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Have you heard about the 1938 LaFayette grave robbery

Grave robbers were apparently seeking a valuable ring


Note: This story is part of a Bluffton history book to be released later this summer by Fred Steiner titled “Where Bluffton’s Ghosts Sleep.” Watch for additional details on the book to be announced soon. This is an adaptation of an account from a story written by Steve Ackerman in the November, 2009, “LaFayette Jackson Times,” a publication of the LaFayette Jackson Historical Society.

Grave robbers in LaFayette?


It occurred in October of 1938 and became headlines in many Ohio newspapers. This tale involves the grave in the LaFayette Cemetery of Tully Rumbaugh, a pioneer in the village who was born Aug. 6, 1875, and died Jan. 17, 1896.


One LaFayette story claimed that Rumbaugh, only 21 when he died, was buried with an expensive diamond ring. No one knows when or how that story took its roots. But, even in 1938, 42 years following his death, the story continued to spread.


The appraisal of the ring was simply described as “valuable.” Apparently, three young boys, or young men, overheard the Rumbaugh ring story being told in a LaFayette pool hall. Soon after hearing the story, but not knowing the exact location of the grave, the three took digging tools and matches and headed for the cemetery.


There they found the Rumbaugh grave. The story continues that they dug at the gravesite and after a few hours reached the top of the decayed coffin. In their exciting and no doubt frightening search of the corpse, they found a ring and took it.


The next morning the cemetery caretaker discovered the grave had been desecrated. News spread like wildfire.


Within a few hours hundreds of people gathered at the grave swearing vengeance. The situation became very serious when Allen County Sheriff William Daley dispatched Deputy Jess Ford to the scene.


Accompanying him were Officer Herbert Simmons of the Lima Police Department, and Lt. R.W Steen, an Erie Railroad detective. Prints were lifted from several tombstones and the search for the vandals began.


The investigators soon learned that a diamond ring rumor had circulated for years in the community and was recently retold in the pool hall. With a motive in hand a short investigation followed and the grave robbers were arrested.


They were indicted by the Allen County grand jury, each charged with unlawfully opening the grave of Tully Rumbaugh. Each was severely censured by the court and each given a two- year deferred sentence and ordered to report twice monthly to probation officers.


It was later determined that the ring in the Rumbaugh grave carried a value of about 40 cents.


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