The "Mystery Man" of Clare

– by Blauveldt –

The pages of world history contain many stories, some romantic only and some more or less ghastly, of men regarding whose identity, origin or late little or nothing is known. “Robin Hood”, “The Man In the Iron Mask”, “John of Austria”, and “Fighting Mac”, are only a few of the many whom memory calls to mind. Regarding most of them there is at least some slight historical evidence or reasonable ground for intelligent conjecture. But regarding the origin or identity of that strange, silent personage known to us only as “Jerome”, not a single fact has ever been or ever will be discovered. After a century, some fifty years of which he spent among us, nothing whatever has cast any light upon his origin, the reason for his horrible mutilation, his marooning on a foreign shore, or his resolute silence. After interested and exhaustive research and inquiry over a period of more than 25 years, we are forced to confess that we know very little more about this mysterious personage than we did at the outset.

Foreign Ship

It was during the summer of 1864, a large ship, the like which was never before nor since seen in these waters, but which shore residents took for a foreign man-o-war, or possibly, a pirate ship, was sighted in the Bay of Fundy, just off the Digby Neck shore.

Body Of A Man

The next morning, a Mr. Albright, going down to the shore to gather rockweed, was startled to come upon the huddled body of a man, both legs recently amputated at the knees, lying near the water's edge. Carried to the home of a Mr. Gidney, at Mink Cove, the unfortunate man was finally restored to consciousness, but, for reasons known only to himself and, perhaps, those who had cast him ashore, refused to speak or give any account of him sell except for one word which sounded like “Jerome”. Of course, it might have been “Guillaume” or some form of “Johan”, or even of “Jaime”. But, whatever he said, he was and always will be known as “Jerome”.

At Meteghan

Gathering from his foreign appearance and from his expression when French was spoken in his presence, that he probably was French, “Jerome” was taken to Meteghan, where a home was made for him at the house of John Nicholas, a Corsican who spoke several European tongues. From his complexion and mannerisms, it was though that he was either French or Italian; and speaking to him in these languages, Nicholas was convinced that he knew and understood them both.

Wouldn't Speak

But in more than 50 years on the Bay Shore, it was only when all guard that “Jerome” ever spoke a single word, except to the little children between whom and himself there always existed a pathetic friendship. On one occasion, asked suddenly where he came from, he replied “Trieste”, and, at another time, gave the name of his ship as the “Colombo”. On yet another occasion, he is said to have broken angrily into perfect English. He was always very guarded with adults. He haughtily refused gifts from visitors, and when offended took refuge behind the stove and from there made frightening sounds resembling those of an angry animal. And he had another amusing little trick — he would hold books, magazines and papers upside down pretending that he could not read, but, when he thought he was unobserved, became completely absorbed in them. And, and this is very significant, he read with equal ease English, French, Italian and two or three other foreign languages.

To St. Alphonse

After seven years at the Nicholas home, he went to live at St. Alphonse de Clare with the family of William Comeau, where he spent the remainder of his life, the Provincial Government making a small allowance for his maintenance. The following incident proves that “Jerome” was perfectly capable of speech, but casts even deeper mystery upon his nationality, origin, and the reasons for his mutilation and marooning.

Two Strange Women

The writer having been interested in the peculiar story for several years, had heard of a mysterious visit made to “Jerome” by two women, and so, one day went to the Shore to investigate the story. Many years had passed, and very few people in the district even remembered the old man, so not much was learned. Returning to Yarmouth that night, the first person we met was the late Major George Blackadar. It was a distant surprise when the Major's first words were, “What do you know about “Jerome” ? and “Did you ever hear about the women who came to see him?” Then Major Blackadar, born and brought up on the Shore, related not only that the incident was true, but that he could vouch for it personally because he was actually there and saw them. It seems that, as a young lad the Major used to take small grunts of fruit and candy from the Blackadar store down to the mysterious “Jerome”. On this occasion, just as he reached the Comeau house, two strange women were just coming out. He went in, and the family, much excited, told how they had come to see “Jerome” had taken him into another room, and that a long conversation, in which he had taken a full and fluent part, had taken place. Naturally, the Comeaus had made every effort to eavesdrop and had heard all that was being said. But it was in some foreign tongue, which they could not understand, and the mystery was just as complete as ever.

Man Of Rank

There are several indications that “Jerome” was of a better class family, and possibly a naval or military officer of some rank. His general appearance, and his obvious knowledge of several European languages, seem to point to that conclusion. And it is related that when he was found, he was clothed in the finest of blue serge, with all the buttons, badges and other marks of identification, cut off. His shirt and under garments were also of the best material. Certain niceties of manner, his appreciation of fine music, and flaming personal pride and dignity, all point to an origin far above the common. And then there is his half century of silence. No common man, injured in some ordinary accident, or even put ashore by his fellows, would have any secret which would require such concealment. Quite plainly, he was in possession of some knowledge and secret of such extremely grave importance that he simply dared not reveal even the slightest detail about himself. Whether he was Catholic, Protestant or Pagan – whether he revealed anything to the local priest, no one ever knew. The only clue to that is that when he died, he was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Meteghan. It could be that he was of Royal or noble blood or at least a high ranking officer of some European Court, who had become involved In some palace revolution or in some international Intrigue, and that his “silence”, must be enforced at all costs. It may be that the two women who visited him were involved in the same incidents; or, they may have been sent from some Embassy or Consulate in the United States to check on him and his situation in this foreign land.


Possessed of a splendid physique, “Jerome” walked about fairly well on his stumps and was a familiar figure along the Shore. Somewhat temperamental, he seemed subject to fits of the most intense remorse or despair., and would flare Into furious but short-lived, rages with bur little provocation. Only at the word “forban”, (pirate) would his rage be of more than passing duration, but that word plunged him Into rages that lasted for days at a time. Taken all In all, he was well liked and well cared for by the kindly Acadians, to whom he was a “pauvre petit” touched by the hand of God, and an object of special solicitude and care.


In his latter years, the long disuse of his vocal chords seemed to have resulted in atrophy, for, though willing as he seemed at times to break his long silence, all power to do so was gone. At last, in 1908, this mystery man — whether good or evil pirate or victim — coming to the Acadian shore from an unknown world, departed to a shore hardly more unknown or mysterious, taking with him the secret, which, through all the years, he had preserved so stubbornly and well.

Source: Blauveldt, ""Jerome" The "Mystery Man" of Clare," The Vangard, December 7, 1966.

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