Location: Northwest corner of Lincolnway and Madison Streets, La Porte
Dedicated: March 15, 2003
View facing West
THE RUMELY COMPANIES Meinrad Rumely (1823-1904), a German immigrant, founded a blacksmith shop here in 1853, which grew into a dominant company through reorganizations and acquisitions, Rumely companies in La Porte benefited from available rail transportation plus German and later Polish immigrant laborers. Products included a wide variety of agricultural machines.
View facing East
THE RUMELY COMPANIES Rumely's prizewinnng thresher later became one of the earliest powered by steam. Thousands of OilPull tractors sold worldwide 1910-1930. Rumely companies were at the forefront of mechanization of American and world agriculture and had significant impact on La Porte. Allis-Chalmers acquired the firm 1931 and closed La Porte plant 1983.
The Rumely Companies
Meinrad Rurnely came to the United Stales after an unfortunate experience with the military in his homeland of Germany, He was born in Adelsburg, Baden, Germany, February 9, 1823. He came to the United States in 1848 at the age of 25. He had worked as a millwright in Germany in many villages and upon reaching the age required to enter military school, he did so with the intention of service for two years. However, an unfortunate incident happened during the last day of drilling in which he stepped forward a few inches beyond the line of the company, the captain struck, him with a pistol as punishment. This was severe enough to cause him to be hospitalized and following this incident, his parents gave him sufficient funds to make the trip to the United States.
He embarked from Havre, France and it took 64 days to reach New York. His brothers, John and Jacob, had come to the U.S. in 1846. Meinrad passed through Castle Garden and it was there all of his money was taken from his trunk. Fortunately, he found a job in a machine shop which gave him enough money to go further west. He left New York for Buffalo on the Erie Canal, from there sailed to Cleveland, and then walked the fifty or so miles to Canton, Ohio where his brother, Jacob, was engaged in making wooden pumps. John worked as a pattern maker for Russell & Co. in Massillon, Ohio, which was quite near Canton. Meinrad remained in Ohio working at several jobs included one with Moffet Co, of Waupaconetta, Ohio, erecting threshing machines. This was his first experience with a machine that would be a part of his future.
It was in Canton that he married Theresa Fierstos, in April 1855. She had arrived in the United States when only 9 years old. From this union, ten children were born.
They moved to Chicago later, then to Clinton, Iowa, St. Paul, Minnesota and then back to Chicago where he learned about La Porte and that a railroad was to built from Toledo to Chicago and the shops were to be located here. He came to La Porte where there were already several people in business who had come from Germany and who urged him to start a machine shop and foundry here. That was the beginning of the Rumely Companies. Meinrad died here April 1, 1904 and is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery.
For anyone wishing to become more knowledgeable about this line, I invite you to visit the La Porte County Historical Society's Museum Research Area. All of the backup materials for the application for the marker are on file there. Staff at the museum will be happy to point you to references to further your research of this very important part of La Porte County's history.
History presented by Fern Eddy Schultz
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