I am 83 years old, so the article (Farm Collector, March 2003) by Sherwood Hume revived a lot of old memories about old Rumely tractors. Nothing was mentioned about the one-cylinder Rumely or the fact that the kerosene models required water to be burnt with the fuel. They were extremely fussy about the water used. It had to be rain water, creek water, river water or else water dipped out of a slough. If well water was used, it would gum every-thing up, and they wouldn’t run properly – or at all.
In the early 1880s, August Pishkey homesteaded land in Willow Township, McPherson County, S.D. He ended up with four sons and no daughters. Somewhere in the following years, a large one-cylinder Rumely was acquired, but I have no idea if it was bought new or used. It was used to operate a large, mostly wooden threshing machine owned by my uncle Bill Valentine. August retired, moved to Florida and turned the farm over to his son, Walter. While Walter was a mechanical genius, he couldn’t have been a worse financial manager. Walter had three daughters and no sons, his youngest daughter was the same age as I, and we attended the same country school. When she was in the second grade, Walter went broke, sold out and moved to Minneapolis.
When Walter had his auction sale, the Rumelys didn’t sell as well as a real old three-plow Avery. After Walter left the farm, it had several different renters. I had lots of opportunity to crawl all over the old Rumelys and examine them. There were two of them parked one ahead of the other with the front one being a parts tractor. The parts tractor had the head removed, exposing the one huge piston. Later, the house burned down, and the farm was abandoned. Old-iron scavengers stole the tractor pieces for scrap. I am the only person still alive who would have any memories of these old tractors.
Also, another quite interesting Rumely history: Fred Bruns’, Heckla, S.D., folks bought a new Rumely and a threshing machine in 1911. Until Fred passed away about three years ago, it had threshed grain every year and had been in an end-less amount of parades. When he got too old to crank it, he ingeniously hooked up a starter with a roller chain to start it.
I understand he had restored several other Rumelys. He also had several 110-volt wind chargers on tall towers in his yard in working condition. He had acquired batteries for them from telephone companies when they changed to more modern equipment. He had helped install them all over the U.S. and Canada when he was a young man.
Since Fred passed away, I don’t know the present status of his old Rumely and thresher, although he was a very active member of the James Valley Threshing and Two-Cylinder Club, Andover, S.D. This is a big, well-organized group that has several working steam threshing rigs. They also put on steam plowing matches. After breaking his leg cranking the old Rumely, he flatly refused to have anything more to do with it.
Herb Flackal of Forbs, N.D., has a smaller Rumely that was one of two his father owned that he keeps in running condition for parades.
I hope all the above information will be of some help to various Rumely historians.
– Robert T. Valentine 4 7 7 Commercial Ave. S. W. Wolsey, SD 57384
On behalf of the Rumely family, I wanted to thank you for the great article you wrote in the April 2004 issue of Farm Collector magazine commemorating the Rumely Co.’s 150th anniversary. It was well written, completely accurate and very interesting – we are a little biased on the last part. Meinrad Rumely, our great grandfather, would be very proud of how you caught the spirit of the firm and the quality and integrity of the products they produced.
Many thanks for a job well done.
– Paul Rumely New York, N.Y. e-mail: email@example.com
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