William Arthur Brooke, a 25-year-old resident of Cranston and a foundry machinist and stock clerk at Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company, got himself in a lot of trouble for a girl back in 1934. …
William Arthur Brooke, a 25-year-old resident of Cranston and a foundry machinist and stock clerk at Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company, got himself in a lot of trouble for a girl back in 1934. The girl was 27-year-old Alice Barcomb, a native of Vermont and the private maid of 69-year-old Dr. Eugene Allen Noble.
Noble was a prominent Methodist minister from Brooklyn, NY who summered at his palatial estate "Casa Nostra" in Narragansett. After obtaining his Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Wesleyan University in 1891, he studied at the Garrett Biblical Institute in Ill. The son of a reverend, he became ordained and served the pulpit at churches in NY and Conn.
Tall and stately with bushy eyebrows and a knack for leadership, Noble went on to serve as president at three different colleges and as executive secretary of the Juilliard Musical Foundation of NY. Having long sung tenor in church and having led the Wesleyan Glee Club, he was just as qualified musically as he was religiously.
Dr. Noble did well for himself and his wife, Lillian (Osborn). They enjoyed spacious and elaborate homes, a private camp in the Adirondacks and an impressive art collection. Pastimes such as golf and fly-fishing were indulged in by the reverend and all the needs of he and his wife were met by the servants they employed, such as Alice Barcomb.
In Oct. 1934, Alice was arrested by the chief of the Narragansett Police and took William Brooke down with her. The couple was charged with larceny and accused of stealing over 450 of the Nobles' personal possessions. The value of the items missing from Casa Nostra amounted to about $10,000. After Alice was formally charged with theft and William was charged with receiving stolen goods, they were both released on $1,000 bail pending a court hearing.
Lillian Noble claimed that, since they had taken Alice onto their staff two months earlier, hundreds of items had disappeared from the house such as linen, clothing and household furnishings. When police searched William's Cranston home, they located the majority of the missing items.
William asserted his innocence, explaining to police that Alice had asked him to hold onto the items for her while relating to him that each had been a gift from Lillian. Alice finally admitted to stealing from her employer's wife and took the rap that she deserved. "I didn't think she would miss anything," she told police matter-of-factly.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.