R.I.P “Ol Leathery”

One hundred and twenty-two years ago today, the “Old Leatherman” took his final rest, alone at one of his shelters in Mount Pleasant, New York.

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In The Public’s Best Interest?

One of the main reasons I originally started this site was to find out how the public felt about the idea of exhuming and studying the Old Leatherman’s remains.  After three months, and extensive coverage in the local media in which both sides were able to express their views, it is clear that the informed public has some pretty strong feelings about this project moving forward as planned.  In the three public polls that have been conducted, the totals show that 83% favor “Leaving him alone”  Here are the details:

Dec. 27, 2010 Waterbury Republican-American Poll (Both sides interviewed)                      Total Votes:  252.     Leave him alone: 225 (89%)   Exhume and study: 27 (11%)

Jan 4, 2011 Meriden Record-Journal Poll (Research Team interviewed)                             Total Votes: 162.  Leave him alone: 127 (78%)  Exhume and study:  35 (22%)

December 6, 2010 – February 26, 2011 “Leatherman poll” on this site (public)                 Total Votes 500.  Leave him alone: 404 (81%)  Exhume and study: 96 (19%)

Combined total of the three polls:

Total Votes 914.  Against: 756 (83%)  In favor:  158 (17%)

Granted, polls such as these are non-scientific and their validity can be challenged.  I doubt we are going to get the question on a statewide referendum in CT and NY, but I am comfortable saying at the very least, a trend emerged.  So, I’ve also included links to online articles posted since November 29th 2010, and reading through the public’s comments, the same trend  toward the majority being in  favor of “Leaving him alone” is apparent.

“Public health and safety”, and “…to promote the public interest in historical and geneological matters”, are the basis for which the order for exhumation and testing were granted.  The public’s best interests were used to justify the exhumation, and also forensic testing, yet the public was not part of the discussion before the petition was filed.

So my question is, to what extent is the team now willing to listen to the public, whose interests they are serving, and adapt their plans to take the public’s opinion into consideration?

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Being Part of the Solution

A wise person once told me “Don’t complain about something unless you are willing to be part of the solution”.  The “Old Leatherman” occupies a special place in the cultural fabric of dozens of communities in our region. The exhumation project is premised on serving the public’s best interests, yet, to my knowledge, there was no public discussion about it until after the court order allowing it to happen was signed, sealed, and delivered.  Over a month ago, I reached out to the team, and asked whether any alternative solutions other than the one I was “complaining about” were considered.

The silence has been deafening.

Since I have not yet heard or read that there were any other solutions proposed, I have posted some suggestions based on public feedback.   Each suggestion sticks to the issues, acknowledging first and foremost a concern for public safety.  Additionally, each also takes into account to varying degrees, the undeniably private manner in which  the “Old Leatherman” lived, which was respected by the people of his time. They also acknowledge the modern public’s opinion that he should be afforded that same respect for his privacy in death.

Myself and many others would be more than willing to volunteer our time to help carry out these suggestions.  So yes, although there are complaints about the current plans, I(we) are, in turn, offering to be a part of a revised solution which accomplishes all of the original goals- and takes public safety,  the Old Leatherman’s life, and the public’s opinion, into consideration.

I fully understand that with a court order in hand, in a legal sense, the team has no obligation to acknowledge the public’s opinions or suggestions, and reconsider some of their proposed actions.  However, in the unique case of the “Old Leatherman”, doesn’t common sense indicate that they should?

Here’s my pick for an alternative solution: (See the others here)

Relocate the headstone and replace it with one with accurate information, in a safer area.  The cemetery owners would maintain in perpetuity the actual coordinates of the assumed location of his remains, should “heirs” ever come forward, or the state demand that grave sites must be dug up to widen the road.  This option saves money, keeps his remains undisturbed, keeps the legend and his memory alive, corrects misinformation, takes how he lived his life into full consideration, and acknowledges public opinion. Done on its own, it keeps large groups safe at the site of the new marker. It keeps everyone visiting the Sparta Cemetery safer when done in conjunction with the suggestion to close off, and discontinue any use of,  the current access road (driveway) to the cemetery and build a stone wall in the southeast corner of the cemetery, providing a quiet, secure, corner where the “paupers row” currently exists (This driveway has been deemed unsafe in a sworn affidavit by a traffic consultant in its current condition and location)

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Let’s Map His Footprints, Not His DNA

Recently, an article about exhuming the Leatherman ran on LoHud.com. The interesting thing about this article is that it is from the community where the gravesite is located. The researchers had previously stated that they haven’t heard much local opposition. The comments sure make for some interesting reading. The thing about the Leatherman is that his legend is his identity, as he kept his actual identity to himself for 30 years. And there is still so much to be learned above ground through oral traditions passed down in families as witnessed by comments on the article like these:

“…my grandfather told us…”The Leatherman” patrolled the woods and made sure they were safe and free of vicious animals and people who do other people harm; He said he protected the people of the Hudson Valley and in turn the people protected him.”

“My Grandfather told us that “The Leatherman” was the inspiration for the character “The Tinman” in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, a 1900 book by L. Frank Baum and W.W. Denslow. It makes sense that this is true because Mr. Baum lived in NY and CT during the time of “The Leatherman”.

Over the last 10 years I’ve read everything I could find about him, and had never come across that “Tin Man” story. True or not, once again, from beyond the grave, he has given us a gift that will further the folklore, and keep his legend alive.  Artists such as  Eddie Vedder, Jeanne C. Finley, John Muse, Susan McCaslin, Jonathan Kruk, Catoctin, and maybe even L. Frank Baum have been inspired by him, and in my opinion the world is a better place for it. I believe gifts are always better when they are freely given, so we should not be going in and taking anatomical gifts from him to further our empirical knowledge of this private man. Like his contemporaries, we should respectfully accept what he gave us in life, and map his footprints, not his DNA!

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Interesting talk at Trumbull Historical Society

I went to Dan Deluca’s “Old Leatherman” presentation today where he shared some interesting new information about proof of the Leatherman’s presence, and shelters in Trumbull, CT.

During the question and answer period, Dan was kind enough to recognize me, and even give me the floor to explain the purpose of this site.  I explained to those in attendance that I would never stand in the way of public safety, I’m really just questioning whether moving his grave is the best and only possible solution to accomplish that goal.  I also mentioned that we should consider what our descendants, and the previous residents of the towns he visited would have thought about the taking of anatomical gifts, and forensic study of his remains in the name of “Research”.   Most importantly, as stewards of his legacy, and remains, we should be asking ourselves, “Is the taking of anatomical gifts to learn more about him something that he would’ve consented to, or been comfortable with?”


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Q & A with the Research Team *UPDATE*

I have received detailed responses from Dr. Nick Bellantoni, CT State archaologist,  to many of the questions I sent last Monday, Jan 3.  His responses are thorough, and he is open to further communication.   I shared with him that if I were in favor of their project, I would be glad to know that he was involved.  He clarified #5 for me almost immediately when I responded to him.  I have only had personal contact with one other member of the team mentioned in the court documents (which may not currently be an an accurate list, see #4) She did not know any details, or the Leatherman’s story, and directed me to Dr. Bellantoni.  I believe this is a great start, and am hoping for more responses like these to answer all of the remaining questions. My resolve remains unfettered, and my position unchanged, but please read for yourself, and share your thoughts.

His responses can be found in the  Q & A Tab .

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New Interview Posted

I was able to do a really in-depth interview with the folks over at DamnedCT.com.  Please let me and/or them know what you think of it.  Thanks.

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The Propriety of Non-Interference: Don’t Dismantle the Man!

In the “Quoted” tab of this site, I have compiled a list of Leatherman “Quotes of the Day” in chronological order as I have entered them almost daily over on our Facebook Group page.  Someone pointed out to me today that when read in order, they thought they noticed there was some kind of method to my madness weaving its way through there.  What do you think?

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Poll Anomoly?

Today Jan 5, in a span of just over one minute, between 5:49 and 5:51 p.m. 13 votes were cast in favor of the research project, almost doubling the # of votes in favor of digging up the Leatherman and performing research on his remains.

They all came from one unique IP address and service provider

I had hesitated in locking an IP address once someone had voted from it because I thought maybe two or three members of the same household might want to vote, and I have been tracking both yes and no votes to be sure this poll maintained its validity.   Until tonight, I feel it has.  I have now changed the polls setting to avoid the vote/refresh/vote/refresh option.    I have strived to maintain an open, honest presence, and pledge to continue to do so.


BTW – The Waterbury Republican-American Poll only allowed one vote per visitor.               Results were 225-27 in favor of LEAVING HIM ALONE

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What Can You Do?, & Q&A for The Research Team

In the past 24 hours, I have updated the site with two new tabs:

Activism NOW! Suggestions for what you can do to promote this cause, and take action

Q and A for the Research Team This is a comprehensive list of very informed, and detailed questions for those who have gotten the Court’s permission to exhume the body of the Leatherman and perform forenensic testing, including getting a sample of his DNA, which in the words of CT State Archaologist and team member Dr. Nick Bellantoni, “…could be used to compare with potential contemporary relatives for future family identification…” (Notice of Petition, Page 41,  filed Oct 14, 2010)

These questions came from the public, in whose interests the team (which includes UCONN and SCSU staff) is operating.

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