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vital records sources
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Horatia was born in Clementsport, Nova Scotia, presumably on her father's farm in the village. Family tradition has it that her birth was difficult and a doctor was called to help. He arrived drunk and useless, so was put to bed. Horatia Jane survived her birth, but her mother did not. Horatia mentions "Mother Potter" in a letter and she may have been Horatia's wet nurse. She was baptized in the church her Ditmars and Vroom ancestors had helped create.

Church of St. Edward, Clementsport, NS

Horatia and her sister Elizabeth were raised by their aunts Elizabeth and Maria Gesner at the Gesner homestead in Belleisle, Nova Scotia. Their father remarried but it isn't known how much a role they had in the girls' upbringing. Family tradition and letters between Horatia and her husband David show that Aunt Betsy was regarded with trepidation. When Horatia and David, a 36 year-old widower, planned to be married, her approval was clearly important to them. They never got it. Aside from the comments Horatia makes in her letters about Betsy's contrary nature, a related story was passed from Virginia Carpenter to me. David and Horatia's son Arthur wore a corrective shoe or shoes for a leg that didn't grow normally. When Betsy put on the shoe one day she may have been a bit rough in her technique. He obviously protested. Aunt Maria appeared at the top of the stairs and said "Why don't you just kill him, Betsy?"
     Horatia's sister "Liz" married and started a family in the Clementsport area, but by 1854 it was decided they would move to the U. S. Horatia joined them. Edward Ditmars (a cousin of the sisters) moved first, followed by the rest. They boarded the schooner Lynfield, which lay in the mouth of the Moose River at Clementsport within sight of father John Ditmars's house, and sailed for Boston. They arrived on 8 July 1854. Horatia very likely settled with her Gesner cousins in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The head of the house was Abraham Gesner, geologist and inventor of kerosene. Horatia was soon engaged to David Cunningham, who was a member of the same church as the Gesners. She was rarely in Williamsburgh during the time of the letters between them that were saved (1855-1857). She stayed with her sister in Dobbs Ferry, NY, her family in Clementsport and Belleisle, Nova Scotia, and David's family in Oriskany and Utica, New York. David didn't want repeated the tragedy of his first family - a wife and two children who all died in the early 1850s.
     Late in 1865 they rented a farm in Tarrytown, NY. This is probably the transaction between "Horatio" J. Cunningham and Hannah T. Hunter and (husband?) dated 27 November 1865 and 7 April 1866. 1

The 1868 Beers atlas of Westchester County (above) was compiled during the short duration of Horatia's attempt at farming, and the map shows a house set back from the road (Saw Mill River Rd.), across which lived her husband's former brother-in-law Robert Knapp. Robert's brother George appears in the far northeast corner of this image. The Knapps were there first and surely convinced David and Horatia to join them in the country. The Knapps continued to be a part of the Cunningham's lives even after David died. There was a Julia A. Ditmars, born in Nova Scotia, who was living with Robert and his family in 1880. She hasn't been identified, but a connection to Horatia is undoubtable.

David was at the dock helping to unload their belongings, which had come up the Hudson River. It was an unusually hot day in May. Horatia and the children were to arrive later. At the dock they were met not by David, but by the local minister to report the news that David had a stroke. He lived for only several days after at Dr. Scribner's house. Horatia tried to maintain the farm for three years but gave up and moved first to Bloomfield, New Jersey, then to 203 Claremont Avenue in Montclair.

203 Claremont Ave., Montclair, NJ

Horatia died at 80 Clinton Street, Montclair, at 92 years old and 58 years a widow. Horatia managed to raise four children on her own and provide for a good education. She is buried next to David in a family plot in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.

from Horatia's calling card

Horatia and David's gravestone in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

children of Horatia Jane Ditmars and David Beale Cunningham:

Arthur Sinclair b. 22 July 1856, d. 23 February 1931
Marion Hobart b. 18 June 1859, d. 21 November 1943, m. James Delamater Freeman
James Willett b. 7 March 1862, d. 10 September 1926, m. Ellen Avery Painter
Horatia Blanche b. 7 March 1865, d. 9 December 1947, m. Charles Hoyt Ellingwood

vital records sources:

1. Westchester Co., NY, deed record 582:12, 593:117.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted