JEROME—Mystery Man of Meteghan

“The Mystery Man of Clare”

During the summer of 1866, a large ship anchored in Digby Neck, Nova Scotia. Terror dominated in the hears of the peaceful villagers, because they thought was a warship. However, further investigations were made, and they were reassured that the boat was a foreign commercial ship.

The following morning, the majority of the villagers at Sandy Cove had arisen early to go fishing as that was one of their chief occupations. Before Mr. Albright started his monotonous day’s work of gathering sea-weed, he paused for a moment to watch the fishermen’s ships at sea. Far away the mysterious boat that had caused such anxiety several hours earlier, was disappearing into a minute speck at the horizon. Suddenly, he speculated an unusual object on the beach. He was amazed to discover that it was a young man huddled at the water’s edge.

A jug of water and ship’s biscuits had been deposited beside him. The man whose age was approximately (19) nineteen had both of his legs amputated. He was pale from the loss of blood and would not speak.

Men were summoned and the unfortunate visitor was carried to the home of Mr. Gidney at Mink Cove. There he was kindly treated and properly fed. However, he maintained an absolute silence. When questioned, he uttered one word, “Jerome”. Presuming that he had spoke his name, the villagers decided to call him “Jerome”.

Although he was questioned repeatedly he remained silent and acted as if he hadn’t understood them. Once, Jerome, taken unaware when asked the name of the ship that had brought him to Digby Neck, he had answered “Colombo”.

The government of Nova Scotia contributed regular payments for his maintenance averaging $2.00 weekly.

Jerome was also accepted as a regular citizen of the Bay Shore. As the year gradually elapsed, Jerome was transferred to the Nicholas family in Meteghan. The crippled individual lived his life in solitude and proved to be indifferent to sorrows, happiness and sufferings. By the mannerisms he displayed and by his …complexion, he was unmistakenly a foreigner. He was apparently resentful to adults but showed a keen interest in children.

After living with the Nicholas family in Meteghan for (7) seven years, Jerome went to live with Mr. & Mrs. Dédier Comeau at St. Alphonse de Clare (Digby County), where he spent the remainder of his life, (which was forty years there.)

Thousands of people visited Jerome, yet none ever thought that he had been a mere seaman. It was generally believed that he had been a naval or military officer of high rank. His mannerisms revealed his character which proved him to be a superior individual who had been reared amidst wealth. Casual gifts of sweets, fruits or tobacco were accepted by him in respectful and proper manner.

He wouldn’t brook any condescension on the part of visitors, and was especially humiliated by the offering of money.

Possessing an excellent physique, he probably was a fine figure of a man before his legs were amputated. After the stumps of his legs were healed, he hobbled about. Whenever he was left outside unguarded for a few moments, he would crawl on the grass towards the ocean. The reasons for this strange behaviour was never known.

Generally portrayed with white hair and beard, he always had a serious look on his face. His clothes were sewn by the mistress of the house. His room was old fashioned with a bed and scanty furniture. It was dark and badly ventilated and had only one window.

Once a wealthy woman visited Jerome and uttered repeatedly “My brother!”, but Jerome revealed no sign of recognition. Many similar incidents occurred.

One legend is based on a pious priest who had visited Jerome. When he left Jerome’s room, addressing the spectators he said “Leave Jerome alone, and don’t try to make him talk.” Was the priest hinting that Jerome might be fulfilling a promise by not speaking?

Jerome was baptized as a Roman Catholic and died in 1913, and is buried in the Meteghan cemetery in an unmarked grave.

The government paid $2.00 to Mr. William Comeau for digging the grave.

(The above information was obtained by Joseph F. Comeau, Little Brook Sta. Digby County, N.S. by going to the house where Jerome spent over 40 years, and by obtaining this information through “papers” kept in the attic by a grandchild of Mr. Dédier (pronounced Ded-iay) Comeau. This record of Jerome had been written by Mr. Dédier Comeau’s family—presumably as a sort of diary, and therefore cannot be anything else but the true authentic story of Jerome. Many of the old villagers of St. Alphonse can elaborate more fully on details they can remember about him, but this is not kept as a record. Mr. Dédier Comeau’s grandchild will not, however part with any paper pertaining to Jerome. The entire context, such as this, or any part of it, may be recopied there, but that is all. The house where Jerome spent over 40 years is on the main highway going towards Yarmouth, (it is known as William à Dedier’s house-----the “À” after William meaning “son” of Dedier, an old Acadian way of differentiating the names of people who had names in common like the surname “Comeau”, or “Deveau”, etc.).

To Mary Lee from mom

Source: Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management, , MG100 vol. 169 #26b, Unknown, "Jerome," n.d.. Notes: After 1930

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