“People Don’t Do As They Use To Did Then”
A Brief History of Landaff
Landaff was first chartered by the King of England in 1764 after the French and Indian War. It was unsettled wilderness at the time. The original charter was to a group of speculators who had influence with NH Colonial Governor Benjamin Wentworth. However, over the next few years the group failed to meet the conditions of the charter, which included settlement and active farming, so the charter was revoked.
A new charter was granted to Dartmouth College in 1770 with the goal of creating a settlement and the promotion of “learning and religion”. By 1774, several families had settled in Landaff and Dartmouth had built a school, roads, saw mill, and grist mill. However, the original 1764 grantees were not content and wanted Landaff back, aware of rising property values in the area. In 1773, they petitioned the Governor to revoke the Dartmouth grant. For the next tumultuous 17 years the issue remained in the courts and unresolved with “riotous mobs, gun play, insults and abuses” at town meetings. During this period, the American Revolution was fought and courts and politics changed dramatically. Finally in 1791, Dartmouth College begrudgingly relinquished all claims to Landaff and focused on constructing a college further south along the Connecticut River at Hanover.
Landaff was originally 40,960 acres, a large town. However, over the years the boundaries have changed. In 1845, a portion of Lincoln known as “Gore” became part of Landaff. In 1859, land on the northwest side of the Ammonoosuc River was annexed to Lisbon. The big change came in 1876 when all the land in East Landaff was formed into a new township, the town of Easton. The separation was contentious and guns were drawn at the town meeting. In 1918, by an act of Congress, the southern portion of Landaff was included in the White Mountain National Forest and roads connecting north and south Landaff were abandoned.
Landaff was part of Vermont – twice! In 1778, Landaff was one of 16 towns on the east side of the Connecticut River to vote to join Vermont due to a lack of representation in the NH legislature. However, they could not get along with the Vermonters either and voted the next day to withdraw from the Vermont Legislature. Three years later in 1781, 34 NH towns along the Connecticut River again voted to join Vermont and take seats in its legislature. However, Vermont was attempting to become a state during this period and the Continental Congress told them they had to relinquish all towns east of the Connecticut River if they wanted to become the 14th State, which they did. Landaff has been part of NH ever since.
Despite the early presence of the Dartmouth group and the construction of a school, Landaff voters in 1784 refused to spend any money on education and continued that thinking for several years. By 1798, however, the town voted to set up school districts and voted $150.00 for school use. By 1840, Landaff had 440 school children in 9 schools. After the split with Easton, the town had 7 school districts: 1-Scotland; 2-Ireland; 3-Blue School; 4-South Landaff; 5-Foster Hill; 6-Center; and 9-Whitcherville. In the early part of 20th Century school districts began to consolidate as student numbers decreased and transportation improved. By 1942, there were only 3 schools and now only one – the Blue School.
Landaff was a boom town from the 1820s to the Civil War with the population growing to over 1,000 in 1860 (In 1880 after the loss of Easton, Landaff’s population was 506). Farming peaked with 5,348 sheep and 1,016 cattle. Important crops were wheat and potatoes. Small industry flourished with 6 bobbin mills along Mill Brook, starch mills, sawmills and at one time 4 post offices. Town services expanded with the construction of roads and schools. However, Landaff residents started moving west in the 1840s as reports of rich, productive, stone-free soil began to circulate. In 1849, one Landaff resident, Susan Clark, began receiving letters from her cousin and former Landaff resident, Emily Eastman, who had recently moved to Spring Prairie, Wisconsin. In the letters Emily explains, “I think I should be quite unwilling to leave our beautiful and verdant prairies for the rocky hills and dense forest of the “Old Granite State” … you would find plenty of employment out here. Hadn’t you better come? How I wish you would all come!” Over the next hundred years many did move west or to more urban areas and by 1980 Landaff’s population had reached its lowest point with only 280 residents. But it has increased since then to about 368 today. [415 in 2010 census]
The town was named after the Bishop of Llandaff, chaplain to King George III who resided in the small village of Llandaff, Wales, now part of the City of Cardiff. There is still a Bishop of Llandaff today.
In 1783, the selectmen gave permission to Linus Moss to sell spirituous liquors and several taverns followed. Town meetings were often adjourned to Nathanial Rix’s tavern to finish town business “in a less formal atmosphere”. An 1848 town meeting article asked: “Is it expedient that a law be enacted to prohibit the sale of ardent spirits or wines (in Landaff) except for mechanical, medicinal or chemical purposes?” The vote failed 8 to 84.
One famous Landaff resident was Harry Chandler who was born in Landaff in 1864, moved to Los Angles, California “tired, dirty, and near penniless”, and rose to become the publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Chandler gave a job at the paper to anyone from Landaff who showed up at his door. He died in 1944.
In 1905, the first telephone line was strung from Lisbon all the way to Center District. Electricity came to parts of Landaff in 1926.
In 1876, Landaff resident Oscar Merrill grew a cucumber that measured 58 inches.
In 1976, Landaff celebrated the country’s Bicentennial and nearly 3,000 people came to Landaff for the parade, pageant, dinner, and exhibits. A beard-growing contest was held and the following prizes awarded: Best Goatee-Harry Titus; Best Full Beard-Richard Richards; Best Sideburns-Herman Titus (David Clement was a close second).
Years ago an old Landaff sage, Moor Noyes, summarized the history of Landaff as follows: “Things ain’t now as they use to was been and people don’t do as they use to did then”. To date, no one has said it better.
prepared by Ray Lobdell
Child, H. Gazetteer of Grafton County, N.H. 1886.
Eastman, Emily. Personal communication to Susan Clark. 1849-1852. Unpublished letters.
Currier, Stanley, and Edgar Clement. 1966. History of Landaff, New Hampshire. Littleton, NH: Currier Printing Co.
Plough, Louis A. 1989. Landaff-Then and Now. Maine Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 828. Orono, Maine.