Today, the local CBS affiliate ran a story about a local controversy, the proposed exhumation of local legend, the Leatherman- no, not the one you were thinking of!
The Leatherman was a traveling man who wandered a 365 mile circuit (bounded on the west by the Hudson river, on the east by the Connecticut River) which he typically completed every 34 days. While he was a taciturn, solitary man, he accepted handouts of food and tobacco from individuals along his route. He typically took shelter in caves (I've been in the one at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, and I always get goosebumps contemplating the smoke-darkened rock walls, and thinking "Somebody lived here).
The Leatherman wore an eccentric wardrobe pieced together from scraps of leather, the ensemble weighing approximately sixty pounds. The identity of the Leatherman was never known, but he was thought to be French, having a French prayer book in his possession at the time of his death. The most popular legend, purely based on speculation, was that he was Jules Bourglay of Lyons, a man who had married a girl above his class, the daughter of a prosperous leather merchant. This legend avers that he bought a stock of leather on speculation right before the price plummeted due to a new manufacturing process, and ruined his father-in-law's business. Disowned by his in-laws, Bourglay was supposed to have sailed to America, and began his solitary, penitent itinerary.
While a spectacular story of financial ruination, lost love, and remorseful rambling makes for a great legend, the truth behind the Leatherman's identity is not known, even though the plaque on his grave in Ossining's Sparta Cemetery bears the name Jules Bourglay.
The plans to exhume his body from the pauper's grave and run some forensic tests on his remains before reburying him in a more suitable spot have, understandably, met with opposition. I am of the opinion that any attempt to increase our knowledge about this fascinating local legend is worthwhile, and trust that the archaeologists who will handle the exhumation will handle the mortal remains in as dignified a matter as possible. I understand the romantic impulse which inspires those who wish to have the Leatherman left alone, but I confess to being a hardnose about these issues.
The most famous picture of the Leatherman gives a nice, detailed view of his eccentric raiment: