Copy of biographical sketch of James Harvey Doxsee, newspaper article from Gardner’s Cottage, datelined December 7, 1901.
JAMES HARVEY DOXSEE, ISLIP
Closely Identified With 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
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, whose rugged countenance is well remembered by every visitor to this place. 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, and he daily discharges the many duties that devolve upon him with the vim of a schoolboy 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 his life learned the lessons of industry and economy. His father Archelaus Doxsee’s 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 after years, and enabled him to build up the 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, and it was on what is now known as the Stellenwerf property, then a portion of the original patent, that James H. 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 of 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. 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 of 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, the cans swelling and the contents spoiling. Mr. Doxsee, not at all discouraged, with characteristic determination decided to overcome this difficulty, and called in one expert after another, but without any 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. Mr. Whitman, having become weary of the enterprise, retired from the partnership, and Mr. Doxsee later associated himself with another brother in law, Nathanial Ketchum. 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. Ketchum, however, finally decided to retire, and Mr. Doxsee continued the business alone, taking his sons, Henry S. and John C. Doxsee 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 firm to purchase clams suitable for their output, and at figures consistent with the decline of prices, it was recently decided to remove the business to Ocracoke, North Carolina, 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 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 the chowder output are now an important factor in the 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 inability to get clams, a much smaller force has been employed, and while the removal of the plant is keenly 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 direct 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 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 life long 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 five hundred 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 interest of the place, and his life has been a 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 decorated with clam shells, presenting a very unique as well as pleasing appearance.