The so called “Leather Man” was a vagrant who wandered in a 365-mile circle between the Connecticut and Hudson River from about 1856 till 1889. He was fluent in French and English but was said to communicate mostly with grunts and gestures. He also dresedd stitched leather from his hat to his shoes. He was thought to be French-Canadian, or simply French, because of his fluency in the French language, his "broken English", and the French-language prayer book found on his person after his death.
When asked of his background he would abruptly end the conversation.
The Leatherman was popular in Connecticut and ten towns along the Leatherman's route passed ordinances exempting him from the state "tramp law" passed in 1879. The towns he visited regularly in Connecticut were New Haven, New Haven, Stratford, Bridgeport, Trumbull, Norwalk, New Canaan, Stamford, Greenwich, Somers, Derby, Woodbridge, Naugatuck, Hamden, Southington, Burlington, Middletown, Meriden, Portland, Wilton, Redding, Danbury, Woodbury, Watertown, Thomaston, Terryville, Bridgewater, Waterbury, Forestville, New Britain, Berlin, Old Saybrook, Guilford and Branford.
He was said to be so reliable in his rounds that people would have extra food ready for him at a certain time every 34 days. No one was able to figure out how he earned money, although he seemed to have money and kept accounts at a number of food stores.
The Leatherman survived blizzards and other foul weather by heating his rock shelters with fire. The Connecticut Humane Society had him arrested and hospitalized after finding a spot on his lip, which was thought to be a result of the Blizzard of 1888. He escaped the facility, not waiting to be treated. His body was found on March 24, 1889 in his Saw Mill Woods cave near Ossining, New York.
His tombstone in the Sparta Cemetery, Route 9, in Scarborough, New York carries the following inscription
FINAL RESTING PLACE OF
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
When the first grave was dug up, no traces were found of the Leatherman's remains, only some nails, which were reburied in a new pine box, along with dirt from the old grave site.
The body could not be found because 30 years after he was buried, the daughter of the woman who found the Leatherman's body decided to bring some friends to the grave site, she pointed to a place and said he was buried there and hammered a metal pipe into the ground, she could have simply pointed to the wrong place. The new tombstone, installed May 25, 2011, simply reads, "The Leatherman."