This article was written by Patricia Wiley and Shirley Twitchell for the Londonderry Bicentennial Celebration in 1991.
The Town of Londonderry is situated in the northwest corner of Windham County, bounded on the north by Landgrove and Weston, east by Windham; south by Jamaica, and west by Winhall and Landgrove.
Londonderry was first chartered in 1770 by New York to one Col. James Rogers and was known as Kent which then included what is now Windham. The town was again chartered by act of the new Vermont Legislature on April 20, 1780. In this charter the township was named Londonderry after Londonderry, N.H.
The population in 1770 was 28 people and by 1790 the population increased to 362 inhabitants. In 1860, the high population of the town reached 1,367 due to increased interest in manufacturing and greater job diversity. The population gradually decreased to 898 in 1960. At this time the vacation/ski industry began to flourish and the census hit a new peak in 1980 of 1510. The population in 2000 was around 1709.
For many years, the matter of building up the West River was discussed by all the towns up the valley, in 1867, a charter was granted to “the West River Railroad Company” to build a railroad from Brattleboro to Jamaica.
Amendments and additions to the original act extended the line to go through Londonderry. After railroad meetings in all the towns along the proposed route, aid was given and many private subscriptions of stock were made. Londonderry bought 232 shares of capitol stock for the sum of $24,000.
The last rail of the West River Railroad was laid in South Londonderry, its northern terminus, in 1880. It was run by the Central Vermont Railway Co. until the flood of 1927. It was known by everyone as: 36 miles of trouble.”
George T. Shanks better known as “Sifter John,” established the weekly newspaper, The Londonderry Sifter, in 1883. He was the owner and editor until 1903, although the paper was still published until the middle 1920’s. During his ownership of the Sifter he was not afraid to take on politicians or the railroad which, he thought, ruled the state of Vermont. Being an inexperienced editor at the time he was jailed for his explosive efforts and nearly ruined financially. But he was never silenced nor was his paper suppressed.
Through the early years of the town our industries were: saw mills, grist mills, machine shops, carriage shops, a tannery, chair stock and marble works. Today we basically have a tourist-oriented economy.
The biggest things that have happened in the town would probably be the 1927, 1938 and the 1973 floods; they would be high on the list along with the crash of two FB-111’s on a training mission over the village of South Londonderry in February 1975.