Loaded with strawberry crates from the box factory

King of crops loses its crown


Searcy Daily Citizen, June 2, 2000

The berries were plentiful, but the pickers were few in the 1960s, so the farmers changed to soybeans and other crops that could be harvested by machinery and California took over the plant and strawberry businesses.

The plants and berries were packed in boxes and crates purchased from Enterprise Box Company, located on the banks of the Little Red River in Judsonia and owned by C.A. Figley and J.H. Roth, II.

The company evolved from a factory started by the Cathcart brothers in 1885, when they moved from Bristol, Indiana, bringing with them their crude woodworking machinery.

J.M. and Frank Cathcart had two employees and they found and cut sweet gum logs, loaded them on a log wagon and brought they to the factory behind a yoke of oxen. Additional machinery was purchased and production increased.

The nearby supply of soft hardwood timber and the "ready to work" ethic of the available employees made this place an ideal location for the factory. The growing strawberry acreage provided a ready market and further improvements were made.

C.H. and W.F. Hoag were the next owners and some time in this span of years, the production of the one-quart measure baskets fell behind the demand for them.

They solved this in an unusual manner. The individual farmers purchased foot-operated stitching machines and made their own quarts with thin veneer purchased from the factory. (There were no 40-hour weeks then.) Many quarts were probably made by the light of a "coal oil" lantern.

The next owner, Wilshire Riley, sold the factory to C.A. Figley and J.H. Roth.

No longer were the quart containers made at home. Twenty female employees worked at stitching machines making what were known as "wood rim quarts." These containers gave way to "metal rim quarts" which were wooden containers with a crimped metal rim. These were purchased in carload lots from a plant in Virginia and shipped by rail.

After 1941, war clouds overshadowed the land and there was no problem selling any kind of product. The factory couldn’t keep up with the demand.

On July 4, 1944, the factory burned down to ashes.

Captain Charles A. Figley was with the infantry in Milne Bay, New Guinea. He received a "V" mail letter from his mother. The letter read, "Your father is bearing up well after the fire." It was three weeks of wondering what, where and how before he got the details.

The factory was rebuilt by C.A. Figley Sr. with the assistance of Dale McInturff in a new and more modern form. After a few years of operation, during which the decline in strawberry production was very drastic, the factory was sold in 1968.

The certificate of dissolution of Enterprise Box Company was filed June 19, 1994. But it left its mark on the life and economy of Judsonia. There are still a number of old timers who speak, sometimes fondly, of "the factory."