Chesterton Tribune

Age of steam: Historians hear about LaPorte's Rumely Co

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From 1853 until 1931, the Rumely Company was a fixture in LaPorte, Indiana. The story of the family and the businesses run by them was told by Leigh Morris, Mayor of LaPorte, guest speaker for the March 17 meeting of the Duneland Historical Society.

Meinrad Rumely came to the U. S. from Germany in 1848 and by 1853 was in LaPorte where he and his brother, Jacob, formed the M. & J. Rumely Co. which mostly made steel threshers until they produced their first portable steam engine in 1872. Meinrad bought out his brother and in 1882 the company became the M. Rumely Co. and in 1887 became M. Rumely Co., Inc.

Meinrad was the head of the company until his death in 1904. He and his wife Theresa Fierstoss Rumely had nine children. Their sons Joseph, William and Aloysius were active in the business along with Joseph’s son Edward who was a medical doctor.

John Secor was recruited in 1908 to join the Rumely Company in designing and producing a farm tractor. The result was the OilPull Tractor which was produced in a new tractor plant in LaPorte and shipped by the carload over the great Northern Railroad.

In 1915, the name was changed to the Advance-Rumely Thresher Company after a merger with the Advance Thresher Co. In 1931 the company was purchased by Allis Chalmers and the plant was finally closed in 1983.

The Rumely Hotel, a familiar landmark in LaPorte, opened in 1913 and has been converted into apartments. A well known mural of the history of agriculture which hung in the hotel is now in the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

Mayor Morris, during the question and answer portion of the program, said that the company at one time had 14 buildings and the only thing remaining is the power house which experts say is beyond saving. He said plans are being discussed concerning using bricks from the power house to reconstruct an archway with the company logo.

He said the tractors were in common use during the 1940s and 50s and some are known to still be in use.

The next meeting of the Duneland Historical Society will be April 21 at the Library Service Center. Dinner for members and guests, catered by Popalano’s, will start at 6:30 p.m. and the program meeting, open to the public, will start at 7:30. Dinner reservations @ $8.00 per person are due by April 14 and may be mailed to Duneland Historical Society, P. O. Box 2034, Chesterton, IN 46304.

Program presenter will be Jason Wesaw, Cultural Associate for the Pokagon Band of the Powatomi Indians who will speak on the history, culture and contemporary life of the Native American tribe most closely associated with Northwest Indiana.


Posted 3/24/2005