Experts Still Can’t Agree Whether A Teenage Servant Girl Was Truly Guilty Of Murder

In a newly united Canada, a beautiful young girl stands accused of a terrible crime. But did Grace Marks really slaughter her employer in cold blood? Or was she led astray by sinister forces? A century and a half later, her story will form the basis of a best-selling novel — but even now, the whole truth remains unknown.

Failing crops

Born in 1828 in Ulster, Ireland, Marks did not have the best or the brightest start in life. Although the horror of the Great Famine was still several years away, conditions were often tough for working-class families living in the northern province. And by the 1830s crops across the country were beginning to fail.

Across the Atlantic

With life in Ireland becoming harder, many set their sights on North America, where the Era of Good Feelings promised plenty of prosperity and hope. And in 1840 Marks’ father John decided to join the influx of Irish immigrants booking passage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a fresh start.

Tragedy at sea

A stonemason by trade, John could certainly have found employment in North America, where both the canals and the railways required skilled workers. But the trip soon turned into a nightmare for the Marks family. During the crossing to America, Marks’ mother passed away, leaving her nine children alone with their abusive father. 

Arriving in America

Despite this trauma, though, 12-year-old Marks eventually arrived in Canada, ready to start her new life. What happened in the years that followed, though, has been lost to time — as has the fate of her siblings and father. What we do know is that the young girl was making her own way in the world by the tender age of 16.