Caleb Doolittle, a wrestler and character of local note, may have died 150 years ago Saturday, or maybe Sunday, but it will not be known for sure because his tombstone said he died April 31, 1838.
Doolittle lived in the New Haven suburb in the early 1800s, and his antics spawned several tales, some taller than others, but none as interesting as the date of his death.He was buried in West Woods Cemetery that much is known.
The tombstone will be of no help because it, like many other stones of its era, has fallen victim to vandalism and no trace of it exists.
But that has not ended the legend.
"I've never heard an explanation," said Hamden historian Martha Becker. "It was probably just plain ignorance or a slip of the chisel. The calendar at that time was the same.
If the date was actually a mistake, and not a parting shot at history, Doolittle could have been buried just about any time that spring, based on the types of errors that could have been made.
Doolittle's name and antics are documented in the "History of Hamden" by Rachel Hartley.
Doolittle and his brother, Reuben, were known throughout the area for their strength and wrestling ability.
But apparently the brothers did not like to lose, especially to a young upstart from nearby Yale University.
After Reuben lost to a student at the now-Ivy League school, the men went to the campus in New Haven in an ox cart to challenge all comers.
In a show of strength, Caleb, the legend goes, lifted a barrel full of cider from the oxcart and drank from the bunghole.
Caleb and Reuben left campus later that day, unchallenged.