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Posted August 27, 2010 | comments Leave a comment

Family ties: Man restores home shared by nine generations of relatives

By Jessica Wiant -- jwiant@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Despite battles with everything from Indians to time itself, nine consecutive generations of the Sheetz family at some point have called a single house along Narrow Passage Creek home.

Most recently, Danny Sheetz bought back the house and property to restore them to their former glory.

The Sheetz family originally came to the New World from Germany in the 1740s, Sheetz explained, and then to the Northern Shenandoah Valley from Pennsylvania several years later.

The family received a 1,000-acre land grant from Lord Fairfax, and built a small log cabin around 1760, he said.

His two miniature dogs -- a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle -- at his feet, Sheetz pointed out a copy of the document in an upstairs room.

Like most old homes, the cabin was built onto as the years progressed. An upper level was added around 1850, according to Sheetz. In 1895, four more rooms were built on.

The family mostly earned a living from farming and orchards. Some later practiced taxidermy and served as the law of the county, according to Sheetz.

Over the years, pieces of the farm also were sold off, leaving what is currently a 10-acre lot.

The farm left the family in the late 1920s. Sheetz's father, Harry "Hub" Sheetz, moved away from the area, too, according to Sheetz, who was born in Woodstock but grew up near Falls Church.

The Sheetz family has maintained a well-documented history, from genealogy research to stories of Indian raids and Civil War soldiers, he said.

Sheetz promised if he ever had the opportunity, he would buy and restore the homeplace, and that chance came in 1999, when he returned for a visit and found the farm was for sale. He and his wife were living in Orlando, Fla., at the time and planned to retire to Reno, Nev.

They changed their plans and seized the opportunity.

"If it were not the family's, I would never have done it," Sheetz said.

Sheetz moved to the farmhouse with his wife in 2000 and began the major task of restoration, running a medical billing business to fund the renovations.

Layers of flooring were stripped to reveal original, wide-plank yellow pine floors. Where the boards were too damaged, they were replaced.

The original logs, replete with mud and straw chinking, were unveiled and cleaned (and the chinking smoothed) to serve as interior walls.

All the house's windows were replaced and the roof was repaired.

The couple added finishing touches throughout the main house, including a deep farmhouse sink in the kitchen, unique arched windows in an upstairs room, a clawfoot tub and an old-fashioned high tank toilet and push-button light switches like Sheetz remembered used to be in the house. Doors in the house are either original or antique, and feature 1800s-style locks with skeleton keys.

Wherever they could, they preserved or at least left behind original details, including remnants of the original stone fireplace in the kitchen, now covered by the sink.

The couple -- with his wife serving as the "mastermind," Sheetz pointed out -- even renovated and wired several outbuildings on the property, transforming a former summer kitchen into a small guest cottage and a spring house into a heated and cooled playhouse awaiting an imaginative child.

The property, overrun with sumac trees when it changed hands, was painstakingly cleared back to pasture.

The family cemetery -- where Sheetz' namesake and Civil War Sgt. Daniel Sheetz is buried -- was restored and fenced in.

Pine, fruit and weeping willow trees were planted. They selected trees carefully for good spring and fall color, "and they're all just starting to do their thing," he said.

The storied property, however, is once again awaiting a new family to call it home.

During the restoration, Sheetz's wife of more than a decade was diagnosed with a rare lung disease, he explained. As she battled the illness, renovations slowed down, and finally, when they realized that, at best, she would always need to live near a lung treatment center, they decided to sell the farm.

They passed along the contents of the house, including many antiques, to her children, and got rid of farm equipment.

She died in April.

Sheetz plans to stay in the area when the house sells, but in a smaller place. He may return again to the property someday, however, as he said he would like to be buried in the old family cemetery there and have his wife's ashes spread there as well.

The Sheetz home and 10 acres at 67 Royal Wood Drive in Woodstock is listed for $549,000 through Country Homes realty. An additional 18 acres also is available. For more information, go online to www.countryhomesva.com or call 459-4663.

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