Townspeople here knew Henry H. Tiffany as a successful lawyer and land developer, a flamboyant figure who favored white suits and a Jaguar sportscar, a 43-year-old father of three who lived on a private estate tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

They also knew Tiffany, who once described himself to the local newspaper as a relative of the New York jewelry Tiffanys, as the owner of a private airplane who maintained a private airstrip on his closely-guarded farm.

But since the events of Oct. 23, some of the locals are wondering how much they knew about Tiffany after all.

That day, two weeks ago yesterday, Tiffany and a passenger, identified as Jack Melcher, also of Waynesboro, were forced down by engine trouble in their small twin-engine Beechcraft Queen Air over Haiti. Haitian police, investigating the plane, said they found close to a ton of marijuana in neat bundles, some of it aboard the aircraft and much of it lying in the field where they had landed.

Since then, both men have been imprisoned in Haiti's national penitentiary in Port-au-Prince. An official of the American consulate, who visited Tiffany last Friday, said yesterday he found him in good health, confined to a "suite" of cells with primitive lavatory facilities.

Tiffany and Melcher both are charged with smuggling the contraband into Haiti. If convicted, they face 10-year prison sentences and $20,000 fines. Tiffany reportedly has expressed a desire to represent himself in the case, but U.S. officials said they are trying to discourage him.

Meanwhile, American officials and Tiffany's family and his friends are trying to unravel the mystery of what Tiffany and Melcher were doing during their flight, where they were bound and what business they were on.

No one contacted by a reporter either knew or was willing to say precisely or what route the two had been flying or what their destination was. Tiffany went to the Caribbean periodically to get away from the pressures of business, according to some acquaintances.

"I never met him, but he used to buzz the houses with his plane. He would fly over the tops of the trees and buzz the houses just for fun, I guess," said Diane Glime, 29, who lives near an entrance to the Tiffany farm.

The property, called Corville Farms, is a large estate of rolling acres in rural Augusta County. Although Tiffany said in recent years that he raised Angus cattle and thoroughbred horses, few people in the vicinity have had access to the operation.

Girdled by fences, the acreage features several large signs warning off would-be visitors. At one of the farm's two entrances, a wooden sign three feet by four feet proclaims: "STOP, you are entering Corville Farms. Park to left. Use phone and state your business. Proceed then on foot to place directed."

But there is no phone in the vicinity with which to call the main house, a spacious white structure on a hill with a view of the valley below.

"He doesn't hang around with anyone over here. I don't know who his associates are," said "Rocky" Jones, 24, a former employe of Tiffany's. Jones said Tiffany frequently posts a sign-up list in the local post office, asking residents to enlist in various business undertakings.

Tiffany is both lawyer and entrepreneur, with law offices in Waynesboro and Charlottesville, a 50-unit rental property near Waynesboro and Charlottesville, a 50-unit rental property near Waynesboro and small houses on his farm which he rents out. Water is supplied to a subdivision near Corville Farms from a well on Tiffany's property. According to neighbors, Tiffany recently informed the homeowners he would be raising their bills from $7.75 to $25 a month.

"He's impatient. He wants things done his way and he doesn't like to wait on anything," said Jones.

Those who identified themseleves as Tiffany's friends said they had been asked not to comment on the case and not to talk to reporters about Tiffany. "We're trying to protect our friend," said a clerk at Patricia Anne's Country Store, an Albemarle County shop specializing in European furniture and novelty gifts and owned by Tiffany's wife.

A former Tiffany business partner, Max Quillen, described him as "a self-made man. Everything he ever made in his life he made on his own. Nobody ever gave him a damn thing."

Tiffany attended Staunton Military Academy, earned a degree in electrical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology and in 1961 graduated from the University of Virginia.

He worked his way through law school at Virginia, driving a Pepsi truck and teaching a math review course during which he filled a 100-seat classroom at $5 a seat, according to Quillen, who portrayed Tiffany as tireless and brilliant. "He's a sharp lawyer, the sharpest of the bunch," Quillen said.

In 1975, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Albemarle County board of supervisors. In a biography furnished to the Waynesboro News-Virginian, he described himself as a descendant of the family that founded Tiffany's, the posh New York jewelry and china store.

But a spokesman for Walter Hoving chairman of the board of Tiffany and Co., said last week, "We know of no H.H. Tiffany."

Although Tiffany and Melcher have not yet been charged by a Haitian grand jury - the next step after police charges are lodged - U.S. officials were not optimistic about the men's chances of getting off without a trial.

Haiti has recently expressed an interest in tightening up on drug trafficking, an American official said.