or leaving the school a slow orderly walk is to be observed and obeisance to the teacher while at the door.

7th. All quarrelling & profane or indecent language or conduct will be punished.

8th. In the intermissions of the school no diversions or conduct that will soil or injure the bodies or clothes of the scholars are allowed but innocent, clean diversions will be permitted.

9th. Honorable mention will be made of those who conduct with propriety their names are to be entered in the Book of commendation as a memorial of esteem.

10th. The names of those who shall for three times be guilty of breaking any of the foregoing rules will be entered in the Black List or Book of disgrace & if they persist in disobedience they shall be reported to their Parents, Guardians, school committee, and Selectmen to denote Shame and disgrace.