On September 8, 1863, a frightening discovery was made on the beach of Sandy Cove in Nova Scotia. Alongside a large rock was man with both legs amputated and only partially healed. Beside him was a jug of water, a tin of biscuits, and nothing more. What had happened to the man? We’ll never know: the locals who took him in attempted to speak with him, even bringing in sailors of different nationalities to see if he would speak their language, but he said nothing aside from mumbling something that sounded like “Jerome.”
Many tried to discover Jerome’s real identity, with little luck. Some guessed his amputation was punishment for attempting a mutiny on a ship. Others speculated that he was heir to a fortune, and left on the shore by someone hoping to get his inheritance. But with Jerome not able (or willing) to confirm or deny any theories, none could be proven, and he took his mysterious past with him when he died almost 49 years later.
He was found by an 8-year-old boy named George Colin “Collie” Albright, and brought to the Albright home in the village of Digby Neck to be nursed back to health. Both of Jerome’s legs had been amputated just above the knees, with evidence that it had been done by a skilled surgeon. The stumps were only partially healed and still bandaged when he was found. He was also suffering from cold and exposure.
Many people eager to know more about him visited his sick bed, and through this it was discovered that he could not (or did not want to) understand French, Latin, Italian, or Spanish. He apparently shunned the attention of these curious onlookers, growling like a dog at unwanted guests. The man’s hands were noted as being too soft for him to be a manual labourer, and he was described as being Mediterranean in appearance.
The Albrights struggled to support another mouth to feed, and Jerome was passed from house to house for a while until the mainly Baptist community of Digby Neck decided from his appearance that he must be a Catholic, and sent him to the neighbouring French community of Meteghan. The government of Nova Scotia also voted a special stipend of two dollars a week to support Jerome. The community still trying to break his relative silence, Jerome was sent to stay with Jean Nicola, a Corsican deserter and speaker of several languages. Nicola could not get him to talk, but Jerome stayed in the Nicola home for seven more years, becoming a favourite of the ladies of the household – Jean’s wife Julitte and his stepdaughter Madeleine.
After the death of Julitte Nicola, her husband returned to Europe and Jerome went to stay with Dedier and Zabeth Comeau in St. Alphonse, near Meteghan. The Comeaus used Jerome’s relative fame to their advantage, charging admission fees to see the mystery man, living well on this and the government stipend. But Jerome did not seem to mind, and stayed there for the rest of his life, which ended on April 15, 1912.