Who was the Leatherman?
Though never a resident, the Leatherman was an important part of the Wilton community from 1860 to 1889, according to historian Bob Russell. Dressed in all leather and toting a leather knapsack, he passed through town about every 34 days on a regular route that covered 360 miles through Connecticut and Westchester County. Reclusive, he lived in caves, such as one in the Huckleberry Hills, which was flooded when the Rock Lake Reservoir was built in 1875, forcing him to move farther upstream.
The Leatherman was particular about his stops, neither speaking nor entering a home. “It was considered an honor to feed the Leatherman as he was very selective about where he ate,” notes Russell. The Comstock house—now the Wilton Congregational Church parsonage—and the Dick Moriarty house in Huckleberry Hills were two favorite stops.
In 1887, a Frenchman named Jules Martin arrived in Bridgeport looking for Jules Bourglay, thought to be the Leatherman. Bourglay had inherited $50,000 from his late father. Bourglay had worked for a mercantile establishment and been engaged to the owner’s daughter when a poor financial decision on his part lead to disastrous results for the company. Bourglay fled, eventually landing in Connecticut. Martins eventually caught up with Bourglay who refused his inheritance.
Suffering from dementia and illness, the Leatherman passed through Wilton one last time before being found dead three weeks later on March 24, 1889