“Jerome” Dead And His Secret Dies With Him

Digby County’s Man of Mystery Who Was Found on the Shore 58 Years Ago and Has Never Spoken a Word Since, Died Near Meteghan, Yesterday.

Digby, April 19—“Jerome” died this morning, his secret dying with him. The sentence seems but an unimportant piece of news, but there is a great mystery of international importance surrounding this man, who was believed by many to be a son of a nobleman of some foreign nation.

About the year 1854, a small schooner sailed across the Bay of Fundy and after maneuvering for a time off Mink Cove, Digby neck, was seen to send a boast ashore and after a few minutes returned to the strange vessel. In the meantime a half-witted family living in the camp at the head of the tide noticed that the boat had left a man on the shore.

Left On The Beach

In this portion of the Bay of Fundy the tide rises and falls 28 feet perpendicularly and in coves where the beach is quite level the tide runs off a long distance. The incident occurred at low water. Half way down the beach the strange people had left a man sitting on a rock. His legs had been recently amputated at the knees. Beside him were a box of ships' hard biscuit and a small keg of water. He would, however, have perished with the incoming tide if he had not been carried to this camp on the shore. This landing was also witnessed by two gunners who were out shooting at the time, one of which was Mr. Samuel Gidney, proprietor of the Westport and Digby Telephone Co., who still lives at Mink Cove.

He Refused To Talk

The strange man appeared to be about nineteen or twenty years of age, was dark complexioned, well-bred Italian of noble birth. He refused however to talk and as the people who rescued him were too poor financially to keep him, he was transferred to the home of a man named Morton at Centreville (then known as Trout Cove) Digby Neck, about seven miles from where he was discovered. A few years afterwards he was conveyed across St. Mary’s Bay in a small boat and landed at Meteghan, a French settlement where an Italian and a number of other foreigners resided.

All these, however, he refused to converse with, and never spoke a word during the remained of his life.

Taken To Cheticamp

Nearly fifty years ago he was transferred to Cheticamp, also a French-Acadian settlement, about three miles west of Meteghan, since which time he has remained with the family. In the days of the old stage-coach between Digby and Yarmouth, he would crawl out of the house during hot days in the summer times and wait for the stage to go by, perhaps thinking he would see someone he knew. Twenty-nine years ago the people with whom he resided until his death built a new house and moved across the street.

He Was Named “Jerome”

The strange man, who had been named “Jerome,” taken from peculiar sounds which he uttered, was taken to the new house, evidently much against his will. When once forced to enter the house, he refused again to go out doors and never did. He had a room off the kitchen. He wore leather protectors over the stumps of his legs and walked without a cane or crutches. When in the kitchen he sat on the floor beside the cook stove and no amount of heat could drive him from his favorite place. On several occasions when he knew there was a very hot fire in the sitting room, he had been known to walk in the room and sit beside that stove as long as there was an intense heat.

A few years ago the men of the house died. Their large family have scattered in various parts of the country, one of them being a well educated Catholic priest.

During the latter part of his life the woman of the house lived alone with Jerome except occasionally when some her grandchildren were with her.

Of course hundreds of people have called to see him, especially during the summer tourist season. He always looked up once at al of them but most of the time he looked toward the floor.

Was About 75 Years Old

At the time of his death, which evidently occurred from old age, he was partially bald and completely grey. He was a well built man and appeared to be between 75 and 80 years of age, having an intelligent look, and a well-shaped head. He positively refused to speak, but when annoyed by visitors’ questions, etc. he made peculiar noises, somewhat resembling a dumb animal and at the same time continually scratched the top of his head with his right hand. The lady of the house says that he sometimes sang during the night in what she believed was a foreign language. The Nova Scotia government paid for his support annually. He was kindly cared for and gave very little trouble.

Lived Life Of Idleness

Among his peculiarities he led an entirely idle life. He was never known to do one bit of work not even to whittle with a jack-knife.

This mysterious human being never was seen to mark with a pen or pencil and never made an attempt to look at a book or any reading matter. He also refused to look at pictures.

A few years ago one of the gunners who same him landed was cruising along the Coast of Maine in a vessel and fell in with a man, whose name he has unfortunately forgotten, who said he was a member of the boat’s crew who landed this man at Mink Cove and further pointed out the hull of the vessel which carried him there, and now falling to pieces in a Maine sea port.

The True Story

The story of Jerome has frequently appeared in various periodicals and has often been very much exaggerated. The above is a correct synopsis of the affair.

Three years ago a story went the rounds of the press claiming that the great mystery had been solved. It was said that Jerome was a run-away sailor from a ship in St. John, N.B., that he wandered up the St. John river, where he was employed as a stream driver, that he fell off the logs into the icy waters of the St. John river, where he froze both feet, making amputation necessary. That the authorities there, who did not wish to pay for his support, hired a captain of a small vessel to land him on the Nova Scotia coast, and that the great shock caused by the icy waters and the amputation, took away his speech and affected his brain.

It Is Not Believed

The may be so, but it is very much doubted by the older inhabitants who first saw him here, as they say his hands showed he had never done a day’s work. The people in this vicinity have given up the solving of the great mystery that closed today in death, thus sending one of the greatest secrets that has ever occurred on the continent.

Source: ""Jerome" Dead and His Secret Dies With Him," The Daily Echo, April 20, 1912.

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