Most of mainland Nova Scotia’s English-speaking settlers arrived in waves of settlement during the 2nd half of the 18th century. Notable in the southwestern part of the province were the New England Planters of the 1760s, the Yorkshire settlers of the 1770s and the Loyalists of the 1780s. Each of these groups contained a number of large extended families, not surprising given the distances between their old and new homes and the likelihood of lifelong separation if they did not stay together. The Ditmars family migration in 1783 is an example of such an extended family.
Douwe Ditmars was a twice-widowed Loyalist aged 60 years when he arrived in Nova Scotia from New York in the fall of 1783. He settled at Clements, the township laid out in 1784 to accommodate the Loyalists, and veterans of the disbanded Loyalist and German regiments. The township stretched from its eastern border with the older Annapolis Township west to the Bear River. Ditmars is regarded as the founder and patriarch of the picturesque village of Clementsport situated at the mouth of the Moose River. Old Douwe (or Douw or the phonetic Dow) was the community’s patriarch literally as well as figuratively.
Like many of the Loyalists who settled along the shore of the Annapolis Basin, he was of Dutch descent. His ancestors had settled in New Amsterdam in the first half of the 17th century, before its transfer to the British in 1674 and change of name to New York. Douwe Ditmars (1723–1796) was born at Jamaica, Queen’s, NY, the son of Douwe and Maritje (Remsen) Ditmars. His 1st wife, and mother of his children, was Catryntje (Catherine) Snedeker (1721–c.1760) daughter of Isaac and Catryntje (Dorland) Snedeker. His 2nd wife was Sarah (Remsen) VanVoorhies Vroom (1716–1781), a cousin, whose children by her first two husbands had married Ditmars. These children and step-children joined old Douwe in exile in Nova Scotia.
Daughter Maritje (Mary) (1746–1805) with her husband Paul Ammerman or Amberman and young family (ancestors of the Annapolis County Ambermans) settled first in Clements but eventually moved to Granville. They were accompanied by Mary’s three daughters from her 1st marriage, to Cornelis Van Voorhies (her step-brother, son of Abraham VanVoorhies and Sarah Remsen): Katherine VanVoorhies (1761–1837) m. William Jones; Sarah VanVoorhies m. Isaac Bonnett; and Aaltje (Letitia) vanVoorhies (1770-1855) m. Shippy Spurr.
Sons Douwe jr. (1750–1831) with his wife (and 1st cousin) Catherine Snedeker (1748–1833), daughter of Jacob and Femmetje (Bloom) Snedeker, and Jan (John) (1754–1822) with his wife Magdalen Vanderbilt (1756–1824), daughter of Jeremias and Abigail (Vanderbilt) Vanderbilt, settled with their young families near their father.
Son Isaac Ditmars (1751–1779) had died before the Loyalist migration, but his own young son and daughter joined the other Ditmars with their mother (and Douwe’s step-daughter) Jane (Vroom) Ditmars (daughter of Joris (George) Vroom and Sarah Remsen) and her 2nd husband, John Vroom, and family (ancestors of the Annapolis County Vrooms). The Ditmars children were Douwe Isaac Ditmars (1772–1849) m. Elizabeth Fowler, and Sarah Ditmars (1774-1862) m. Samuel Purdy.
Virtually everyone mentioned here is buried in Old St. Edward’s Churchyard, in the shadow of the old church overlooking Clementsport, for which Douwe Ditmars had deeded land (the price- one peppercorn later amended to 5 shillings).