I wouldn’t call myself anything like an expert, but I know a little bit of my family history. Sometimes, I have many more questions than answers. With the stories I’ve told and where I grew up, I think it would be appropriate to share a little background on the Sheets side of the family.
It all started when John Martin Sheets was born in Germany in 1735. In 1751, at the age of 18, he and his wife Anna Elisabeth made their way to Philadelphia. Sometime after that, they arrived in what is now the Peak Creek community of Ashe County.
Martin settled some land in the Sheets Gap area and with a lot of back breaking work, he cleared enough land to start raising corn. Through the Homestead Act he was able to purchase a large tract of land from the “Crown”. It was valued at 10 cents an acre. He was able to trade his corn for the land. This was well before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Can you even imagine what Ashe County looked like then? Almost totally wooded, with huge stands of enormous chestnut trees, white pine and other timber. The soil was rocky and thin but fertile. It took tremendous effort and backbreaking work to clear the land, all while having children to feed and preparing for harsh winters. All that work took its toll. Martin died at the age of 57 in 1810. He is believed to have been buried in the Sheets Cemetery above sheets Gap overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Before his passing, he sired five sons. Andrew, John, Martin, Henry and Jacob. At some point, he moved to Rowan county where some of the family remained, but others came back with Martin.
Andrew was born in 1774 and died in 1885 at the age of 81. A good long life for the times. The land was worked and passed down through the generations. Many marriages took place with names such as Wayne, Miller, Wyatt and Darnell thrown into the mix.
My great grandfather, James F. Sheets, was born in 1866. He, along with his brothers and cousins, also raised families in the area. Many people have driven by a small log house just below the road near Sheets Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I don’t know the original builder but my grandmother’s sister Ada and her husband Baxter lived there for a short time.
I am sure when I was young that my grandmother told me many details of the family history as the oral tradition was still strong with her generation. It’s a shame that I didn’t record any of it as I have forgotten a lot. Many web site exist to help with this, but it’s not the same has hearing details from a living person. You miss many nuances and family secrets that way. If you are a younger reader of this article, PLEASE take the time to talk to your parents and grandparents about your history. Older readers, go ahead and start writing down your memories of your parents and grandparents. In many ways, it is the greatest gift you can ever give your kids some day.
My grandmother’s cousin, Greer Sheets, did a lot of Sheets family research as well history on The Church of The Brethren which was founded by David Sheets in Peak Creek.
I wouldn’t be surprised if several of you out there (besides the obvious ones) may be long lost relatives. I hope this little story stokes your curiosity to explore your own history or jogs a memory of some forgotten stories from your past.
Y’all have a good’un!
PS A shout out to Cody Mabe who shared his photo of the sign at Sheets Cemetery, the one I had was not very good.