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Introduction
1)
Title
Leather Man ( The Leatherman )
2)
Town, State
Ossining, NY
3)
ID #
1892
4)
Compilation Date (Initial)
March 22, 2011
5)
Compilation Date (Latest)
June 03, 2011
6)
Site Worked Last
June 07, 2011
Description
This memorial, situated in Sparta Cemetery, Ossining, New York, honors a person known only as Leather Man (b. ca. 1839, d. 1889). He was a homeless person, and seemingly he took little interest in speaking, or communicating generally, with others. Yet Leather Man and his legend have attracted a substantial following over the years, his unusual and extended story having begun taking shape in the mid-nineteenth century in eastern New York and western Connecticut. From the historical distance of today, many chapters of the Leather Man story rivet one’s attention. Characterized a recluse, itinerant, vagabond, loner, hermit, all seemed to fit appropriately, interchangeably. Leather Man was also a traveler: for 30 years he managed by walking around. Initially, starting about 1856, he wandered through at least 40 sparsely inhabited communities in Westchester County, New York, and in western Connecticut, between their Hudson and Connecticut Rivers, respectively. Many seemed to know, or know of, him. Then, about 1883, the extensive rambling seems to have intensified (in the words of Peter Applebome in a piece for The New York Times) “into a never-changing 365-mile loop,” each such circuit taking 34 days. Finally, Leather Man (sometimes spelled as one word) made this route dressed from top to bottom in garb constructed of old shoe leather – hence the sobriquet. He was discovered dead, for reasons unknown, on March 20, 1889, in a cave/shelter at the farm of George Dell, in Mount Pleasant, New York, not far from the cemetery site of the current memorial. This two-acre cemetery, established 1764, is owned and maintained by the Ossining Historical Society. • The current remembrance is a brass plaque mounted to a boulder. Looking back in time, it took some 64 years after the death of Leather Man to memorialize him initially. Co-sponsored by the Ossining Historical Society and the Westchester County Historical Society, both organizations, in the company of about 50 persons, were at Sparta Cemetery for the memorial’s May 16, 1953, dedication. The dedicatory plaque (its text is below, under Comments and Notes) was donated by Thomas J. Price, Astoria, Queens, City of New York; Leather Man frequently used a cave near his parents’ home in Yonkers, New York. The arrangements were handled by the Dorsey Funeral Home, of Ossining. The memorial/grave was situated in the pauper’s section, near the cemetery’s southeastern entry point, and close – some say, too close -- to the busy Albany Post Road, also known as US highway 9 and locally as South Highland Avenue. Historically, not only do we not know today Leather Man’s name, but also we don’t know why he apparently followed this on-the-move way of life, and so relentlessly. To try to develop this history, a group of petitioners led by the cemetery owner and others sought to exhume the remains of Leather Man in order to try to answer some of these basic who and why questions. They were awarded a court order (NYS Supreme) to expose and study the remains, applying current genealogical marking and tracing technologies, e.g., DNA, CT scanning, to society’s growing, if limited, body of historical knowledge. With almost three dozen experts involved – pathologist, archeologist, anthropologist, etc. -- the exhumation process began May 22, 2011. There had arisen in response to all of these exhumation initiatives and plans a following opposing same. On a website, at the www address “leavetheleathermanalone.com” could be found information, insight and alternatives as to why petitioner intentions though well-meaning were nonetheless unnecessary and wrongheaded. The outcome of the exhumation was that, basically, no physical remains of Leather Man were found in the ground – coffin nails and some dirt. Leather Man, in the end, was left alone. He was reburied following a graveside religious service on May 25th; these arrangements were, as with the 1953 arrangements, handled by the Dorsey Funeral Home, Ossining. Recall the petitioners also had concerns about visitor safety given the close-by highway. Following the disinterment the Ossining Historical Society, as intended, repositioned the remains, in a pine box coffin, to safer, higher grounds within Sparta Cemetery, a flagstaff nearby.
Content
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1)
Individual|group/family recognition
2)
Common citizen/person
3)
Without Portfolio
5)
Racially silent
6)
Not Applicable
Design
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1.)
Man-made
2.)
Inscription/Text Design
Integrated
3)
Stone/Rock w/wo tablet
4)
Stone/rock and metal
5)
Average (life-size)
7)
Inscribed/lettered on tablet
8)
Text available, all
9)
Yes (see below)
9.1)
Image numbering/location
3100-450.1, 3100-450.2, 3100-450.3, 3100-450.4, 3100-450.5
10)
Design Preservation
Good
11)
Inscript. Separate from M|M
No
12)
Designers
12.1)
Designer 1
Commercially available
13)
Fabricators/Builders
Not Applicable
Setting
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1)
Cemetery/burial ground
2)
Land (elevation/depression) , Open Space
3)
Appearance/Setting
Completed
3.1)
Appeal of the Item
4 Satisfactory
3.2)
Setting appears appropriate
4 Satisfactory
3.3)
Traffic near for access, distanced for appreciation
4 Satisfactory
3.4)
Visualization and panorama
4 Satisfactory
3.5)
Opportunity to view, to enjoy the item
5 Good
3.6)
Overall Averaged Score
4.2 Satisfactory (Given a 1.0 - 7.0 Range)
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4)
Not Entered
5)
May 16, 1953
6)
May 25, 2011
7)
Not Entered
10)
Other Monuments on Site
11)
Satisfactory
12)
Community Group/Not For Profit
Themes
1)
MonumentsandMemorials.com Themes
Roads and their Towns
2)
National Historic Landmark Themes
No Perceived Theme Match
Demography
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1)
File Number
20
2)
Town/City
Ossining
3)
County
Westchester
4)
District
Intentionally Blank
5)
State
NY
6)
Zip
10562
7)
Country
United States
8)
Latitude (GPS)
41.1370400000
9)
Longitude (GPS)
-73.8612530000
10)
Intersecting Street 1
Albany Post Rd
11)
Intersecting Street 2
Marlborough Rd
12)
Additional Identifier 1
Revolutionary Rd
13)
Additional Identifier 2
U.S Route 9
15)
Man-made
16)
Historical Society
17)
17.1)
Washington to Lincoln|1789-1865
17.2)
1866-1913
18)
Compilation Date (Initial)
March 22, 2011
19)
19.1)
Site Survey
19.2)
Correspondence
19.3)
Newspaper
19.4)
Website
20)
Compilation Date (Latest)
June 03, 2011
21)
Compilation Technique (Latest)
21.1)
Site Survey
21.2)
Newspaper
22)
Source Originator
monumentsandmemorials.com
Comments and Notes
SITE DEVELOPMENT: Re-dedication date 1 -- Assumed to be date of reinterment, May 25, 2011.
SETTING: Other monuments on site -- There are two other, nearby memorials; they are not yet included in the database.
LEAD SPONSOR(S) Dedication: Historical Society -- Westchester County Historical Society; Ossining Historical Society
LEAD SPONSOR(S) Re-Dedication 1: Historical Society -- Ossining Historical Society
SOURCES (1): The New York Times: "Wanderer's Grave is Marked at Last," May 17, 1953; Peter Applebome, "Looking for Answers from a Wanderer at Rest," March 3, 2011; Peter Applebome, “Leather Man, Mysterious 19th-Century Wanderer, Will Remain So,” May 25, 2011.
SOURCES (2): Marcela Rojas, The Journal News (Gannett), "19th-Century Mystery Will Surface," January 20, 2011; Marcela Rojas, The Journal News (Gannett), “Leather Man Exhumed But Nothing Remains of Ossining Grave,” May 25, 2011; Sarah Studley and Sean Roach, “Leatherman’s Coffin Nails, Soil Relocated in Cemetery,” Chappaqua-Mount Kisco (NY) Patch, May 25, 2011; Wikipedia.
SOURCES (3): Comment -- A current go-to book on this topic appears to be the work of Dan DeLuca, called "The Old Leather Man: Historical Accounts of a Connecticut and New York Legend," Garnet Books, 2008. In the memorial's dedicatory article, above, The New York Times also mentions the research efforts of Leroy W. Foote and of Allison Albee.
COMMENT: The language of the original dedicatory plaque is as follows: “Final Resting Place of / Jules Bourglay / of Lyons, France / “The Leather Man” / who regularly walked a 365 mile route / through Westchester and Connecticut from / the Connecticut River to the Hudson, / living in caves, in the years / 1858 – 1889” This plaque also served as a grave marker. Notably, Leather Man’s supposed real name is not as engraved on this plaque -- Jules Bourglay. This name was attached to Leather Man in a Connecticut newspaper article in 1884 but retracted five years later, just after his death. Nonetheless, the name seems to have hung on and in death the original newspaper assertion evidently took on a life of its own. A second notable feature of the original memorial was that the plaque/marker, situated in the cemetery’s pauper section, was grafted to the back of a grave stone carved originally for a World War I corporal named George Chalmers, from Connecticut and a member of the quartermaster corps.






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