RICHMOND – Henry Brown’s new maid, Julia, came highly recommended. Previously she had been working for a Mr. Blake in East Providence who gave an excellent reference when Henry was in the market for someone to move in and take over housekeeping duties. Henry was living at the old Cary D. Brown place, on the Richmond side of the river and Ray C. Nichols, engineer for the Wood River Branch Railroad, was staying with him. Recently, the barn on the property had burned down and Henry was hard at work building another in its place. Julia would be able to take many chores off his hands.

All went smoothly until the night of October 10, 1897. Early that evening, Julia began to act nervous and announced that she was hearing strange noises outside and felt like someone was trying to break into the house. Neither Ray nor Henry took the matter seriously as they hadn’t heard anything out of the ordinary, at least not until several hours later when they were awoken by a blood-curdling scream coming from the maid’s upstairs sleeping quarters. The two men ran to her bedroom to investigate and found Julia hysterical. Her window was open and the screen had been ripped from its frame. The trunk she kept her personal belongings in was torn apart as if someone had been looking to steal its contents.

Ray and Henry ventured outside and discovered that the ladder had been propped up against the house, just below Julia’s window. Upon further searching upstairs, Henry noticed that the $300 he had been saving for the cost of the barn construction was gone. He immediately set out to locate police officer George Barber. While Henry felt clueless as to whom could have robbed him, Ray didn’t think there was much of a mystery to solve. He was solidly suspicious of Julia and so was Officer Barber.

The lawman questioned the maid tirelessly about the events of that evening but she swore she didn’t know anything. Finally, Barber decided to try and catch her in a lie by telling his own untruth. He informed Julia that someone had seen her putting the ladder up against the side of the house. Now believing there had been a witness, she confessed and led Barber out into the yard where she had hidden Henry’s money.

Although she wasn’t arrested, Julia was fired and put on the morning train. With no place to go, she returned to the home of Mr. Blake in East Providence. Mrs. Blake, who didn’t believe for a second that her former maid would ever commit such a crime, had total confidence in her innocence. But Mr. Blake wasn’t so sure. He penned a letter to Henry, asking him questions about Julia’s last night in his employ. He told Henry that he felt it was a bit ironic that, just before Julia left her job there in the city, there had been a robbery at his own house and Julia had claimed to come face to face with the thieves. The bank belonging to one of Blake’s young children had been stolen, which contained a small sum of money. And a wallet holding several dollars was also allegedly taken by the robbers. Blake felt that the two stories sounded eerily similar.

It isn’t known whether or not Mrs. Blake convinced her husband to take Julia back into their home, but it’s likely she never came to Richmond seeking work again.

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