Jerome of Sandy Cove never gave up his secrets.
In 1863, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia was relatively peaceful and somewhat remote. Business and communication with the mainland was conducted via ship or by way of a small connecting section to New Brunswick. Along the coastlines, fishing was the main industry.
On the morning of September 8th, two fishermen of Sandy Cove in Digby County headed down to the Bay of Fundy shore when they discovered a man sitting on the sand. From a distance, the fishermen took the stranger as being someone just looking out across the waters. But the morning was quite cold and something seemed not right, so the men approached the figure.
They could see the young man was sitting up and that there was a loaf of bread and a jug next to him. He also seemed to be feeling the ill effects of the extreme cold from the previous night. Most notable, however, was the fact that the man was missing the bottom half of both of his legs.
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Alarmed, the men knew the stranger needed immediate medical help and so they carried him back to their village. The stranger seemed to understand what was going on around him, but he would not respond to any questions put to him. After repeatedly questioned, he seemed to mumble something that sounded like “Jerome.” The villagers decided this must be his name.
A local doctor noted that the amputation of his legs was very recent. The heavily bandaged stumps still bled. Apparently someone with surgical skill conducted the amputations. A passing ship most likely put the man ashore, but why?
Jerome provided no answers.
Financial Support from the Canadian Government
Over the next 50 years, Jerome became a pet project for those living in the area. He was affectionately known as Jerome of Sandy Cove. He moved from one local house to another and spent years at each household for the rest of his life. The government eventually awarded $2 a week to the family that housing Jerome at any specific time.
A Man of Higher Status?
Even from the start, Jerome was a puzzle to his neighbors. His hands were soft and showed no signs of manual labor. The clothes he wore upon his discovery were fancy, and he had neatly trimmed hair.
Jerome of Sandy Cove Never Told His Story
The villagers persisted in trying to get Jerome to speak. But even a local man who happened to be fluent in five languages could not get a response.
Despite living for years at a time with local families, Jerome never bonded with anybody. He would spend much of his time crouching next to the stove in the kitchen and would frequently growl when people approached him.
He died on April 15, 1912, never providing a clue as to his early years or why he had been left abandoned on that beach.
A Changing Story Over the Years
After his death, legend and lore quickly crept into the story as locals passed down Jerome’s story from generation to generation. Soon the two fishermen who found Jerome became a young boy beachcombing, who ran for help. The doctor treating Jerome after his discovery became two doctors from different villages who disagreed on the medical diagnosis. The fact that Jerome was antagonistic to all people changed to his being very friendly and talkative among children. Some say that he mentioned the names of ships and some say he never said anything beyond “Jerome” on that first day. Some say he threatened (in English) people who got too close to him.
With all first-hand accounts now gone, the remaining stories of Jerome of Sandy Cove are those passed down over time. And, as is well known, such stories may contain more than a bit of imagination.
Sites pulled 3 May 2012.
The Halifax Herald Limited, August 16, 2000.