This sign on the green in Landaff Center says it all: the town is celebrating its 250th anniversary beginning with a ham dinner on Saturday presented by the Lisbon Area Stump Jumpers snowmobile club. (John Koziol Photo)
LANDAFF — Commencing with a fundraising dinner on Saturday, this small community in the hills east of the Connecticut River will begin to celebrate a major event — the 250th anniversary of its founding — with activities that also include a Miss Landaff competition.
The Lisbon Area Stump Jumpers snowmobile club will hold a baked-ham dinner at 5 p.m. on May 10 with proceeds going to benefit the Landaff 250th Celebration.
Named after the Bishop of Llandaff, chaplain to King George III of England, the town was chartered in 1764, but according to Ray Lobdell’s history on the municipal homepage, the charter was revoked for nonperformance of its requirements and re-granted to Dartmouth College in 1770 with the goal of creating a settlement and the promotion of “learning and religion.”
The original grantees subsequently attempted to reacquire the grant in 1773, beginning what the town history called 17 “tumultuous” years of legal challenges that featured “riotous mobs, gun play, insults and abuses” at town meetings.
During the challenge, the town went from being under the jurisdiction of the King of England to being one in the newly-formed state of New Hampshire within the now independent United States of America. Dartmouth College relinquished all claims to Landaff in 1791. The town’s borders changed several times since then, most notably in 1876 when East Landaff was broken off and made into the town of Easton.
The separation, the town history says, “was contentious and guns were drawn at the town meeting.”Landaff has had a colorful history and some colorful characters living in it. Twice it was part of Vermont, in 1778 and again in 1781, when it and other towns east of the Connecticut looked west for the legislative representation they believed they weren’t getting in Concord.A “boom town from the 1820s to the Civil War with the population growing to over 1,000 in 1860,” the community began contracting shortly thereafter as residents went west looking for better agricultural opportunities.
Among its famous sons and daughters, Landaff claims Harry Chandler who was born there in 1864, moved to Los Angeles, “tired, dirty, and near penniless,” and rose to become the publisher of the Los Angeles Times.
According to Wikipedia, Chandler went to Los Angeles for his health, noting that while attending Dartmouth College, he jumped on a dare into “a vat of starch that had frozen over during winter, which led to severe pneumonia.”
Twelve years after Chandler was born, Oscar Merrill grew a cucumber that measured 58 inches, the history said, and as for things coming into Landaff, “the first telephone line was strung from Lisbon all the way to Center District” in 1905 while electricity “came to parts of Landaff in 1926.”
Landaff celebrated America’s Bicentennial in 1776 with a bash that drew 3,000 people and which featured a parade, pageant, dinner, and exhibits as well as a beard-growing contest wherein Harry Titus won Best Goatee; Richard Richards, Best Full Beard; and Herman Titus, Best Sideburns.
Landaff will make new history on May 31 when it crowns the winner of the Miss Landaff 250th contest.
The contest is open to any young woman who attends Lisbon Regional High School, Woodsville High School, Profile High School, and Littleton High School or is a Landaff resident in grades 9-12. Contestants must be single and never married and will be judged on a speech and talent.
The winner will receive a sash, flowers, tiara and a $300 prize, with first and second runner-ups receiving $200 and $100, respectively. The winner will be obliged to participate in the Woodsville Independence Day Parade, the Franconia Old Home Day Parade and to be available each day — Aug. 15-17 — of the Landaff 250th Celebration, which is still a work in progress.