From the pages of the Newtown Register in 1886 comes a small gossip blurb about the largest man in Queens, New York. Not large, like Jabba the Hutt large. Not husky large either. We are talking NFL quarterback large and athletic like one as well.
Oliver Langdon Jr., born at Valley Stream in 1852 to Oliver Langdon Sr. and Phebe Golder, was a legendary giant in my family. My grandmother once told me that he (her grandfather) was an enormous man. Oliver Jr’s son, my great-grandfather “El” Langdon, was well over six feet tall.
Some time ago, I came across this gossip column from the Newtown Register on 4 November 1886. At first glimpse, I wasn’t absolutely sure this was in fact my great-great grandpa. There were two Oliver Langdons of similar age living in the Town of Hempstead. Fortunately, my family’s Oliver was born and raised in Valley Stream, living there virtually his whole life. The column is pictured above and copied here:
VILLAGE NOTES AND GOSSIP, CURIOUS AND COMIC.
From Valley Stream: — Oliver Langdon, Jr., of this place, is thought to be the largest man in Queens County. He stands 6 feet 6½ inches high, weighs 245 pounds, and is good natured, active, strong. His friends say he can outjump or outrun any man of his size on Long Island.
For some perspective on his physical dimensions, LeBron James is 6′ 8″ and weighs 250. Using an NFL metric, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is 6′ 5″ and weighs 240. Oliver’s build is the exact average of these two enormous athletes. Also remember that the unofficial title of the “largest man in Queens” would encompass an area much larger than today’s borough. Queens County, prior to 1899, was comprised of the present county and neighboring Nassau County, where Valley Stream is located.
Ironically, Oliver was in his mid thirties when this “curious, comic” note was placed in the paper. I am about a year younger today than he was in 1886. Whatever tall genes he had have waned slightly through the generations. I fell one inch short of six feet; my brother, one inch over (Grrr). A good deal shorter and about 80 pounds slimmer than great-great grandpa Oliver, I’m unlikely to outjump or outrun anyone of my size. Nevertheless, I believe the Newtown Register had it right about Oliver 127 years ago: Good Natured. Active. Strong.
The 1860 US Census shows Oliver Langdon living with Phebe Golden, Susan Ann Golden, Oliver Golden, and William Golden. The 1870 US Census shows Oliver Langdon living with Phebe Langdon, Oliver Langdon, William Langdon, Jane Langdon, Abram Langdon, Emma Langdon, Skidmon Langdon.
So, it seems that Oliver Langdon Jr. was not the biological son of Oliver Langdon. It doesn’t change the story, just the part about him being born to Oliver Langdon Sr. and Phebe Golder [sic].
The 1860 Census may be an anomaly that continually baffles me. I have no idea why Golder was included for this particular record but I have numerous family sources, including from my grandmother, Louise Langdon, that Oliver and Phebe were married prior to Oliver Jr.’s birth (no definitive proof however). Additionally, Oliver Jr.’s younger brother, William H. Langdon, married for a third time in 1908. The marriage certificate states the parents as Oliver Langdon and Phebe Golder.
If you have information to the contrary or anything on the family, then please send it to me ASAP!
Thanks for reading!