Boyer’s Crate Factory
In 1936, Charles Boyer and his brother, Elton, started a crate factory on North Main Street in Biglerville. After a year, they founded Guernsey Crate Factory (Charles G. Boyer Box Factory), which made crates and pallets.
At one time, the building that housed the factory was the passenger and freight station for the railroad at Guernsey and was also the post office. Later it served as a warehouse for the Tyson family.
In 1945, Charlie bought out Elton’s interest.
There were six employees working at the establishment in January of 1955. On the evening of Friday, January 21, 1955 a neighbor discovered flames near the center of the factory. The fire department was called and Biglerville firemen arrived about 8:45 and began fighting the blaze. From the Gettysburg Times: Two streams nearby were dry and a farm pond recently constructed at the B.W. Hughaes property has not as yet filled with water because of the dry weather. A pond at the George Schachle farm was full of water, but firemen could not get across the railroad to approach it.
According to Chief Fissel, ordinarily there would be enough water around Guernsey to fight any fire. Between the drought and the winter there wasn’t any water nearby last night. One truck with a 125-gallon capacity remained pumping water continuously, while the other emptied its tank and then went to the Lloyd Garretson pond, nearly two miles away, to secure more water. Residents of the Guernsey area formed a bucket brigade from a nearby well to augment the flow of water into the pumper remaining at the scene.
The Biglerville chief called Arendtsville, Bendersville and Aspers. Bendersville set up one pumper at the Garretson pond and throughout the night filled the tanks of other fire engines as they arrived from the scene.
Firemen for a time believed they had the fire under control. The blaze died down and smoke had cleared from the rear end of the structure. At that point firemen believed that had they been able to pump water directly they could have saved the remainder of the structure. But with most of the equipment engaged in running back and forth for water, the blaze gained slowly. Then it burst through the roof, and the entire structure was afire.
Gettysburg fire department was called at around 9:45, as the blaze threatened the store nearby and a house on the other side owned by Clarence Rausher. Firemen from Biglerville remained at the scene until3:45 Saturday morning when all embers had finally been extinguished and there was no longer any danger of fire spreading.
Besides the machinery, wood, and equipment, a “truckload” of pallets completed Friday for shipment to Philadelphia Monday was lost in the blaze. More than 700 completed crates were moved when firemen and others formed a “crate brigade” to pass out the wooden boxes and pile them on a lawn nearby.
An estimated 250 firemen, from five companies, and with 11 pieces of apparatus, took part in the fight to save the factory, but ultimately ended in a successful struggle to keep the fire from spreading to the store and post office about 40 feet away.
Rake Factory Road
After losing the Guernsey factory, Charlie took over his family’s business, the rake factory on what is now Rake Factory Road. This rake factory began making crates and pallets in the 1920’s. Charlie told the Gettysburg Times in 1981, “They made rakes before the reaper was invented. The rakes were used to rake the grain.” After the reaper came, since the 1920’s, the rake factory made crates and pallets.
On April 15, 1962, crates fell on a stove and caught fire. Prompt arrival of Biglerville firemen prevented any great damage.
Fourth and Hanover Streets
In 1965, Charlie’s brother, Joe, retired and Charlie took over the factory at 4th and Hanover Streets, making crates, pallets, and expendable pallets.
The Boyer crate, designed by Charlie’s father, has the three-cornered hardwood post which is kinder to the fruit’s flesh. Charlie said in 1981, “If you put them in where it’s dry when you’re not using them, they will last 25 years. I’ve seen bushel crates my Dad made in 1937.”
Until the big bins became the style of major processors, Joe Boyer made crates for Musselmans and
Charlie made them for Knouses. The biggest market in 1981 was local growers who still want a bushel or half bushel crate. John Peters, Vice President of Knouse Foods, first saw the 25 bushel bulk bins on a trip to California. Upon his return, John worked with Charlie to design and construct the first bulk bins in Adams County.
Charlie sold crates to customers in North Carolina, New York State and Ohio. Universities such as Rutgers, U. of Maryland and Virginia have placed big orders. The factory in Biglerville had enough orders to keep four men busy year-round making 200 crates a day.
On March 21, 1976, twisters sighted during a heavy rainstorm in the Biglerville and Littlestown areas produced damage to roofs and toppled trees over a wide area. From the Gettysburg Times: In
Biglerville, the twister caused an estimated $20,000 damage when it ripped off the cement block gabled attic and roof on the Charles Boyer craft and pallet factory at the corner of E. Hanover and Fourth Sts. Joseph Boyer, who owns the building said the twister ripped and blew the roofing materials and some lumber stored in the attic over a 500-feet area. County firemen were called in to assist Biglerville firemen, led by Fire Chief Robert Baker, in clearing debris from the Boyer factory that was lying across Fourth and Hanover Streets.
The factory was sold to Fred Nelson in 1981. The F.R. Nelson Cratery continued producing crates until 1988, when the factory was sold to Joe Wisotzkey. The factory closed sometime between 2002 and 2007. In 2007, GO SPORT Physical Therapy, was planning on using the site to construct a new
building for a satellite office in Biglerville.
Sources: Gettysburg Times 10/31/1981; 1/22/1955; 3/22/1976; 4/21/2007; Kim Nelson; J. Larry Boyer
Information compiled by Brenda Mulvey October, 2023