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The Leather Man


The Leather Man

? – March 24, 1889

The Leather Man was a mysterious figure who roamed the Connecticut and New York countryside from 1862-1889 on a fixed route that was precisely 34 days long. It is believed his real name was Jules Bourglay and that he may have been from Lyons, France. His story is a mixture of folklore and fact that varies as the interpreter from each town, homestead and cave he visited had his own version to tell. However, within all these tales there appears to be some consistencies.

He followed his route in clockwise direction, never retracing his steps. He traveled 10-12 miles a day using the same caves to sleep in year after year. He was so punctually that people knew exactly what time of day he would arrive. Being a skilled survivalist, he made all of his utensils and only looked to kind friends for food, tobacco and matches. Being able to make himself comfortable through his own ingenuity and handicraft, he never accepted an invitation to sleep indoors. He did not beg or peddle wares and rarely spoke. When he did, his voice was gentle and he spoke in broken English.

Because of this reluctance to speak, the suit of leather he wore earned him his name. Some say he wore it because it was the material that caused his ruination. One story notes that he began his strange behavior after his failure in the leather business of his future father-in-law, who then broke up the romance. Stricken with grief, he left France forever. The truth of this will never be known. What is known is that leather was an excellent choice for his lifestyle. It was in common use and was readily available everywhere along his route. It could shed the rain and keep him dry plus it was very easy to patch.

As time went on his presence became a beloved occurrence. Eventually he became known as the “Old” Leather Man because it seemed he traveled on forever. But the Blizzard of 1888 caused him to fall 4 days behind schedule. After that his travels slowed until he died in March 1889 on the George Dell Farm in Briarcliff, NY. You can visit his grave today at the Sparta Cemetery, in Scarborough, NY.

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