Mrs. Rumble’s Plot Is Bumbled

The story of Mrs. Mary Rumble’s five-month stint in two of Ontario’s Insane Asylums seems to be more a story of class and privilege, than one of sanity versus insanity. It begins in late October 1909, when John Rumble’s home in Harwich township, Ontario, Canada, was dynamited – destroying a corner of the building. This series of news articles follow Mary Rumble’s saga.

The news first appeared in The Victoria Daily Times on October 23, 1909.

(All news articles are transcribed below. Italics added for emphasis.)

“DWELLING DYNAMITED”

“(Special to the Times.)”

“Chatham, Ont., Oct. 23. – An attempt was made last night on the lives of John Rumble, his son and his son’s wife. The house in which they lived in Harwich township was dynamited, the whole corner being blown out, but luckily none were injured. There has been domestic trouble, Rumble not living with his wife.


A few days later, Detective Mahoney helped to crack the case when he extracted a confession from Mrs. Rumble. The October 27th edition of The Windsor Star added a lot of detail to the story.

“RUMBLE’S WIFE ACCUSED OF KENT BOMB OUTRAGE”

“She Had Parted From Her Husband About A Year Ago and Was Arrested in Detroit at Instance of Detective Mahoney, Who is Investigating.”

“CONFESSES TO DETECTIVE.”

“Detective Mahoney returned from Chatham this afternoon and stated to The Record that Mrs. Rumble had made a complete confession to him. She said she purchased four dynamite sticks and some caps in Port Huron, besides some chloroform in Sarnia, which she intended to use in the operation of the bomb business. The chloroform failed to have any effect, and the woman’s ignorance in placing the dynamite was all that saved Rumble and his family from annihilation. The extreme penalty for this crime is life imprisonment.

“Special to The Record.)”

“Chatham, Oct. 27. – ‘I am suffering everything for that family and this is what I am getting for it.’ This was the enigmatic reply of Mrs. Mary Rumble this morning when the charge of trying to blow up her husband, John Rumble, her son and son’s wife with dynamite, was read against her.”

“’I have so much trouble I wish I were dead,’ she said amid mournful tears.”

“Mrs. Rumble was captured in Detroit yesterday by Detective Mahoney, who investigated the Rumble dynamiting case on Sunday. It looks as if he had established a clear case against Mrs. Rumble. The movements of a woman of her description were traced out to the Rumble home on the river road the night the front of the house was blown out with dynamite. Detective Mahoney traced her from the scene of the explosion to Wallaceburg and thence to Detroit.”

“She left Rumble about a year ago and it is understood there has been bad blood between the couple ever since.”

Mrs. Rumble evidently has lots of money. After she was remanded for trial till Nov. 3rd she had a taxicab hailed to convey her to the jail.”


A few weeks later, on November 11, 1909, The Star Phoenix of Saskatoon, SK, reported John Rumble’s version of the fateful night.

“HIS WIFE COMMITTED.”

“JOHN RUMBLE TELLS OF DYNAMITING OF HIS HOME.”

“Corner of House Blown Out Under Where His Daughter Slept – Dynamite Found Scattered About – Victim’s Wife to Answer Charge.”

“Chatham, Ont., Nov. 11. – Mrs. Mary Rumble has been committed for trial on a charge of dynamiting her husband’s house when the family were sleeping.”

“John Rumble, husband, told of the dynamiting on the night of October 23. He was awakened by a deafening crash and thought the world was coming to an end or that there had been an earthquake. He found a pile of burning rags and paper at the side of the house and later found a kit, dynamite and fuse. He also found a hole bored through the window sash. Two more sticks of dynamite were found in the ventilator. The north corner of the house was almost completely blown out directly below where his daughter was sleeping. A bottle partially filled with chloroform was also found. His son George, his son John and John’s wife were all sleeping in the house at the time of the explosion.”

“Mr. Lewis, solicitor for the defence, made no statement as to what the defence will be.”


About ten weeks later, on January 19, 1910, The Windsor Star reports that Mrs. Rumble had been moved to the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane. It is unclear in which asylum she had been held since her arrest in late October.

“TAKEN TO ASYLUM.”

“Mrs. Rumble Now Lodged in Hamilton Institution.”

“Chatham, Jan. 19 – Mrs. Mary Rumble, wife of John Rumble, sr., who attempted to dynamite the home of her husband and his family on Saturday, October 23, 1909, and later committed to an asylum has been taken to the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane by Mrs. Johnston, provincial bailiff.”

“The now famous woman made the unsuccessful attempt to blow to atoms her husband, his two sons and the elder son’s wife and two small children in the early morning of Saturday, Oct. 23. She managed to escape the search of the husband and sons that morning by hiding in some underbrush, later walking to the city, then journeying via radial to Port Lambton, thence to Detroit.”

“The dynamiting all originated through domestic troubles.”


The first hint that Mrs. Rumble might avoid a long stretch at the Hamilton Asylum was reported a month later, on February 19, 1910 in The Windsor Star.

“MRS. MARY RUMBLE MAY BE DEPORTED”

“Movement Said to be on Foot to Get Her Out of Asylum.”

“Chatham, Feb. 19 – It is probable that an attempt is going to be made by the authorities to discharge Mrs. Mary Rumble, the woman who dynamited her husband’s house, from the Hamilton asylum, on the grounds that she is not a proper person to be confined there. Mrs. Rumble was judged to be dangerously insane by alienists who kept her under observation, and it was on these grounds that she was sent to the Hamilton asylum.”

“Yesterday R. A. Peacock, Western Ontario agent for the Provincial Inspector of Prisons and Charities, arrived in Chatham and is making a detailed investigation surrounding the trial of Mrs. Rumble for dynamiting her husband, John Rumble, and family.”

“It is thought that an attempt may be made to have Mrs. Rumble discharged from the Hamilton asylum and deported to the United States. She was brought to Chatham from Detroit for trial, and it may be that the authorities think she should be sent back there.”

There is also a hint that there are some facts in the Rumble case that never came to light. This is with regard to accomplices which Mrs. Rumble is said to have had in blowing up her husband’s house. It is possible that this may be further probed.”


In late March, Mary Rumble’s stay at the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane came to an end. It lasted roughly ten weeks – from January 19 to March 29, 1910. Transferred to “some Toronto institution”, Mary was one step closer to freedom. The Windsor Star reported the following on March 29, 1910.

“REMOVED FROM ASYLUM.”

“Mary Rumble Now in Some Toronto Institution.”

“Chatham, March 29. – Declared too sane to be confined with the insane, Mrs. Mary Rumble, who some months ago attempted to blow up her husband and family, and was sentenced to the Hamilton asylum for the criminal insane, has been transferred from that institution to a hospital in Toronto. The movements have been kept almost a close secret and just what kind of an institution she is now in could not be learned.

“It is surmised by some who have had close connections with the family that the result of all this maneuvering will be her ultimate release from confinement and that the woman will be given her freedom on American soil.”

“It is known that Mrs. Rumble’s actions in general have been perfectly sane. The only time she gives the least appearance of any hobby is when the Rumble dynamite affair is mentioned. Then she can string off any amount of lingo her hearers feel inclined to listen to.”


In all of my searching, that was the last mention of Mrs. Mary Rumble in the Canadian or American press. It never was a big story in Detroit. The Detroit Free Press carried only two short “blurbs” on the matter in its pages, and never mentioned Mary’s deportation back to the States.

If you read between the lines, it is easy to imagine that Mary Rumble’s money and connections had much to do with the conclusion of this case. It seems she was spirited out of Canada and back to the States without much fanfare. I’ve found no record of any trial taking place in Detroit. Had Mary been a poor divorced woman in 1910, her outcome would likely have been far different. (Sadly, I guess some things remain constant.)


During my search, I found an amusing sidenote to this story. While her mother was only halfway through her time at the Hamilton Asylum, Mary’s daughter, Bertha had other plans. The news was announced on February 25, 1910 in pages of The Windsor Star.

“MISS RUMBLE WEDS.”

“Daughter of Mrs. Mary Rumble Marries.”

“Miss Bertha Rumble, the 18-year-old daughter of Mrs. Mary Rumble, the central figure in the Chathan township dynamiting case last fall, and who has been living in Detroit, was recently united in marriage to William Learst, also of Detroit.”

“The ceremony, which took place in the City of the Straits, was a very quiet one. Mr. Learst, it is stated, is a former Chathamite. Mr. and Mrs. Learst will make their home in Detroit.”

If you are interested in the history of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, be sure to check out my other posts on the topic by navigating to the “Categories” section on this site.

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