LAPORTE | Two companies that left a lasting impression on LaPorte and the lives of many individuals will be remembered in a museum in the works.
The exterior of the 4,000 square foot Rumely-Allis Chalmers Heritage Center at the LaPorte County fairgrounds is finished.
"Basically, the outer shell of the building is complete," said Paul Rymer, treasurer of the museum.
Work on the interior has now begun with the goal of opening the museum as soon as August depending on how fast more donations come in.
Rymer said about $140,000 has been raised toward the $200,000 goal.
The work is being funded strictly with donations, so as the money comes in, a workshop where Allis Chalmers and Rumely tractors and farm implements will be restored for show at the museum will be added in future years.
A third building also is in the master plan to house larger pieces made by Allis Chalmers and Rumely Co., said Rymer.
LaPorte Purdue Extension educator Gene Matzat said Rumely Co. and its famous oil pull tractor was a major part of the country's industrialization allowing farmers to start harvesting with machines instead their hands.
Matzat said the oil pull tractor was equipped with a thresher driven by a belt to quickly separate crops like wheat from the chaffs and corn from the cobs during a period where such a thing was practically unheard of.
In 1931, Allis Chalmers purchased Rumely Co. and during its peak employed thousands at its LaPorte operation, which did not make tractors but churned out mostly corn pickers and combines, said Rymer.
Allis Chalmers shut its doors in LaPorte in the early 1980s but even today there's usually one or even several orange and black tractors once made by Allis Chalmers driven in a parade or some other special event locally.
Matzat said the museum will appeal not only to older farmers and collectors but, perhaps, even younger generations curious about how agriculture used to function.
"It's just real important to have something like that for our heritage," said Fred Gloor, a Hamlet area resident who used to own a Allis Chalmers dealership along Ind. 39 on LaPorte's south side.
Rymer said tractors and other equipment from both companies have been donated for use in the museum by descendants of the Rumely family and collectors from all parts of the country and even overseas.
Rymer said pieces at the museum will be kept in a rotation so different tractors and farm implements are on display every six months or so.
"It's not going to be a static display where you see the same things over and over again," said Rymer.
The fundraising should be given a major shot in the arm during what's called The Gathering of the Orange where collectors from all over are expected to descend upon the fairgrounds Aug. 14-17 to showcase primarily their Allis Chalmers tractors.
He said thousands always flock to similar events held across different parts of the nation.
Rymer said donations can be given by contacting him at (219) 369-1690.