Kristina of Shadowed Beauty gave me me an idea for a post on local folklore so I decided to share a story that has been handed down in my family (as well as families all over Digby and the southern shore of Nova Scotia) for decades about a man named Jerome found on a beach in 1863. This is a “folklore story” that actually it is true and I know cause my family was involved in it somewhat and it sticks out in my mind as I have grown up hearing it all the time. Different variations but all with the same result.
He was found by a young boy on or near a rock, the rock is still on the beach today (the local kids make a bonfire near it each year as a part of graduation), both legs were cut off to stumps and he did not talk much just muttered something that sounded like Jerome when asked what his name was.
There are different variations to the talking part, some say his tongue was cut off and other say he could speak perfectly fine when he wanted to but in a language no one could place. He did not seem to want to or was not capable of understanding French (this one I think may be incorrect as in some stories or accounts French was all he seemed to understand), Latin, Italian or Spanish and was pretty much mute.
He lived with some of my relatives in the area for some years as well as other families on Digby Neck and the islands. The communities on Digby Neck where mostly baptist (my family included) and after a little while they concluded that he must have been Catholic by some of the things he did so figuring he would be more comfortable with a family of the same religion sent him to live with some families (he floated around from family to family as they all struggled to feed the mouths they had never mind one more) down the south shore of NS by Metaghan. He seemed to understand french (again some accounts said he could not understand that either) better and seemed more comfortable, even though he still barely spoke (or in some accounts not at all). They concluded he looked Mediterranean in appearance.
There is actually a journal that we found in my grandparents house after they both died that was my great great aunts and it mentions Jerome living with them for a period of 7 months and the journal accounts how they tried to get him to talk (the journal makes no mention of his tongue being cut out but it does mention the stumps on his legs being freshly amputated and not quite healed) to no avail. It also mentions that he floated around from family to family as it was tough on everyone to feel and cloth him. They said he would eat everything in site as if he would never be fed again.
Some accounts of the story say that a couple of men working in a field overlooking the Bay of Fundy (a bay between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) saw a small vessel that lowered a row boat which rowed towards land, figuring that the vessel was sending a boat ashore to find fresh spring water, they did not think much about it.
The next day they returned to the field to only to be distracted by the young boy previously mentioned running towards them screaming and agitated and gathered from him that he had seen a man on the beach with amputated legs. They followed him not really believing him but going just in case and found Jerome sitting near the rock not far from the tide with a jug of water and some biscuits and seemingly in good health, despite having his legs recently amputated.
There has always been speculation of who he was and where he came from. Some thought he was a pirate that had been given a choice to walk the plank to his death or have his legs chopped off and tongue cut out and left on the shore to his own devices. Others thought he was a well respected crew member (from his hands they concluded it was unlikely he did much hard manual labor) of the ship that had an accident and the crew fearing he would die from his wounds decided he would have a better chance being left on a beach near a small town that would be able to take care of him (which is exactly what they did).
Some even thought he was nobility but did not speculate as to why his legs were amputated and he was left on the beach, just that he was meant to be there and therefore he was.
Its kind a cool story for me because I grew up hearing about it long before we found my great great aunts journal.