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signatures of Douwe and his 2nd wife Sarah on a deed

Douwe was a gentleman farmer in Jamaica on Long Island, New York. He was elected deacon of the Jamaica Reformed Dutch Church in May 1769 and with another deacon, took an account of what was in the alms chest.1 Douwe was a staunch Loyalist, found among the signers pledging allegiance to the King in 1775-76, and promised assistance in raising Loyalist troops in 1777. He's been confused with his son Douwe, who was a captain in the Loyalist militia, gathered ammunition and spied for the cause. At the close of the Revolution, Douwe, his second wife Sarah and all his surviving children and their families immigrated to Nova Scotia, a Loyalist haven.

(The New York Gazette, 25 August 1783)

"The fleet for Nova Scotia, of thirty sail, put to sea yesterday morning with a fair wind." (Gaine's (New York) Mercury, 29 September 1783)

Douwe was granted his property by the Canadian government in 1786, which included what is now the village of Clementsport. He and other Douwes in this family are occasionally called "Dowie," which is phonetic.

Douwe's grant now hangs in the Old Church of St. Edward

Several land transactions involving Douwe and Douwe, Jr., happened in this area in 1784, but I don't know how this relates to the government grant, if at all. Douwe, Sr., undoubtedly had a home on the property right away, and the house that stands their now is a combination of several houses and building periods. He is said to have had a cottage, forceably abandoned by a French Canadian owner during the Acadian expulsion, dragged across the ice in the Annapolis Basin to Clementsport. A Colonial Dutch style house evolved from it, mirroring a type he was familiar with in the New York area.
     One of the most distinctive parts of the Ditmars house is the roof. On the front half of the house is a so-called "Dutch kick" - a flare that extends out to create a large overhang very much in the style of Anglo-Dutch houses in lower New York State, where the Ditmars lived before coming to Nova Soctia.

The front of Douwe Ditmars's house in Clementsport

The Wyckoff house in Canarsie, Brooklyn, NY, with a typical "Dutch kick" of the mid 1700s (the house has been restored as a museum). There's a very good chance that the Ditmarses lived in a house of this style in nearby Jamaica (NY) before moving to Nova Scotia.

Various members of this family returned to Long Island on occasion. There's an entry in a contemporary diary dated 10 July 1790 mentioning that he "shaved old D. Dittmas from N. Scotia." His son Douwe and daughter-in-law/step-daughter Jannetje (wife of Isaac) are supposedly also mentioned by Baxter, but I haven't been able to confirm it. Douwe, Sr., and Jr., married women named Catryntje/Catherine Snedeker. The elder Catherine was the daughter of Isaac and Catryntje Jans (Dorlandt?) and the younger was her niece. Douwe, Sr.'s, second wife Sara Remsen was first married to Abraham Voorhees and secondly to Joris/George Vroom, with children from both marriages. The conglomerated Ditmars/Vroom household was large and apparently close-knit. Two of Douwe's children married their step-siblings: one a Voorhees, one a Vroom. Given the use of the Dutch naming pattern for children that was prevalent in this family and gaps in the birth chronology of Douwe, Sr., and Catryntje's children, they undoubtedly had a daughter named Catryntje as their second child, named for her grandmother Catryntje Jans (Dorlandt?). Gerrit Ditmars appears on the lists of Loyalists in Queens County during the Revolution (21 October 1776) among the other sons of Douwe and Catryntje and was surely one of their sons, born in the gap between Douwe and Jan. He was likely named for his great grandfather Gerrit Snedeker. He's also on a pay list of soldiers in Capt. William Ludlam's 10th Company of Minute Men, originating in Jamaica but stationed in Suffolk County, Long Island, on 22 August 1776. He served to 23 November 1776.
     Douwe died of "nasal palsy"5 and is buried in the Old St. Edward's churchyard in Clementsport. I haven't found anything explaining, or even suggesting, what affliction that could have been. Douwe was a founding member of St. Edward's in 1794. A photo essay on this church and the Ditmars history associated with it is here. There's a local tradition that Douwe donated land for the church and accepted a peppercorn in exchange. Peppercorns were a traditional means of legalizing an exchange of goods or property when it was intended as a gift. At one time, peppercorns, an import, were highly valued, but I think at that point it was mostly symbolic. He eventually was convinced to accept 5 shillings instead - a tiny sum. He lived to see the church finished, or nearly so, and his funeral was likely held there.

Old Church of St. Edward, Clementsport. The ceremonial entry for brides and coffins supposedly was on this side.

The head and footstones at Douwe's grave in St. Edward churchyard

children of Douwe Ditmars and Catryntje Snedeker:

i. Marritje b. 13 Feb. 1746
ii. ?Catryntje b. abt 1748, died by 3 June 1759
iii. Douwe b. 18 Nov. 1750
iv. Isaac b. 1 Aug. 1751
v. Gerrit b. abt 1752, d. prob. during the Revolutionary War
vi. Jan bap. 31 Mar. 1754
vii. Catryntje bap. 3 June 1759

vital records sources: His baptism and first marriage dates come from the Jamaica Dutch Reformed Church records. His second marriage date is inferred from an abstract of marriage bonds in "New York Marriages Before 1784."

1. History of the Reformed Dutch Church, Jamaica (hereafter HRDC), 57-58, elected 14 May, took an account of the alms chest 12 August.
5. History of Digby County, citing the records of Trinity Anglican Church, Digby, the pastor of which served the St. Edward's parish.

all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted