Dressed all in leather with a leather pack and tin pail, the peripatetic Leather Man wandered in a regular path between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers making the trip once every 34 or 35 days.
He first came to the notice of the local press in 1869 and by the time his wanderings became predictably regular in 1883, he had become a local legend whose appearance in town were anticipated, noted, and commented on.
His identity was unknown. Although some reports claimed he was the love lorn Jules Borglay, doing penance for a love affair gone wrong in his home in southern France, he in fact, rarely ever talked and then only in monosyllabic answers to questions, so his identity as Borglay was highly unlikely.
Dan W. Deluca, whose recent book The Old Leather Man , has effectively proved the Leather Man could not have been Borglay and that we really do not know who he was. Even his identity as French was in question.
His wandering stopped in March of 1889 when he was found dead in one of his rock shelter dwellings in Mount Pleasant, NY, just north of Ossining. Throughout the prior year it had been reported he had exhibited signs of lip cancer that had spread to his lower jaw and a coroner’s inquest confirmed this was the cause of his death.
At public expense, he was buried in a simple pine box supplied by the Ossining Funeral home of White Dorsey in the pauper’s section of the Sparta cemetery just off Route 9 in Ossining.
Partially as a result of the mystery surrounding this local legend, there was a recent attempt to locate his grave and disinter his remains by the Historical Society of Ossining.
In addition to learning something about his identity, a more compelling reason was to move his grave site away from the very busy highway where the increasing volume of visitors to his grave were in danger of fast moving local traffic.
The plan, then, was to find his body and rebury it in a central and more prominent location about 150 feet away from his original resting place.
Little did I, or others involved in the process, know what we would find.
Editor's note: Read the rest of Dan Cruson's first-person account at ""