Authetic Story of Jerome the Legless Mystery of Meteghan, Now Related by A. W. Savary

To the Editor of The Telebgraph:

Sir: -- The enclosed, except the postcript, is a copy of the letter sent by me to the New Yprk Herald concerning Jerome.


Annapolis Rpyal, March 31, '09.


(Jerome -- The Speechless and Legless Foundling at Meteghan, Nova Scotia)

To the Editor of the New York Herald:


As I learn that the Herald had been recently enquiring for further particulars concerning Jerome, the man who after his legs had been amputated was abandoned on the Bay of Fundy shore at Sandy Cove, Digby County, Nova Scotia, perhaps you will give your readers the result of my enquiries and the conclusion I have drawn concerning him. I have consulted Robert Bishop, Esquire, Justice of the Peace of Sandy Cove, Mr. Samuel Gidney of Mink Cove, four miles below Sandy Cove, Angus M. Gidney, Esquire, formerly of Mink Cove but not Proprietor of “Wohneda “Lodge” at Imbertville, Smith’s Cove, Digby County, one of the members of the Legislative Assembly of the Province, and Mr. John Mecchi, of Meteghan, Merchant, and Italian gentleman, formerly an officer in the Italian Army, who settled at Meteghan some years after Jerome was placed there, and became naturalized as a British subject. I consulted Messrs. Bishop and A.M. Gidney orally as well as by letter. The information from the Messrs. Gidney, I only obtained a few months ago, and this, with what I was told by Mr. Mecchi cleared away any suspicions I had that the men might have been a Portuguese rather than an Italian.

In August 1863 Mr. Bishop in company with William Eldridge, who later moved to Portsmouth, N.H. was working on a hill at Sandy Cove, over-looking the Bay of Fundy, and in the afternoon saw two small pink-sterned Schooners approaching the harbour from the North East. This was a Class of vessel very common in the Bay of Fundy ports on both sides of the Bay, “fishing smacks”. One was about half a mile ahead of the other. “The head on stood in the Cove, tacked ship an stood off with her jib to the Wind-ward; lowered her boat, put several things in it, and it (the boat_ came on shore on the sand beach”, as these two observers thought for water, there being a small well of fresh water at the foot of the bank on the beach at that place at which such vessels were in the habit of calling to replenish their water casks. Of course the boat would be lost to their view on account of the bank and trees when it reached the landing place. The observers would have thought no more about his very common occurrence but for the sequel. These two “pinkies” after the boat returned “stood away to the N.W.” Mr. Bishop wrote me that “shortly afterwards”, (but in a conservation with him in 1907 I understood him to say it was the next morning) while he and Eldridge were working on the same hill, a rather simple-minded young man of the village named George Albright, since deceased, came running to them excitedly shouting that there was a man on the shore with no legs. They went down and found him. Near the spring, where he had evidently been placed, they found a quantity of ship’s biscuit and a pitcher of water, but the man himself had “crawled down the beach to about half tide, the tide was then flood, and about five feet from him! His locomotion was by his hands, he being in a sitting posture, and placing his palms on the ground, rising and thrusting himself forward, stumps foremost. In a few more minutes he would have gone where thousands of his class, the waifs and estrays of the lower grades of humanity from the great proletariat of our large cities go every day into oblivion, unknown and unwept, an infinitesimal drop on the vast ocean of human misery, suffering and death. He was rescued from the tide and brought to a new unoccupied house in the village, and all possible efforts were made to elicit from him his history, but he could talk no English, and would say but little of what was though to be Italian. All of his name that could be understood to give was “Jerome”. When asked where he came from Mr. Bishop says he would reply “Colombo”, but other who saw him doubt whether by this he meant the place he had come from or his own surname, or the name of the vessel in which he had come to his country. Pen, ink and paper were offered him, but he gave it to be understood that he had never learned to write. He seemed about 24 years old.

Mr. A.M. Gidney who saw him in the next day says he seemed to be of feeble intellect, but evidently tried to understand and answer questions put to him. He would say “Si” (se) when evidently meaning “yes” and would make it equally velar when he meant a negative reply. When asked how it came that he lost his legs, he answered “cool”. I infer that from the shock to his constitution by the amputation and exposure, he was becoming, but was not yet wholly demented, and it may well be that his being placed among French speaking people after he had learned a little English, accelerated the speechlessness into which his insanity developed. Application was made by the Overseers of the Poor at Sandy Cove to the Members for the County in the Provincial Parliament of the day and they readily secured $2.00 a week for his support from a fund voted by the Legislature for the “relief of transient paupers”, i.e. paupers having no settlement in any particular township in the Province. He was placed in the house of an Acadian Frenchman on the opposite side of St. Mary’s Bay, because he was apparently an Italian and therefore presumably a Roman Catholic. There lived in the French community at the time a Corsican named John Nichola who had been a soldier in the Crimean war, a very rough and ignorant man with an impediment in his speech and not able to annunciate plainly in Italian, French of English. I am informed that Nichola could get only a few words from him. But it is likely that if Mr. Mecchi, an educated and intelligent person, had been there at that time he might have fully succeeded in eliciting his full name and identity. Mr. Mecchi informed me that he had occasionally elicited a few words from, him, sufficient to indicate from the dialect which he used that he was from the Northern or Adriatic coast of Italy, as he would say “fretto, fretto” for “very cold” and “Sior so” for “Si Signor”, forms of expression which he says are peculiar to Italians of that region. I saw it stated by a correspondent of the Sunday Herald Dec. 9th., 1906 that he was reported to have once mentioned Triesteas the place he came from.. the would tend to corroborate Mr. Mecchi’s opinion, for Trieste although an Austrian city is an Adriatic seaport containing a large Italian population whose language would not be intelligent to an ignorant Corsican.

So little was though of the matter at the time that I did not hear of it for a year or two, although meeting Mr. Wade one of the members for the County, and discussing the affairs of the County with him almost daily, and in my professional business and activities as a politician I was in those days in continual touch with the leading French people of Meteghan and the English people of Sandy Cove. I cannot say whether there was in 1863 a newspaper published in Digby. There was in 1862, but certainly the press of the Province did not think the event worth mentioning if any one thought it worth reporting to the press, but it seems surprising that the Government did not aft offer a reward for the discovery of the parties guilty of abandoning him as they did. For the rest, who cared about a wretched Italian wastrel from the dregs of society, who could not write his own name? It remained for the imaginative and enterprising writers of later years who cater to lovers of the sensational to invest him with the importance of the Man in the Iron Mask, suggesting that he was left on the shore by a large ship, or a gunboat which disappeared like the phantom ship of the weird old legend, and that he had on an officer’s uniform, hinting that his legs had been cut off to deprive him of the power of speech lest he might divulge some awful secret, some Mafia crime, or the like, of that he may have been heir to some great estate, mutilated at the instance of the next succession, whose marvellous prescience foresaw that such an operation would disable him from disclosing his identity. It is remarkable that newspaper correspondents and others who lured by the romance and glamour of mystery look up Jerome and enquire about him never seek to interview those who were familiar with his discovery and saw him soon afterwards, or enquire of the intelligent Italian I have named, but get accounts of the transaction at second and third hand from people not born or who were mere children at the time, and draw on their own imagination from what that of their informants cannot supply.

On my first visit to Meteghan after hearing about him, probably in 1864 or perhaps as late as 1865 I called to see him, and from his appearance I concluded that he was a sailor not more than thirty years old, who had become demented by the shock to his constitution from what he had undergone. He seemed a victim of acute melancholia, and cast a pitiful reproachful look at me and crawled out of the room when he noticed me talking about him to his hostess. I thought he had not as dark a complexion as is usual with Italians I had seen in this county.

Mr. Samuel Gidney in the year 1879 as near as he can recollect it, or about 16 years after Jerome’s discovery, while on a voyage to Boston put into a place called Little River in the State of Maine for a harbour and stayed there one night. In the evening two men of the place visited the vessel. On being told the Bessel was from Sandy Cove one of the men asked Mr. Gidney if about some many years previously a man whose legs had been amputated had been found on the shore at that place. On receiving an affirmative reply he told Mr. Gidney that he was the man who landed him there; that he brought him from a place in New Brunswick where parties had paid him to take him away and land him in Nova Scotia in order to relive their parish or town from the cost of his support. Mr. Gidney did not think this intelligence of sufficient importance to communicate it to the press, but mentioned it casually to some others who were equally indifferent. He perhaps did not know at the time that Jerome was still living. The above is all Mr.Gidney writes me but Mr. A.M. Gidney gives me the rest of the story told by the Maine fisherman as he heard it at the time his cousin got and communicated this information. The man come over as a “stowaway” on an Italian vessel the Master of which put him ashore on the New Brunswick coast, somewhere between St. John and the State of Maine. On a very cold afternoon in March in crossing a mill pond on the logs he slipped through into the water and slept the succeeding night in the mill in his wet trousers. The result was that his legs were so frozen that the nearest available surgeon found it necessary to amputate them. This operation therefore was performed about five months before his discovery at Sandy Cove, which corresponds with the opinion of those who first saw him there that his legs had not been amputated more than six months.

Corroborating these revelations there appeared in the St. John, New Brunswick, Sun of September 16th., 1905 an article which after referring to one of those fictions concerning the man to which I have referred goes on to say: “It seems almost a pity to rob such a thrilling story of any of its romance, but the truth of the matter is that man was not left on the Nova Scotia shore by a gun boat, neither did he lose his legs in martial conflict.” The mystery of the man at Meteghan is explained as follows. “Senator King of Chipman, (i.e. The Parish of Chipman, Queen’s County, New Brunswick) says this man was found in the woods about 25 miles from Chipman forty-five years ago. He was lying on a brow of logs almost frozen to death. How he got ther or who he was remained a mystery. However the man was taken to Chipman where he was cared for. His legs were so badly frozen that it was found necessary to amputate them in order to save the man’s life. The operation was performed by the late Dr. Peters of Gagetown, who was a very skilful surgeon. The man was evidently a foreigner, the Senator says, but of what nationality could not be determined, as the only word he was ever known to utter was “Gamby”, or what was interpreted as such. By this name he was known and referred to during his stay in Chipman. He seemed to have lost the use of his faculties. The man was looked after by the Overseers of the poor at Chipman, but they got tired of the job or the Municipality got economical, and it was decided to ship the stranger to other parts. He was brought down to St. John on a steamer. Senator King says he is not sure whether it was at the instance of the St. John authorities or the Chipman people that the man was sent away from the province, but he recalls the fact that he was put on board a coasting schooner and taken to Nova Scotia where he was inhumanly abandoned, a helpless waif, legless and speechless, so far as coherent utterance was concerned.”

I will add that I have written to the Hon. Senator King for more definite information than what is given in the above interview with the Sun, but have received no answer. Probably he knows nothing more on the subject, or does not wish to expose too glaringly the disgraceful conduct of his old neighbors, the officers of the Municipality who were guilty of such a base transaction. It is not unlikely that the man went into the New Brunswick or Maine lumberwoods to work, as many of the immigrants from his country have been in the habit of doing for many years, and straying away from his camp got lost and met with the mishap which cost him the loss of his reason, as well as of his nether limbs, and disabled him from communicating, especially to people who spoke a strange tongue, the secret of his birth-place and parentage.

The following are copies of the letters received for the Messrs, Gidney:

Mink Cove,

Oct. 12/08

Judge A.W. Savary,


Dear Sir:-

Yours of the 15th. ult. at hand. On account of being away from home unable to reply sooner.

In reference to the man “Jerome” I think it was in the year 1879 I was on my way to Boston in a schooner. We harboured one night in Little River, Maine. In the evening tow men came on board. They asked us where we were from. We told them from Sandy Cove. They asked us if we remembered a man being landed there with no legs, several years ago. We told them we did, and he replied he was the man that landed him there. He said he brought him from New Brunswick. Parties there hired him to land him on this shore to save town charges. He told me his name but I really have forgotten it. This is about all the name told me concerning him.

Hoping this will be satisfactory, I am

Yours respectfully,

(Signed A Samuel Gidney)

Smith’s Cove, N.S.

Sept. 5/08

Hon. A.W/ Savary,


Dear Judge Savary:-

I have received your favour and in reply to your enquiries about “Jerome” I beg to say I never heard him use either of the words Jerome or Colombo. It is possible that the latter may have been the name of the ship on which he was a stowaway.

Mr. Samuel Gidney on a voyage from Sandy Cove to Boston harboured at Machias, Maine. ON of the inhabitants of the place came on board the vessel and on learning the schooner was from Sandy Cove asked if he (Gidney) ever heard of a man without legs being landed on the shore at that place. He then told the following story. A stowaway on an Italian ship loading at some point in N.B. between St. John and the State of Maine was driven ashore. In attempting to cross a pond on some logs he fell through into the water. After getting out of the pond he spent the night in a sawmill. It was in the month of March and as the weather was extremely cold his legs were so badly frozen that it was necessary to amputate them.

The people of the place gave the American who was fishing along the N.B. coast in a small vessel ten dollars to land the cripple in Nova Scotia. He did so landing him at Sandy Cove.

When I saw Jerome the day after he was landed he answered or tried to answer questions readily enough. He named the rig of the different vessels in the Bay.

He used the words “Si, Si” often and from his manner of using them I thought he meant yes.

His intellect appeared to be very feeble. Perhaps this impression due to his ignorance of our language.

With best wishes, I am

Faithfully yours,

(Signed) A.M. Gidney.

I regret to say I have lost Mr. Mecchi’s letter, written several years ago when he had the opportunity of daily intercourse with his unfortunate countryman. He spoke of the possibility of the men having a lucid interval at the approach of death, which often happens to people long insane, and then giving his history, so desired by the curious, provided any one who can understand and translate the probably unimportant and uninteresting statements, should be present.

A.W. Savary,

Annapolis Royal, N.S.

P.S. Since writing the above a gentleman on the staff of the St. John Sun informs me that Senator King also said that the unfortunate man had been working in the lumber wood for his (the Senator’s ) father, when he met the disaster. He got lost from the camp.

Source: A. W. Savary, "Authentic Story of Jerome the Legless Mystery of Meteghan, Now Related by A.W. Savary," St. John Daily Telegraph, April 1, 1909.

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