Jerome, the Mystery Man of Sandy Cove

By: Hilda Van Wey

[ Carte donnée aux touristes restant au Olde Village Inn, Sandy Cove, indiquant la

Map given to tourists staying at the Olde Village Inn, Sandy Cove, indicating "Jerome's Rock", Inconnu,

Like an unwanted infant left on a doorstep, a mysterious man was found on a lonely Fundy beach with both legs amputated, one morning in the year 1854.

As dawn was breaking that October morning a century ago, Albright a fisherman, looked out through the one small window of his shack high on the banks of the lonely Cove that opened wide into the Bay of Fundy. He spotted something dark alongside the big rock on the sandy shore below. “A couple of otters playing out there” he thought, as otters were numerous in the Cove at that time. As the mists lifted he looked again and saw not otters, but a man by the rock.

Hurrying down the path to investigate he found the many lying just above the water’s edge, a legless man; his legs had been amputated at the knees, and they were only partially healed.

Although alive, he was helpless. He made no effort to explain his plight or tell who had placed him on this lonely shore.

Beside him were a can of fresh water and a tin of biscuits. He was clean and dressed in the finest linen. His hands were soft, not the hardened hands of a workman.

The old fisherman immediately recalled that the day previous an unknown sailing vessel had been seen passing back and forth in the Bay of Fundy about a mile beyond the Cove. He reasoned that the man must have been brought in from the ship under cover of darkness.

So came to Nova Scotia shores a mystery that in 100 years has never been solved.

Help was summoned and the mysterious castaway was taken inland a mile to the settlement of Sandy Cove on the sheltered side of the peninsula. There the kindly folk took care of him, these fishermen and boatbuilders and their families.

It was soon learned that he was not going to talk and he did not try to make himself understood by sign as a dumb person would have done. The only near articulate sound ever gathered from his was something that sounded like Jerome and so, as every many must have a name, they called him Jerome. The big rock on the shore where they first found him became known as Jerome Rock.

He was fond of children, wary of strangers, and at times very irritable. There were some who would tease him but in time they accepted him even though he gave no sign of gratitude. He was taken into the home of the lowest bidder who was willing to undertake his care, for about $2.00 a week. Finally when it was realized that he was there to stay the Provincial Government contributed to his keep.

In appearance and manner he was a gentleman and not difficult to care for. A doctor in the vicinity who remembered Jerome said: “He was an idle man with an idle mind,” and he added with professional admiration, “His legs had been amputated skillfully and evidently by a trained surgeon.” He got so that he was able to move around the house quite nimbly on his stumps of legs, but most of the time he just sat. He never read.

Great efforts were made to solve this mystery. Ships put into the larger ports of Nova Scotia from all parts of the world in those days as now, and sailors of many nationalities from these ships were brought to Jerome to see if he would speak their language, or to see if anything they said would arouse his interest. Though he still did not talk, it became apparent that he was almost certainly familiar with several European languages. It was also found that he would become violently angry when any such visitor mentioned Trieste.

From the little that was gleaned in that way, and judging by his swarthy complexion and cast of countenance, people concluded that he came from some Mediterranean country. There were those who thought that Jerome must have had a fine stature and a noble carriage which led them to presume he might once have been an officer.

The people of Sandy Cove looked after him for many years. Then to relive them, the Government arranged to have him taken to an Acadian family across St. Mary’s Bay at Alphonse de Clare, where he was cared for and where he ended his days.

Jerome lived for 58 years after he was found on the beach. What occurred to him before his arrival at Sandy Cove remains in the realm of conjecture. When he died in the year 1912 he took to the grave with him the secret of his horrible mutilation and of his mysterious arrival on the Digby Shore.

Jerome Rock still stands, one lone rock jutting out of the sand like a miniature iceberg. If only rocks could talk this one would surely have a tale to tell.

Source: Hilda Van Wey, "Jerome, The Mystery Man of Sandy Cove," Family Herald and Weekly Star, 1965.

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