Remembering Charlie Smith

By Staff
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Charlie Smith was 86 when this photo was taken in 1974.

11215 Oakland Drive, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49002

Back in 1973 I found a Rumely ‘6A’ No. 603. This tractor
was the 101st of the total of 802 that were built prior to Allis
Chalmers buying out Advance Rumely in 1931.

This tractor had been torn down 20 years prior to my finding it
on a parcel of land our daughter and son-in-law bought to build a
new home.

I had it hauled to Kalamazoo the following year and proceeded to
restore it. I finished it in December of that year. My wife called
the local newspaper and asked if they would like to write a story
on the restoration of this antique tractor. So they came out to
where the restoration had taken place and took some pictures. Then
I and a friend, Mr. Ray Noel, drove this tractor 12 miles home.
This was just before Christmas and it was a typical Michigan
winter, so we needed our mittens on.

In the article in the paper I asked for any information that
anyone could give me on this tractor. A few weeks later I received
a letter from C.B. Smith, a man from Kalamazoo, Michigan who was
wintering in Florida. He told me of being a field engineer with the
Rumely Company for 15 years in the early 1900’s, working for
them in South America with the Pancorvo Brothers, a Rumely dealer
in Peru. He later returned to Kalamazoo, Michigan and was a Rumely
dealer here until Allis Chalmers took over Rumely and then was with
them for a total of 40 years in business. He later sold his
business to his sons, Smith Brothers of Fulton, Michigan. They had
sent their dad the picture and the newspaper article.

Mr. Smith told me in his letter he sold my tractor to a Maynard
Fellows of Schoolcraft, Michigan. He said he sold many of them that
year in and out of Kalamazoo County and had records of most of the
transactions. He said he was a man of 86 years and would very much
like to meet me on his return to Kalamazoo in the spring.

Well, I think it was April or May 1974 that my wife and I went
to see Charlie and his wife at their home in Kalamazoo. What an
enjoyable day! 

This man told my wife and I of his many years with the Rumely
Company, both here and in South America, and showed us many
pictures taken in South America. Also he showed us pictures of his
hunting expeditions to Alaska and elsewhere with other Kalamazoo
businessmen. He seemed to remember his sales, etc., as though they
had taken place yesterday. He told of the sensitivity of the Rumely
six-governor and also the hand clutch. He said in sales
demonstrations he would remove his watch, put it between the
drawbar and a wall and hold it without breaking the crystal.

Charlie asked if we would like to come pick him up someday and
we would ride around the country to see some of his friends to whom
he had sold tractors. We took this jaunt. We stopped at my home
where he could see my tractor and we took his picture with this
tractor that he had sold new so many years before, we also stopped
at a Lloyd Strews of Schoolcraft where Charlie sold a Rumely Six.
About two years later this Lloyd Strews passed away. His widow held
an auction and now this Rumely Six belongs to Ron Miller of
Geneseo, Illinois.

Well, dear old Charlie passed away December 8, 1978 at the age
of 90 years. One of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever met. It was
1988 that I went to Fulton, Michigan to visit one of Charlie’s
sons. He gave me some copies of some of Charlie’s records from
Peru, South America and correspondence between him and the Rumely
Company. Charlie told of the testing of 12-20’s down there
against other tractors and plowing at 45 per acre, far surpassing
the competition in power and economy. It is no wonder Rumely was so
successful at that time.

In 1920 other records tell of an experiment at one of the
largest sugar and cotton growers in Peru and using a low grade of
alcohol made from sugar cane; it worked well with good results. At
the time Pancorvo Brothers sold some 15-30 F’s. They
recommended them to burn crude oil and many owners had trouble
resulting from the use of it.

In one particular instance the people have two 15-30 F’s and
they use crude oil with a mixture of five gallon kerosene to a tank
of crude with good success. The two 15-30’s are 64 years old
(1916’s) and due to having a good mechanic are in first class
condition. In fact, the owner is a big booster of the Oil Pull
tractor.

Now, as a footnote to this story, it might be of interest to the
newcomers out there in Engineland that the prototype to the world
famous Oil Pull built in 1909 and affectionately called
‘Kerosene Annie’ is alive and running in a museum called
Oscar’s Dreamland in Billings, Montana.

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