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No Remains In Leatherman's Old Ossining Grave

The Leatherman, an historical character who walked a route between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers in the 1800s wearing a leather suit, was symbolically reburied today in Ossining's Sparta cemetery.

No remains were found of the mysterious man who hardly spoke with people in life, according to Nicholas Bellantoni, a forensic and archeology expert from the University of Connecticut who spearheaded the dig of the old Leatherman burial site over the past few days.

"I'm a little bit disappointed. I was looking forward to meeting (the Leatherman) and finding some physical remains to help with (historical) research," Bellantoni said.

Norman MacDonald, the president of the Ossining Historical Society shared Bellantoni's disappointment.

"We were hoping that the professional team would be able to recover enough remains for forensic testing, but that's not going to be possible," he said. "The Leatherman was a mystery in his lifetime and he will be a mystery in his death. That is for sure."

The only evidence found in the Leatherman's old grave were some shallowly-buried horizontal and vertical nails roughly outlining the pattern of a coffin, Bellantoni said. All the wood from the Leatherman's original 1889 coffin had disintegrated through natural breakdown processes in an acidic soil.

A new Leatherman grave site with a casket made from pine now sits in the center of Sparta cemetery near a flag pole. Nails and some soil from the original site were put inside the casket.

The primary reason for moving the Leatherman's grave site was to improve safety for visitors, MacDonald said. The old site was located along a busy section of Route 9 where cars speed past.

Dan DeLuca, a historian who has studied the Leatherman for 22 years, became choked up with tears after a funeral service given by Reverend Timothy Ives, the pastor of the Scarborough Presbyterian Church.

"I feel a part of him, and sad," he said. "After 22 years of research, I do find that there's some closure and I'm pleased that they did this for safety reasons."

DeLuca wrote a book, The Old Leatherman, that was published in 2008. In the book, he debunks a popular account that the Leatherman was a Frenchman named Jules Bourglay who married the daughter of a wealthy leather merchant.

Because of DeLuca's research using microfilms of old newspapers, the Ossining Historical Society removed a headstone with Bourglay's name and replaced it with a new headstone that simply says "The Leatherman".

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