The Doxsee legacy
Pictured from left to right: Fisherman David Suk of Center Moriches; Bob Doxsee Jr.; and Hugo Sputenga, Fort Neck Dredging.

The Doxsee legacy

Story By: STAFF WRITER
11/23/2016


By DAWN DIANGELO

BOHEMIA—On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Bob Doxsee Jr. visited the Connetquot Public Library to share the Doxsee legacy of growing up in a fishing and clamming family.  From the moment he entered the room, Doxsee discovered a connection to his past in an old friend with whom he had stories to share.  As the room filled, the connections grew; family, friends, friends of friends, and ocean brethren tethered by challenges only a few share.

This rich and complex history begins with his great-grandfather, James Harvey Doxsee, born in Islip on July 31, 1825.  Inheriting his father’s 400 acres, James Harvey developed a keen interest in canning the farm’s produce. It was his interest in clams, however, an abundant South Shore resource, that led to the formation of J.H. Doxsee and Son in 1865. 

  In 1892, the American Institute in New York awarded a Medal of Excellence to James Harvey and his company for his clam juice.  During that same year, advertising lauded the benefits of clam juice as a cure-all for a number of ailments.  In 1897, his eldest son Henry relocated to Ocracoke, N.C., to form another branch of the family business. Around 1910, another son, James Harvey II, relocated to Marco Island, Fla. It was there he operated a cannery until about 1948.  As for the original site in Islip, there is now a sign that reads, “Site of Doxsee Clam Company 1866-1905.” 

Already becoming a legacy, Bob Doxsee Jr. recounted his own introduction to the family business through the life and memories of his father, Bob Doxsee Sr., a WWI veteran and former mayor of Freeport.  Doxsee said his father “wore a size 8 shoe, a skinny man who was Superman from the waist up.” By 1933, Doxsee Sr. had moved the family business to Point Lookout and called it the Bright Eye Fish Company.  According to Bob Jr., “bright eyes are the hallmark of fresh fish.” 

 Bob Doxsee’s earliest memories are of time spent with his father and beloved Uncle Spencer.  It was only natural for him to enter into the family business. Through his PowerPoint presentation, an array of photos, black and white as well as color, and the spirit of a deep-sea fisherman, Doxsee shared his family’s legacy. 

From the starched blouses his mother wore to the photographs of his younger self in Point Lookout amidst a multitude of siblings and cousins, Doxsee basked in a life at the edge of an ocean.  He longed to spend time with the older men and fill his father’s boots.  He detailed the process from a time when all the work was done by hand until the use of machinery was added to the process. Either way, it was still hard work.

The boats, Day Star and Bright Eye, are long gone, but the memories of Reynolds Channel are vibrant.  The last remnants of a livelihood rescinded by Hurricane Sandy, Bob Doxsee still resides in Point Lookout.  He has a desire to share his family’s past for future generations who want to know the story.  

Those who came to the program understood the language, an oceanic nostalgia of ups and downs, and were determined not to let it slip away.  It was an evening of memories shared, old friends reconnecting, and history becoming crystal clear.  Doxsee, Carman, Verity – these generations who made their living on the ocean will not be forgotten.

If you would like to learn more about local history, please visit the Connetquot Public Library and stop at our Local History section located in the Adult Reference section.