Return to The Old Leather Man

August, 2012 by Ray Bendici

One of our favorite subjects here is the legend of The Old Leather Man. We've written a bit about him, including the controversy in 2011 when the Ossining Historical Society decided to move his remains to a "safer" place in Sparta Cemetery (away from New York's Route 9—and the old grave was about 5 feet from it, no exaggeration) and wanted to do a DNA analysis on anything they found to help identify him.

Well, as many of you know, Ol' Leathery had the last laugh: After all the controversy, once the grave was exhumed, there were no remains to be found, just a few coffin nails.

Still, the Old Leather Man's grave has been moved, and in July 2012, we paid a visit to Sparta Cemtery to see his new digs for ourselves.

The cemetery is one of the oldest in the area, established in 1764 and home to many of our soldiers killed during the American Revolution. And it certainly looks the part:

All images by Ray Bendici

Old crumbly graves and high grass, with lots of mature trees all around. The entrance is nearly overgrown, and if you're driving the average speed on Route 9, there's a good chance you're going to sail right past it.

We drove up the short drive (past where the old marker used to be) and parked under the lone tree in the middle of the cemetery, and immediately realized that we had absolutely no idea where the Old Leatherman's new grave was. There's no signage in the cemetery, so we started wandering around, and after stumbling past an old wall that had been shattered by a cannon ball from the HMS Vulture (the ship Benedict Arnold escaped on after his West Point plot was exposed), we finally decided to use our brains.

Deciding that Old Leathery was probably the cemetery's most popular attraction, we followed the grass that was tramped the most (and most likely offered the least amount of ticks), and sure enough, it lead us to our target.

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As you can see, it's hard to miss the stone once you find it. To make it easy for the rest of you—it's about 40 yards to the right from the cemetery's entrance via Route 9, about halfway up the hill. Here's another shot from back a little farther:

As you look at the above images, there's a flagpole that's a few feet to the right, which should aid you in finding the grave.

As you may have noticed in the closer shot, there's a bunch of items on top of the stone—

We don't know about the necklaces or dog, but there's a story that children used to leave old pennies on fence posts for the Old Leather Man, and then when they would go back after he passed, they would find the pennies shined. We left a few that were in our pockets—we'll see if they're shiny on our next visit back!

If you go, as with visiting any cemetery, please respect the others who are interred here. And as mentioned, it's a site rife with history, so take extra care when moving about the grounds.

 

Comments

Hey guys - The necklaces appear to be home-made Rosaries. The Leatherman was known to have a rosary, and observe many Christian traditions. It is said that he never ate meat on Fridays, and ate kneeling during lent. A small French prayerbook was among the possesions found in his possession when he passed in 1889.

I've enjoyed reading about the old leatherman on your website. I go hiking in some of the places he traveled through and it's great to have that historic feeling when your in the woods. I'll have to make a stop to visit that grave site.

The necklaces appear to be home-made Rosaries. The Leatherman was known to have a rosary, and observe many Christian traditions. It is said that he never ate meat on Fridays, and ate kneeling during lent.

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