Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Leather Man

I have a special fondness for stories of hermits and other lonely souls. The Journal News has an interesting piece about The Leather Man—a mysterious fellow clad in leather who walked a regular 365-mile circuit through Connecticut and New York for decades until his death in 1889.

His journey started sometime before the Civil War and his timing rarely varied, allowing locals to set their calendars by his arrival.
Except for some grunts and other unintelligible sounds, according to newspaper accounts, his trekking was done in silence. Legend holds that a Connecticut man once spoke to him in French, which seemed to mark the extent of any conversation.
His headstone reads "Jules Bourglay," but that name came from a 1884 newspaper article later retracted.
"I think he was a troubled man for whatever reason," said Steve Grant, a Hartford Courant reporter who spent a month in 1993 walking the Leather Man's route. "I think that has to be a given."

"But, at the same time, he clearly was a harmless person. People recognized that. When you come right down to it, in the end, we're not sure who he is." [Link]

Miriam Robbins

Here in Spokane, we had our own local character, Willie Willey, who wandered around town in the early part of the 1900s dressed in nothing but a pair of shorts (he added shoes in the winter). He always seemed to have a menagerie of wild and domestic animals with him as well.


It seems that every small and large town had at least one of these characters in its history. Modern psychiatric methods could probably have "cured" most of them.



I don't look at "hermits" as necessarily having a mental illness. I collect photographs and information about New Hampshire and New England hermits, and I had the opportunity to meet one, Perley Sweat in the 1970s.

Great article by the way.



Neither do I (my use of "cured" was intended to convey that). I'm a wannabe hermit myself, and I certainly don't need medical attention.

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