BUSINESSES:  WEST SAYVILLE -
WATERFRONT & SHELLFISHING

 

 

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Shellfishing: A long ago oyster shanty

 

 

West and East Harbors

 

Naval Station

 

 

Packing & Shipping

 

Major Shippers

 

 

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Sealshipt

 

The Bluepoints Company

 

 

clams 125

Others on Waterfront

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

SHELLFISHING

 


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Oyster Shanty of Long Ago

 

 

 

Tonging oysters through the cut ice

 

 

Dredging for oysters

 

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Tonging for clams

 

 

Baymen loading

 

End of the day

 

 

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Left for topping roads

 

Documents dating back to the original Indian residents have reminded us that "oysters, clams and fish, with great numbers of wild fowls" abounded in the Great South Bay and that, for many years, "farming, fishing and oystering were the principal employment".  Although oysters were in the lead position, shell fishermen making their living from the Bay did not usually confine themselves to one species. In late fall or winter oyster high season, they were either dredging or tonging, perhaps through the ice, on an oyster boat or culling or shucking in a "shanty"/ plant; in spring, they might be tonging seed oysters from natural beds in the east end of the Bay or receiving them from Connecticut, either to be planted in growing beds in the west; in summer  clam high season, they would be tonging or raking clams in the mid- or western Bay; and then back to oysters in the fall. At any time, they might also have engaged in finfishing, principally for fluke, flounder, striped bass or others.  Some baymen operated independently, others contracted with local shippers to harvest and shuck their catch and/or sold it to one shipper;  generally, if they were under contract they were not permitted to sell to anyone else. Shellfish reproduction and growth are heavily dependent upon nature of  sea bottom: salinity, temperature and turbidity of the water; and shifting inlets and tidal flows.  Thus, in the 1800s the "natural oyster beds" in the eastern Bay (i.e., east of Nicoll Point) which were well removed  from waters of the Atlantic Ocean were found good for developing "seed" oysters; these were then transferred to the western Bay where they grew faster and fatter to maturity.  However, after the Civil War,  Connecticut  producers developed a new culture of seed production which appeared superior to that being obtained locally and they began marketing to the local growers.  Seed oysters were shipped down in schooners and several Conneticut producers such as H.J. Lewis of Bridgeport established local marketing operations (see Sayville: Lewis Blue Point Oyster Company).  This "imported" seed led to higher volumes from the Bay, as high as 70,000 barrels  marketed annually by the early 1900s.

 

Some Oyster Weights and Measurements
There are many different kinds/varieties and, thus,  sizes of edible oysters.  Generally,
       for oysters that were found in the Great South Bay, shell accounted for about 75%
 of its weight, a bushel weighed about 80 pounds, and about three bushels filled a
barrel; individual tonging could produce about 10 bushels whereas a dredge could
 harvest 60 bushels a day....an acre of bottomland could deliver about 500 bushels.... 
ne bushel of "select" oysters (about 250) produced about one gallon of oyster meat
   .... "shuckers" had to open about 2,000 oysters a day to earn a decent wage.

 

However, further damage to the local natural seed beds,  notably caused by break through of the Moriches Inlet in March 1931 - which increased salinity and brought more predators such as drills (marine snails) - and also the hurricane of September 1938,  resulted in  95% of all all marketed "Blue Point" oysters being grown from Connecticut seed by mid-Century.Nevertheless, after the troubles of the 1930s, the oyster industry had gone into decline, replaced to some extent by hard clams which can tolerate a wider variety of environmental conditions.  Unfortunately, neither the 1940s nor the early 1950s were  propitious for either oysters or clams because of algae arising as a result of the closing of Moriches inlet.  The Inlet was re-opened in the mid-1950s, helping clear the Bay water and the resurgence of the hard clams but as this resurgence occurred, more clammers switched from tongs to rakes used for harvesting, more rapidly decreasing the increasing supply, and the peak year for hard clam harvest was probably 1976.  The appearance of "Brown Tide" in 1985 and its subsequent re-appearance in following years further curtailed clam harvests.  Efforts to significantly re-establish the clam industry have not been been satisfactory.

 

Another local problem evolved from the question of who owned the Bay bottom. Brookhaven Township was populated well ahead of Islip Township and its residents fished  not only their own waters but also those of eastern Islip, including some considered private property by  descendants of the William Nicoll who originally held a patent from the english Crown. With a view of the growing oyster trade and its possible revenue, about 1850 the Town of Brookhaven began  leasing specific two-acre lots for planting and harvesting oysters at a charge of two dollars a year for five years; these leases were see as infringing on both Islip (although they could be leased by Islip residents) and the Smith heirs who had inherited land and Bay bottom. Thus, Islip also instituted licensing regulations in 1857 and in 1880 both Towns reached a mutual agreement, both sharing the disputed Nicoll area between them. These underwater lease systems continued for over a century.

 

By the late 1800s, oyster shanties dotted the shore from Oakdale to Blue Point. However, possibly sparked by the establishment of the 2,000 acre South Side Sportsmen's Club in April 1866, over the same years Oakdale had also become popular among wealthy New Yorkers as an ideal location for "summer homes".  Among them was Commodore Frederick Bourne, Presidentof the Singer Sewing Machine Company, who made his first land purchase there in 1889 and over the next eight years bought 400 acres from Colonel William Ludlow for $ 80,000.  In 1893, Captain Jacob Ockers of West Sayville outbid Bourne for 13 acres of Ludlow property whichhe acquired for $ 2,300; as the final purchase, Ockers sold this piece to Bourne for more than $20,000.  Following this, many oystermen lost their land leases although,  in accordance with the sales agreements, they were able to continue using their premises for as long as another ten years. In preparation for relocation and recognizing that nearby West Sayville was not only their homes but also close to favored oyster beds, they directed their attention there.  By 1910, there were eleven companies headquartered in the town: 

Bluepoints William Rudolf
T.H. Dykstra G. Vanderborgh & Son
Charles Mills Wolfer VanPopering
Edward Ockers Van Wyen Oyster Company
Federick Ockers  Westerbeke Brothers
 Jacob Ockers  

 

 In addition, four were in Sayville:                                 

                    

N. S. Ackerly & Son   Excelsior Bluepoint Oyster
Beebe Brothers  Lewis Blue Point Oyster
                                            

          

All images courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

HARBORS

 

 

West Basin, 1982

 

 

East Basin, 1982

 

In the late 1880s, most boats -  catboats and sloops used by bayman for oystering and clamming and a few pleasure boats were moored or anchored in open water south of Sayville or  West Sayville;  there was only a very small  pier at the end of West Avenue., providing some shelter.  A severe storm in August 1893 badly damaged the fleet of about 75 craft.  The local population felt strong need for a bigger harbor and appealed to Samuel P. Greene (See West Sayville: Main Street).  Green still owned considerable land near the shore and dredged the meadows, opening Green's Harbor in 1896 for anyone willing to pay his annual fee: catboats, $8 and sloops, $10.

 

 

Breach in South Bulkhead, 1905

 

 

Jacob Ockers "Shanty", Foot of West Avenue. 1909

 

Loading Oysters, 1909

 

 

East Basin, May 1917 ( Distant: Cedarshore

    Hotel, which burned June 1917, and Casino)

 

 

West Basin, Foot of West Avenue:  To accomodate their relocation from Oakdale, seven of the baymen - Westerbeke Brothers (John, Edward, William), Ockers Brothers (Jacob and Frederick), William Rudolph, John VanWynne - formed a partnership and purchased land from Samuel Green between Atlantic and West Avenues which encompassed the West Harbor; in the summer of 1902, they added to the existing pier at the end of West Avenue by building southern and eastern bulkheads and forming West Basin (a/k/a Green's Harbor).  Oyster houses lined the north side, replacing Schaper's pound-net fishery. In 1937, the Town of Islip built the outer basin pier for private commercial boats. Thus, the Basin provided home for oyster, clam and finfishing vessels for over  60 years, excepting 1917-1919  when it served as a Naval Station.  In  the 1970s, Harry Schnepf bought the property from George VanderBorgh and altered it to become Dutchman's Cove, a recreational marina.  In 1985, it was acquired by the DeAngelis Family,  renamed and upgraded to a more modern facility.

 

All images courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

HARBORS

 

  

 In accordance with act of Congress approved August 29, 1916  the U.S. Navy Department is 

   prepared to enroll in U.S. Naval Reserve Force, the Masters, Engineers and men of the local 

  commercial craft, especially those employed on tugs, fishing vessels and dredges...electricians

  who may qualify in cable work in connection with submarine mining...radio operators...  

   machinists, blacksmiths, ships carpenters, riggers, riveters...etc....each to be given provisional  

   rank or rating  in accordance with his individual capacity and his value to the service 

 

 

SP-251, formerly Sunbeam II owned by

Robert Barnwell Roosevelt, 1918

 

 

SP-343, original Gil Smith sailboat outfitted with deck gun, formerly Nemesis owned by Walter Suydam, Jr, 1918

 

 

 

Naval Station (Third Naval District, Section Base No. 5), Foot of West Avenue:   The  Naval
Coast Defense Reserve was activated in March 1917. Lieutenant Robert B. Roosevelt of Bayport was designated as Commanding Officer of the Sayville Station, responsible for the coast from Montauk to Fire Island Inlet; Ensign Walter L. Suydam, Jr. was second-in-command. The intention was to recruit as many qualified local men as possible to fill their complement of 40 to 50. Their boats (above) were two in the local group of five; when taken over , the boats were assigned numbers and fitted out, as appropriate, with canons and rapid fire guns at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The former Westerbeke oyster house at the foot of West Street was rented for $ 100 a month for housing crews. The complement Patrol duties included prevention of  unauthorized supplies reaching enemy submarines, general watch for and defusing of mines and other obstructions, police duties, and assistance to Naval Aviation and Coast Guard.  The unit also had collateral land duties, most notably prevention of unauthorized wireless activity at the local Telefunken installation (see West Sayville: Main Street and North) .The Naval Station was closed and the three buildings were sold at public auction on February15th, 1919.

 

East Basin, Foot of Atlantic Avenue :   In 1907, when Jacob Ockers finally found it necessary to move his operation from Oakdale, he, independently, purchased more property to the east, and built the East Basin bulkheads; then, in 1908,  he floated his main oyster house over in one piece on barges. In 1912, as will be noted below, The Bluepoints Company took over the Basin.

 

Images: left,  courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin; right, collection of Tony Brinkmann

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

BOATS

 

 

Part of the Oyster Fleet, before 1908

 

 

Tonging for clams

 

South Bulkhead / Bluepoints in background

 

 

 

Hydraulic escalator oyster dredge

 

Baymen, generally, utilized sloops or catboats for their oyster and clam fishing. Many were equipped with hand-operated dredges weighing about 35 pounds empty and 175 pounds full. Consequently, the debut of gasoline engine power in the late 1890s was a welcomed advent; 
it not only could push larger craft than had been in use but it could also lift larger capacity dredges. In 1896,  Jacob Ockers introduced the first engine powered dredge boat  and, within the next  next five years, virtually all  oyster shippers had acquired one or more.  In 1958, the Town of Islip banned use of dredges within its waters.
 

Images: Top and bottom left, collection of Sayville Library; top right, collection of William Leigh-Manuel;
bottom right, collection of Tony Brinkmann

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

PACKING AND SHIPPING

 

 

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Barrels Being Delivered

 

 

Workers standing over floats

 

Culling in the oyster house

 

 

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Workers Filling Barrels

 

Before being, either as shell stock or shucked as open stock, harvested oysters were "floated" in fresh water which they would absorb to produce an increase in plumpness and whiteness.  This was done in pens adjacent or  next to oyster houses...  This practice diminished as the Bay waters became  more polluted.... In the late 1800s, flour and apple barrels, purchased from New York dealers in carload lots,  were utilized for shipping oysters.  However, sometimes they were in short supply.  As a result, the Bayport Barrel Factory was opened  in September 1904,  producing a variety of barrels but specializing in those of the "cleanest, most sanitary quality" so that "Blue Point oysters may be shipped in a standard package of an absolutely sanitary nature".  It anticipated hiring 15 to 20 people and producing about 10,000 barrels a week. The cooperage burned down in February 1918 and was later replaced when J. Frank Corey, its former manager, encouraged Farmer's Manufacturing Company of Norfolk, Virginia to open a barrel factory here primarily for the Bluepoints Company.  Initially, from October 1920 until September 1921, FMC took over "The Ark", a scow in the Bluepoints harbor; barrels were produced on the lower main deck with accomodations for the staff on the upper deck. FMC later bought land just west of the Sayville Railroad Station and moved to a new building there in the following October. (See Sayville: Main Street to the Tracks, Virginia Barrel Factory). For shipping opened oysters - a new venture in those years  -  a patented sanitary oyster carrier was soon developed consisting of a metal can placed inside a metal-lined wood case, leaving considerable space around the can for ice.  The inside can was packed and sealed in the oyster house and not opened until it reached its final destination; the outside case could be opened and re-iced by the freight carrier along the way for those going long distances. Large quantities were being shipped to Europe and the Pacific Coast.  Initially, from the 1850s until the 1870s, shellfish or finfish were  transported to the city markets either by "oyster schooners" or by other craft, often the bayman's own.  Despite  the arrival of the South Shore Railroad, which reached Sayville in December 1868, sea shipment continued to provide competition into the early twentieth century, keeping freight rates down.  Freight/express companies were also also brcame active competition.  From 1900 until WWI, the Long Island Express did a good business; it utilized four express trains daily and could get shellfish from shipper to receiver in Brooklyn or to ongoing shipping line or railroad in about four and one-half hours.  Trucking company carriage began in the early 1920s and increased in accordance with service available in preference to the railroads.

 

Images: Courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

THE MAJOR SHIPPERS

 


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West  Harbo
r
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Unloading  at rear of the "Ark"

 

  

In May 1899, the Brooklyn Eagle reported  that a "major shipper* (Jacob Ockers?) said the Blue Point oyster industry (i.e., from Oakdale to Patchogue) was then  valued at about one million dollars, including the value of  plants, the money invested and the leases. "Twenty large firms are engaged in planting oysters and shipping them throughout the Country and to foreign ports, and hundreds of smaller firms as well as individuals who lease a few acres in the Bay, plant a few thousand bushels and carry them direct to New York  markets"....an estimated  1,500 to 2,000 individuals  participate with their 500 catboats, sloops and schooners and several steamers...

Despite opposition from the producers, especially Jacob Ockers, at least one hundred men gathered at the Firemen's Hall  in March 1900 at the call of Bill Collins to consider forming an Oystermen's Union; 51 joined immediatlely.  However, the first strike - non-union - occurred in December 1901 when 14 men at Lewis Blue Point Oyster Cultivation Company in Sayville walked out;  the men were receiving16 cents a gallon for opening small (seed) oysters.  They demanded 20 cents but were offered 18 cents and went back to work.  In August 1902, the shippers granted at increase of 25 cents a day, raising workers in the shanties to $ 1.75 and on the boats to $ 2.25.  Although shippers believed that they had always given their workers fare deals, workers did not consider that this was sufficient.  Nevertheless, the second non-union strike - which the union actually opposed - was of five nonunion workers at Ockers and was focused on reducing the customary ten-hour day to nine-hours and shipper acceptance of the Union; the question of pay was eliminated, the shippers having previously agreed to the twenty-five cent daily increase. Both  sides finally agreed to a nine and one-half hour day and none of the major shippers accepted the Union which, despite the fact that it had gained several hundred members, apparently faded.  During the Century, there were no more strikes and The Bluepoints Company was never unionized. 

 

 

        

         In 1908, the New York State Legislature passed a law that "No person, firm or  corporation  

         shall sell or offer for sale any oysters, or label or brand any package containing oysters for 

         shipment or sale, under the name of Blue Point oyster, other than oysters that have been

         cultivated in the waters of the Great South Bay in Suffolk County"

 

 

However, the West Sayville Baymen's Association, on behalf of its independent members, did take on the Town of Islip in the spring of 1958, charging irregularities in its leasing of  thousand of acres of Bay bottom to large companies and demanding an ordinance prohibiting the use of clam dredges in the Great South Bay.  The baymen did win on the latter point and the regulation is still in effect; use of dredges is prohibited in Town of Islip waters.

 

Images: Courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

THE MAJOR SHIPPERS (continued)

 

 

Ockers East Basin: Main Building with "The Ark" at right, December 1908

 

 

 

Ocker's West: Boat and Oyster Shanty, 1909

 

 

Ocker's West: Removing oysters from floats, 1915

 

 

Among the major producers, the "big three" in 1899 were...

 

Jacob Ockers, born son of an oyster planter in Bruinisse, Holland in 1847 brought to New york at age of four. he began culling oysters with his father and learned the oyster trade. Then he began his own operation, sailing an oyster schooner between New York and Virginia in 1876. Money made was invested in oyster best in the Great South Bay and, later, Peconic bay, Long Island Sound and Chesapeake Bay. He was first to export Blue Point oysters to Europe which, prior to WWI were about 25,000 barrels a year. He had a prodigious memory, seldom carried any notes, and his count was rarely questioned. On Saturday nights, he drove to Gerber's store in Sayville and settled with baymen, paying cash for the oysters or clams that they had provided. In addition to responsibilities at Bluepoints in 1918, he opened a second Jacob Ockers Oyster Company plant at Greenport.
(Fred Ockers, born May 1848, apart from his brother, had his first plant in Sayville and, later, moved it to West Basin in West Sayville. He died June 25, 1936 and his heirs, Louise and Albert, sold his business to Shellfish, Inc. of Fulton Fish Market, NY).

 

Jacob Ockers, Oakdale, established 1876, moved to West Sayville :    Styled as the "oyster king",  shipped over 23,000 barrels, 25% to foreign countries...in busy season employed 50 men, twelve sailboats and one large dredge  steamer; leased 100 acres ground in the Bay for which, the previous year, paid Town of Brookhaven $ 1,142 rent; also had 200 acres leased from Town of Islip...last year put down 60,000 bushels of seed; this year will put down 160,000 with the expected drop of 150,000 marketable oysters next fall from this seed, providing all conditions are favorable...Around 1905,  acquired "The Ark", originally a two-level floating restaurant on a barge opened by Smith J. Noe in 1899, which was now used as culling house with quarters on second level for staff; in 1920-1921, as part of Bluepoints, used as temporary barrel factory. Needing the space in the harbor for its more active craft, in March 1928 TheBluepoints Company moved the building off of the scow and ashore to be used as a storehouse.

 


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L
ewis Blue Point Oyster Cultivation Houses, Sayville, 1900

 

 

Lewis Blue Point Oyster Cultivation Company, Sayville, local branch established 1896:   In its third year of local operation (also see Sayville: Main Street to Bay),  Lewis of Bridgeport, CT, employed 60 men, eighteen sailboats, one steamer with capacity of 600 bushels/day...had 800 acres under cultivation; paid Town of Brookhaven, the previous year, $ 1,161...put down 50,000 bushels of seed this year...has reputation as largest home trade (i.e., U.S.) outside of New York of any company on Long Island, shipping oysters as far as Denver and Omaha.

 


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Former Westerbeke Oyster Houses and Naval Station, sold at public auction, Feb 15, 1919

 

Westerbeke Brothers, Oakdale, established 1883:   Shipped 10,500 barrels between September 1 and May 1...employed 40 men on average from October through March...planted 30,000 seed brought from Connecticut at average price of $ 1.75 a bushel (about 7,500 seeds/bushel). Moving on to about 1910, the situation was changing...About 120,000 barrels (each barrel containing 50 to many more oysters, depending shell size) and 200,000 gallons of shelled oysters) were being shipped each year...Westerbeke Brothers was the first major company to move from Oakdale to West Sayville and was among the companies acquired by Sealshipt and subsequently the Bluepoints Company in 1912. In 1917, their former oyster house at the foot of West Avenue was rented by the Government for the Naval Station (see above).

 

Images: Courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

SEALSHIPT

 


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Sealshipt Oyster System (a/k/a " Northport Oyster Trust"):  The  Company had developed a large galvanized steel bulk oyster shipping container with lift lid and hatch, about 13 inches high and 13 1/2 inches in diameter, holding four to five gallons of  fresh oyster. In 1910, to develop its market, it was seeking a monopoly among east coast shippers.  After a favorable Federal Court decision re: the Bay bottom, it succeeded in acquiring control of all between Blue Point and Nicolls Point from the Smith (i.e., Nicoll heirs); this resulted in most West Sayville oystermen/ companies paying their lease fees to Sealshipt.  As a result, because that area is where most local companies had their favored leased  bottoms, Sealshipt had effectively acquired the plants of seven local companies: Westerbeke Brothers and Wolfer VanPopering of West Sayville; Beebe Brothers of Sayville; E. Brown & Brothers of Bayport; and J.A Cochrane & Son, Fire Island Oyster and Pausch Brothers of Bayshore. Beyond that, it resulted in individual sales of companies to Sealshipt.  Ockers' operation had functioned as the Bluepoint Oyster Farms Division  and he had also developed an alliance with leading east end companies (notably Andrew Radel in Greenport) as opposition to the monopoly.  However, his opposition appears to have faded and  in August 1912, Ockers announced the consolidation of his extensive oyster interests in the Great South Bay and Peconic Bay with those of Sealshipt; however, the new corporation  was to be distinctly apart from Sealshipt and to be known as The Bluepoints Clam & Oyster Company.  In return, Ockers also sold 13,000 acres of Bay bottom to Sealshipt which, at the same time,  was apparently busy getting in over its head,  not only purchasing bottomlands and companies but simultaneously upgrading their capabilities; it also acquired a six hundred lot  tract  in Queens for a million dollars to establish a consolidated shipping point.  While Jacob Ockers was becoming President of the Bluepoints, Sealshipt  - because of over capitalization and mismanagement - was going toward bankruptcy.  In April 1914, the Company - including oyster beds, boats, buildings, stocks and bonds, almost all in Suffolk County - was sold at a receivers's sale for a little more than two million dollars. The  committee of buyers reorganized it as North Atlantic Oyster Farms,  incorporated as of July 1, 1914.

 

Photo courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing

 

THE BLUEPOINTS COMPANY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bluepoints Company:    The result of the Sealshipt merger was the Bluepoints Clam & Oyster Company which Jacob Ockers ran, as President and General Manager,  until his death December 4, 1918, age 72.  He had been known for more than 30 years as the most important man in development of oyster industry on Long Island, the "Oyster King"...Generally, the Company's building were constructed considering the bayman's ability to unload and process the catch.  Boats could moor in a basin, immediately adjacent to the loading dock and later bulkheaded...building design was typical of the time - two-story gable-end structures, attached to expedite movement of the shellfish from one stage to the next...second-floor offices overlooked work areas for observation of the workers...building exteriors were a distinctive red, easily seen for guidance from overwater distances...After Ockers' death, the Company continued under the management of a Norwegian, Adolf Johnson, Treasurer, who was previously manager of the Providence branch of North Atlantic Oyster Farms and had come to West Sayville as Treasurer of Bluepoints in 1917.  In that year, North Atlantic (notably Fred Ockers and other minority stockholders) had instigated a suit against Bluepoints (notably Captain Jacob Ockers ?), accusing interlocking officers of the two companies of being engaged in a conspiracy to transfer Bluepoints properties (notably underwater lands) from it to North Atlantic properties without adequate compensation and to freeze out minority stockholders. Just as underwater lands were to be auctioned at public sale in September 1921, the two sides came to an agreement and in August 1922.  Paul O. Mercer, who had been with Producers  Sales Company, also a North Atlantic subsidiary, was elected Treasurer and General Manager of simply The Bluepoints Company, the name being modified at that time....In July 1929,  the Company was acquired by The Postum Company (which later that year changed its name to General Foods).  Postum had already acquired North Atlantic Oyster Farms  as well as several other oyster companies on the Island;  it was then one of the largest food companies in the Country, its products including Maxwell House Coffee, Post Toasties, Jello, Log Cabin Syrup and Hellman's Mayonaise.. In 1930, Bluepoints made its first attempts to raise oysters by artificial means and had such good results that in the following year attempted to do it on a commercial basis. In October 1940, Bluepoints Company opened a new state-of-the-art oyster plant in Greenport which "assured an all-weather supply and freed the market of uncertainties formerly caused by winter storms".  The plant, a two-story building 120 by 192 feet, cost $ 200,000; it was served by five dredge boats and, at capacity, would employ 200 in harvesting, opening and shipping oysters from Gardiners and Peconic but not the Great South Bay. The five dredge boats were under the command of Captain Chris Jensen (whose son  had a marine machine shop in West Sayville, see above), were not expected to face winter ice problems encountered in the Great South Bay ...At that time, following devastation of  the oyster beds by the 1938 hurricane, Bluepoints in West Sayville was very significantly increasing activities with hard clams, utilizing its same facilities and labor...

In 1969, General Foods sold Bluepoints to the American Can Company, later the First Republic, a holding company... The Company's last "peak year" was 1976 when baymen brought in ten to twelve bushels of clams a day; by 2002 that was down to about four.  In 1985, an unidentified algae further decimated the clam population. In the fall of 1997, Bluepoints began to cut back on its use of four independent boats - at its peak in the early 1930s, the entire West Sayville fleet had more than 500 and Bluepoints more than 50 engaged in shellfishing - and in May 1998, the Company put an end to its boat harvesting and local processing of clams and oysters. However, it believed that "a period of conservation would be a good thing" and kept its hatchery operations going; that basically was an indoor operation where oysters are spawned, grown and then placed in steel racks in cages in the Bay.  In 2001, Bluepoint produced about 15 million seeds.  The Bluepoints hatchery operation is now gone.

 


 

Genuine Bluepoints Today

 

        Nevertheless, Genuine Bluepoint oysters are still being produced in the Great South Bay.   

       The cage method of raising them (described above) commercially was initiated on a small 

       scale  by Chris Quartuccio whose Blue Island Shellfish Company  established its  farm on 

       the west shore of the Fire Island Inlet in 1995.  It ships its oysters all over the United States

       under trade names of "Blue Island" and "Oak Beach"...Now (June 2013) the Town of Islip 

       has processed  or is in the process of finalizing 13 more  leases for additional beds within its

       waters.  The "lifespan" of oysters raised by the cage method is 12 to 18 months versus three 

        to four years for those raised in natural beds.

 

          

In April 2002, First Republic, noting that its business was so far down that it probably only used about  one-tenth of its space and had  high taxes, closed  the Bluepoints operation and put the buildings up for sale.  At the time of its dissolution, Bluepoint had 3.5 acres of land property housing its old buildings and 13,000 underwater acres in the Great South Bay.  The underwater property had been privately owned for over 300 years since William III had granted it to prominent Long Island familes in 1693.  In October 2002, First Republic donated 11,500 acres to the Nature Conservancy, Long Island Chapter, which - with the aid of corporate contributions - bought the remaining 1,500 acres from First Republic in 2004.

 

 

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West Sayville - Waterfront & Fishing (cont.)

 

By 2004, almost all of the West Sayville Bay front between Green's Creek and West Avenue had been acquired by the DeAngelis Family who restored all of the buildings and converted the area into a recreational Marina flanked by Green Creek County Park on the east and the Long Island Maritime Museum on the west. 

 

In addition to the D'Angelis West Sayville Boat Basin, 132 Clyde Street, other present occupants of Bay front buildings include...

 

 Dowling Marine Science Laboratory and Field Station (CEECOM), Clyde Street: The   laboratory has a deep saltwater well and also 15 tanks where it maintains algae, clams and   horseshoe crabs for its various studies; two of the current ones concern the over-winter mortality of clams (in collaboration with the Town of Islip) and also the maintenance and breeding of horseshoe crabs.  Populations of the latter are declining while new uses beyond    fertilizer and animal feeds are expanding; they now have found use in eye research and the  developement of wound-healing bandages among other medically-related applications.... The Laboratory  is also an ongoing monitor for the National Weather Service.

         

 Kingston's Clam Bar  & Restaurant, 134 Atlantic Avenue: Established 1978

 

Blue Island Shellfish Company,  136 Atlantic Avenue (see above)

 

Nature Conservancy:  Small field office and boat slip handling all operations for Great South Bay, principally concerned with water restoration.

     

 

.      Images: Top right  from collection of Sayville Library;
all others courtesy of West Sayville Boat Basin

                                                             

 

For more pictures of West Sayville Waterfront, please visit  West Sayville Boat Basin at www.boatbasin.com

 

References:

 

For more detail on the Shellfishing and Finfishing Industries locally....

 

   Fishing. Port Washington, NY: Long Island Traditions

   Taylor, Lawrence  J. Dutchmen on the Bay.  Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvani Press,   

         1983

   VanPopering, Marinus J. and Glancy, Joseph B. History of the Shellfis Industry in Great South  

         Bay, New York.  May 20, 1947

   West Sayville Maritime Survey Report.  Port Washington, NY: Long Island Traditions , 2004

    Kassner, Jeffrey  A History of Oysters and Hard Clams in the Great Sou

 

 

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