The Society's Historic Site Designation Committee has gone to great lengths in researching James H. Doxsee and the Doxsee Clam Factory. In our search, we found two significant articles that colorfully describe the evolution of the Doxsee family and factory within the Hamlet of Islip. The rise of the family-named clam factory on Long Island's south shore and its subsequent transfer to North Carolina were highlighted in them.
Before reading the articles, there are some facts to keep in mind. First, the idea of canning clams was not James H. Doxsee's; he is, however, credited for the effective processing of them. Also, despite extensive research it appears that he never filed a patent for the successful canning of seafood. Second, James had two partners in Islip in the canning business; both were his brothers-in-law (Selah Whitman and later Nathaniel Ketcham).
Once the business moved to Ocracoke, North Carolina, it was run by his oldest son, Henry S. Doxsee. Third, while some administrative functions continued in Islip, the firm essentially closed all operations in Islip in 1905. The maps below of 1897 and 1902 indicate the location of the factory on the east side of Orowoc Creek off of Maple Avenue.
This marker is located at the intersection of Maple Street and Ocean Avenue.
You can visit it now using Google Street View.
Local entrepreneurs experiment with seafood canning on property leased from James H. Doxsee.
James H. Doxsee and Selah Whitman purchase factory and equipment for the canning of seafood.
First attempt at canning quahogs or hard clams although Doxsee had previously canned corn and tomatoes for several years. After experimentation, successful canning of hard-shell clams and seafood was achieved.
American "Lunch Fish" introduced to undersell sardines. "Lunch Fish" was composed primarily of bunkers (bait fish).
Doxsee plant cans 30,000 bunkers, 6,000 bushels of clams, 400 bushels of tomatoes and 10 acres of corn.
Factory expanded again including second story.
Oldest son Henry establishes branch of business in Ocracoke, North Carolina.
James H. Doxsee moves factory to his residence on Main Street to serve as a carriage house.
Business moves entirely to North Carolina.
Islip, December 7, 1901 - Born in the village of Islip three-quarters of a century ago where he has always resided, time, indeed, has dealt most kindly with James Harvey Doxsee, Islip's best-known citizen. His rugged countenance is well-remembered by every visitor to this area. Although having passed the seventy-sixth milestone along life's pathway, he is still as active as most men of half his years. His physical condition is practically unimpaired while his mental faculties continue to grow brighter with age. He daily discharges the many duties that devolve upon him with the vim of a school boy in the first flush of vigorous manhood.
Mr. Doxsee was not reared in the lap of luxury so to speak, but on the contrary, was born among humble surroundings being the son of poor but thrifty parents and early in life learned the lessons of industry and economy. His father's (Archelaus Doxsee) only capital when he started in business for himself was a team of oxen and one horse, which he drove ahead of the oxen, being unable to afford to purchase a team. The prudent habits learned in his youth served Mr. Doxsee in good stead in later years and enabled him to build up an ample fortune, the fruits of which he has enjoyed in his latter days.
The family originally came from Dutchess County, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch settling in this section of Long Island a century and a quarter ago. Archelaus Doxsee, father of James H. Doxsee, was born in Islip on August 31, 1778. The senior Doxsee followed the avocation of a farmer, residing on the Nicoll Patent during the early portion of his life. It was on what is now known as the Stellenwerf property, then a portion of the original patent, that James H. Doxsee was born. In 1834 the senior Doxsee bought a large tract of land and during the remainder of his life continued to pursue the peaceful but arduous avocation of a farmer. A portion of the tract was heavily wooded and from this land he cut several thousand cords of wood, which at that time found ready purchasers in the New York market. The wood was shipped via schooner plying between Islip and the harbor of New York of which the senior Doxsee’s oldest son, Moses, was Master. James H. Doxsee succeeded his father in the management of the farm and followed that avocation until the close of the civil War. During the summer of 1865 two strangers hailing from eastern Long Island leased from Mr. Doxsee a small site on the shore of the creek adjoining his property for the purpose of canning clams. The men carried on the industry in a crude sort of way that season and found a ready market for what few goods they manufactured.
Mr. Whitman, having become very weary of the enterprise, retired from the partnership and Mr. Doxsee later associated himself with another brother-in-law, Nathaniel Ketcham. The goods at that time commanded a high price and the annually-increasing output found ready purchasers throughout the Union and netted the concern large dividends on their investments. Mr. Ketcham, however, finally decided to retire and Mr. Doxsee continued the business alone, taking his sons, Henry S. and John C., into partnership with him. Some five years ago the business was incorporated into a stock company with a capital of $20,000. The stock is owned entirely by the family, Mr. Doxsee and his two sons being directors.
The failure of the concern to purchase clams sui table for their output and at figures consistent with the decline of prices, it was recently decided to remove the business to Ocracoke N. C., where Mr. Doxsee’s oldest son, Henry S. Doxsee, had some years previously established a branch of the business. At the latter place clams are plentiful and indications point to the bivalves becoming even more so. Mr. Doxsee will continue at the head of the enterprise and will conduct the business end of the concern at his residence in Islip. For many years the firm gave their exclusive attention to the canning of clams, but a decade and a half ago they conceived the idea of utilizing the broth which had previously been emptied into the creek at a clear loss, and later also engaged in the manufacture of chowder. The broth and chowder output are now an important factor in their enterprise.
The factory in years past was one of the mainstays of the Village, the concern having a very large payroll and many persons found employment there. Of late, owing to the inabi1ity to get clams, a much smaller force has been employed and while the removal of the plant is greatly regretted, the loss is not so keenly felt as it would have been some years ago. The machinery and other apparatus of the factory will be conveyed directly from Islip to Ocracoke by a big lumber schooner.
Mr. Doxsee was reared in the Democratic political faith and has always taken an interest in his party's welfare, but in no sense has he been an office seeker, holding views that would not allow him to be at the beck and call of party leaders and hence regards the private station as the post of honor. He served a term as assessor and is at present a member of the Board of Audit of Islip Town. He has for many years been a director of the South Side Bank of Bay Shore and is at present one of the Vice Presidents of the Bank. He was also for many years a member of the local Board of Education. Mr. Doxsee has also been a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church and has for years served as elder and trustee.
Mr. Doxsee has been twice married. His first wife, Miss Almira Smith, died in 1865. His second wife, to whom he was married some years later, was a Miss Jennings.
Mr. Doxsee is still the owner of about 500 acres of land and pursues the avocation of an agriculturist along with his many other duties. A portion of his Ocean Avenue tract has been divided into building sites and on this valuable portion of his estate he has erected several very handsome cottages which are much sought after by summer residents. Mr. Doxsee has done more to develop Islip than any other resident at present within its bounds and has worked early and late for any movement calculated to advance the best interests of the area, and his life has been a very busy one.
Mr. Doxsee and his family reside in a large and handsome residence on Main Street situated on the shores of a pretty lake. The interior of his office in the east wing of his residence is tastefully ornamented with clam shells, presenting a very unique as well as a pleasing appearance.
* Biographical sketch of James Harvey Doxee; newspaper clipping dated Dec 7, 1901; p. 2; Author Unknown; edited Nov. 1994, by Karen P. Silverthorn.
When fall came, Mr. Doxsee, whose keen foresight led him to believe that there was an opportunity for a fortune to be made in the enterprise by a person with ample capital, offered to purchase the plant of the men who had leased the site from him. The offer was quickly accepted and the following spring found Mr. Doxsee and his brother-in-law, Selah Whitman, actively engaged in the new enterprise. The canning process was then in its infancy, although the popularity of canned goods during the war had given the enterprise a decided impetus and the new firm found no difficulty in finding a market for their output. They soon were brought face to face with a serious problem in the failure of the goods to keep resulting in the cans swelling and the contents spoiling. Mr. Doxsee, not at all discouraged and with characteristic determination, decided to overcome this difficulty and called in one expert after another but with no success whatever He finally learned from a party to whom he paid a liberal sum for the information the cause for the failure of the goods to keep in the past and ever afterwards had no difficulty along that line.
PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD
James H. Doxsee. This name is identified with the Village of Islip, thousands knowing of the existence of this place only by the fact that from it is sent forth that unique but valuable article known as Doxsee’s pure Little-neck Clam Juice. This is a business that has been built up from the most modest beginnings, until now Doxsee's Clam Juice, Little-Neck Clams and Chowder are handled by nearly all wholesale and retail grocers in the United States. These invaluable preparations are highly commended by medical men, both for the purity of their manufacture and their wholesome character as a food. Some of the most prominent physicians of Long Island have not hesitated to affix their names to unqualified endorsements of these articles, which are used in their family practices.
The father of our subject, Archelaus Doxsee, was a farmer and was born on Long Island August 31, 1778. Coming to Islip while still a boy, he spent his entire life here. He was an extensive land owner and bought the farm where our subject now lives in 1834. He was twice married, Phoebe Ruland becoming his first wife. She died in the year 1814 leaving five children whose names were Moses, Henry, Mary, Charlotte and Phoebe. His second wife, whose maiden name was Sarah Smith, lived to be nearly eighty-two years old and by a previous marriage was the mother of one child, Whitman, who is now deceased. By her marriage with Mr. Doxsee she had four children of whom our subject and his sister, Mrs. Elsey C. Cook of Brooklyn, are the only ones now living, Phoebe and Scudder having died many years ago.
James H. Doxsee, who was born July 31, 1825, was brought up on the old farm and while still young was made familiar with the work that characterizes the life of a farmer. He attended the district school of the Village and, as he had a good opportunity for gaining an education and as he was of an earnest and determined character, he made rapid progress and thus worked out for himself a very good intellectual training. Very fond of his home and its surroundings, it was seldom that he was away from the old place so that his parents came to rely upon his steadiness and stability of character. When his father died he took charge of the farm in conjunction with his mother and upon her death became sole owner of one of the best farms on Long Island. At that time the farm consisted of about four hundred and fifty acres, to which he has added contiguous property from time to time and has also disposed of certain tracts. It is now about the size it was originally.
Mr. Doxsee saw a business in clams even before the civil War had closed and in 1865 he opened out very modestly in this direction, being the first person to engage in the business of packing clams on the Island. He has built up a great trade from a small beginning and his products are now familiar all over the land. He keeps up the quality of his goods and conducts the business with judgment and success. Mr. Doxsee has been twice married, his first wife being Almira Smith of Islip, who was the mother of four children and died in 1865. Henry, the eldest son, is associated with his father in the clam business and was married in 1873 to Carrie Peters of Poughkeepsie and is the father of five children, Charles 0., James H., William H., Mabel and Helen. Milton and all the other children of the first union died in infancy. His second wife was Almira Smith Jennings, daughter of Henry S. Jennings, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work. Her early 1ife was passed in Brooklyn and in Plainfield, Ill., and she became the mother of nine children, of whom John C., Robert Lennox, Frank Cooper, Sarah Elsie and Elmira Bell are now living; James H., Frederick Allen, Grace Eliza and Anna Jennings are deceased.
Our subject has been actively associated with the Democratic party. Both he and his wife are prominent members of the Presbyterian Church of which he has been Trustee, Treasurer and Elder and is commonly regarded as the mainstay of the church. The factory over which our subject presides now has a capacity of four hundred bushels of clams a day and he pays the highest market price for all that he can get. His business has grown to large proportions and is constantly enlarging.
Mr. Doxsee is one of the solid men of the County and lives in a beautiful home surrounded by elegant grounds in which are artificial lakes and fine shrubbery. He has fitted up a water power that operates from a turbine wheel all sorts of machinery in the house and in the barn. A ram elevates water to a tank in the attic of the house from where it is distributed wherever it is needed. Here the genial subject of this article lives, commanding the respect and confidence of his fellow men, as one whose long and useful life has done much to help on the world.
* Edited November, 1994, by Karen P. Silverthorn.
Google Street View
JAMES HARVEY DOXSEE, ISLIP
Closely Identified with the Village Growth
CANNING FACTORY TO REMOVE
Its Small Beginnings and Vigorous Growth
Mr. Doxsee's Close Association with other Important Interests on the South Side