Sheetz Family Bible Returns to Shepherdstown

Sheetz Family Bible Returns to Shepherdstown

The Historic Shepherdstown Museum recently received a Bible that belonged to the Sheetz Family.

The donor, Christine Saulsbury, of Desert Center, California, was helping a friend clear out her mother’s bookstore, when she came across a Bible that once belonged to William Miller Sheetz.  Inscribed inside the cover were “Shepherdstown” and the date, May 12, 1842. Knowing that the book would be of historical interest, she researched the Sheetz Family and contacted the Museum.

Although a bit tattered, the Bible contains some family genealogy and a hand-written prayer.  The Bible was originally published in Philadelphia in 1835.

The Sheetz were a prominent family in Shepherdstown and were known throughout the Shenandoah Valley for the production of fine firearms. Several generations of Sheetz produced rifles for almost a century, from the time of the Revolution until the Civil War.

William Miller Sheetz was born in 1810.  He was the son of John Jacob Sheetz and grandson of Philip Sheetz, all gunsmiths in Shepherdstown. He was probably the last of the Sheetz family to make rifles.  There is evidence that his son, William Miller Sheetz, Jr., repaired rifles but not that he made any.

The Sheetz Family dwelling and workshop was located on Lot 1, at the corner of King and German Streets, across from McMurran Hall.  The building is now a restaurant.

William Miller Sheetz married Juliann Barnhardt.  Juliann’s date of birth (May 6th, 1815) is recorded in the Bible, along with notations for two of their nine children:  Mary Elizabeth (October 3rd, 1848) and Emma Kate (January 4, 1855).

William Miller Sheetz died in 1866 and is buried in Shepherdstown’s Elmwood Cemetery.

Several rifles produced by the Sheetz Family, including one made by William Miller Sheetz for Rezin Shepherd, grandson of Shepherdstown’s founder, are on display at the Historic Shepherdstown Museum.

An interesting entry in the Bible is a prayer in which Sheetz writes that he has purchased the Bible “as a remembrance of the most true and holy and merciful God.

William Miller Sheetz died in 1866 and is buried in Shepherdstown’s Elmwood Cemetery.

Several rifles produced by the Sheetz Family, including one made by William Miller Sheetz for Rezin Shepherd, grandson of Shepherdstown’s founder, are on display at the Historic Shepherdstown Museum.

2020 Preservation Award Winners

Historic Preservation Month award winners

May is National Historic Preservation Month and we celebrate by honoring individuals involved in preservation efforts in the Shepherdstown area. Traditionally the awards are presented at our May Speaker Series event. Because of the uncertainty about when restrictions on public gatherings will be lifted, we have cancelled our May event. However, we are delighted to announce our award winners and we plan to present the awards in the fall.

Cheryl Brown, center, at the dedication of the plaque honoring Shepherdstown men who served during the Revolutionary War. With her are Dr. John E. Stealey III, who gave the dedication address, and Cindy Nicewarner, then-historian and now Regent of the Pack Horse Ford Chapter of the DAR.

Our first award, Preservation of Historic Legacies: The Dr. James C. Price Award goes to Cheryl Brown. Cheryl is being honored for two primary reasons. In 2106, as the Regent of the Pack Horse Ford Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, she led the effort to honor the men of Shepherdstown who fought in the American Revolution. On Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, a plaque, located on the side of the War Memorial Building in downtown Shepherdstown, was dedicated to the sacrifice of those men. The dedication was part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Pack Horse Ford Chapter of the DAR.

In addition, Cheryl did the extensive research over three years that established that New Street United Methodist Church was the actual owner of the Shepherd Family Burial Ground. Using the process of reverse genealogy, she researched the first Shepherd in the area, Thomas Shepherd, his children and grandchildren. Her research of deeds and wills in court houses and libraries in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and what is now West Virginia allowed her to determine that Abraham Shepherd had deeded the cemetery to the “Episcopal

Methodist Church”, which was the name of the church at the time. Once ownership of the cemetery was established, the church voted to transfer the property to the Corporation of Shepherdstown.

Cheryl is a former board member of Historic Shepherdstown Commission. She is currently the Regent for the West Virginia National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She previously served as regent for the Pack Horse Ford DAR chapter in Shepherdstown and she has served as the National Chair for DAR Service for Veterans.

Eleanor Finn, right, receives a check from Lisa Welsh to help restore the Shepherd Cemetery.

Our second award, Outstanding Service to The Historic Shepherdstown Commission, goes to Eleanor Finn. Eleanor has been an outstanding officer, board member, committee chair and member of HSC over the past decade. During this time, she has consistently provided leadership and shown tremendous dedication to a wide variety of key HSC projects and programs. While Eleanor’s contributions to HSC and the community are too numerous to fully detail, we’d like to highlight a few of them.

Eleanor is a former president of HSC and during that time, she exhibited strong management and leadership skills and presided over a prosperous period for the organization. She serves as Museum docent coordinator, recruiting volunteers to serve as docents at the Historic Shepherdstown Museum, coordinating schedules and communications on a weekly basis, and serving as a docent herself.

She spearheaded a major exhibit on the Brothers of Harmony gospel choir and the local African-American Red Sox baseball team. The exhibit was part of Eleanor’s strong effort to reach out to Shepherdstown’s African-American Community and to improve coverage of their important contributions to the history of Shepherdstown. She also presided over HSC’s commitment to improve and maintain the historic Shepherd Cemetery on New Street. She was instrumental in securing three grants for repair of stone walls and wrought iron railings at the cemetery, personally led numerous work parties there, and has also taken responsibility to ensure that the cemetery is well maintained.

Cottage at 207 North Mill Street, Shepherdstown, before restoration work

Our final award, the Preservation of Historic Structures Award, goes to the 1950 cottage located at 207 N. Mill Street in Shepherdstown. The award is given in collaboration with the Shepherdstown Historic Landmarks Commission. In this case, the restoration meets the award criteria for “rehabilitation or making possible compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural guidelines.”
Most of the rehabilitation work was done by owner Jason Rolfe. He indicated on his permit application that he planned “to make the cottage historically appropriate and consistent with maintaining Shepherdstown’s historic appeal.” Using historically appropriate materials (Circa 1950), Jason replaced roof shingles, siding, windows, porch railings, repaired the porch foundation and added a new wood picket fence. The Landmarks Commission indicated that the work displayed excellent craftsmanship, and that the cottage was likely saved from total deterioration.

Restored 1950s cottage on Mill Street. The addition to the right of the house replaces a side porch and crawl space.

On This Day in History: March 10, 1920

On March 10, 1920, West Virginia became the 34th State to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited the states from denying women the right to vote. Also known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, it was named after this early pioneer of women’s suffrage.

Two years earlier, President Woodrow Wilson urged passage of the Amendment. It was eventually approved by both houses of Congress and by April 1920, by 33 states. Thirty-six states were needed before it became the law of the land.

In West Virginia, Governor John J. Cornwell called a special session of the state legislature to take up the amendment. After an initial tie in the State Senate (14 to 14) the Amendment finally passed on March 10, 1920, after the vote was delayed to allow State Senator Jesse Block time to return to Charleston from California.

West Virginia became the 34th State to ratify the Amendment.

State Senator, Milton Burr, of Bardane, Jefferson County, voted against the amendment, despite telegrams from President Wilson, the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Navy, Serena Dandridge and other residents urging him to vote for the measure. Jefferson County’s Delegate, Milton Osburn Rous, also voted “NO” on the amendment.

Washington State ratified the 19th Amendment later in March, followed by Tennessee in August, thereby giving women the right to vote in the 1920 election.

Wheeling Intelligencer, 8 March 1920, p. 3 (Chronicling America): Senator Jesse Bloch breaks West Virginia Suffrage Tie.

Postponement Announcements

Dear Members of Historic Shepherdstown,

The Board of Directors of Historic Shepherdstown has made the difficult decision to postpone some of our upcoming events because it is important to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The Spring Museum Opening Reception, scheduled for April 3, will be postponed until a later date. You will be notified when we are able to reschedule.

The Museum Opening, scheduled for April 4, will be postponed to a later date. You will be notified when we are able to open. Just as a note, Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day, also scheduled for April 4, has been postponed.

The Speaker Series event scheduled for April 8 is also being postponed. We will work with our featured speaker, Dr. Raymond Smock, and the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education to find a date to reschedule and we will let you know when we are able to do that. We have not yet made a decision regarding our May Speaker Series event.

We are disappointed that we will not be able to see you at these events and thank you personally for your continued support of Historic Shepherdstown. However, your health and wellbeing are also important to us, and we believe that at this time everyone’s safety should take precedence.

Thank you for understanding. As we are able to reschedule, we will keep you informed.


Donna Bertazzoni

President, Historic Shepherdstown Commission  

2019 Shepherdstown Tour of Historic Churches – Dec. 26th 2-6pm

The popular Shepherdstown Tour of Historic Churches will once again be hosted by Historic Shepherdstown & Museum. Assisted by the Shepherdstown Visitor Center, the event will take place on December 26th from 2-6 pm.

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2019 Holiday Ornament Features Former Jefferson Security Bank Building

Sara Wasson, Director of Marketing and Community Relations for Jefferson Security Bank, holds the 2019 Historic Shepherdstown Christmas ornament. She is standing beside a portrait of W.N. Lemen, who was president of the bank when the JSB building, featured on the ornament, was built.

2019 Holiday Ornament Features Former Jefferson Security Bank Building

The Historic Shepherdstown Commission has selected the former Jefferson Security Bank building, also known as the Yellow Brick Bank, for their 2019 holiday ornament.

This is the fifth year that Historic Shepherdstown has recognized important local landmarks with production of a brass holiday ornament. Jefferson Security Bank, as part of their 150th anniversary celebration, helped underwrite the 2019 ornament’s cost.

The building, located at the corner of Princess and German streets, was designed and built specifically for the bank. Jefferson Savings Bank, as it was known then, was formed by seven prominent local businessmen and opened on May 19, 1869. The bank moved into the building in 1906, and changed its name in 1909. The building remained the bank’s headquarters until 1975, when it moved to its current location at the corner of Princess and Washington streets. In 2015, the bank was officially recognized as the oldest corporation in West Virginia.

Restaurateur Kevin Connell operated the successful Yellow Brick Bank restaurant in the building for more than 30 years. Today it houses a Mexican restaurant and offices.

As part of its 150th anniversary celebration, Jefferson Security Bank partnered with local organizations and bank employees to perform 150 days of random acts of kindness. “The community is the reason we have been here for 150 years,” said Sara Wasson, the bank’s director of marketing and community relations. “We wanted to give back to the community, and we wanted to do something more than just in May.”

For 150 days, beginning in December of 2018, the bank engaged in community projects large and small that benefitted residents of Jefferson and Berkeley counties. They included providing 150 Christmas gifts to organizations that help children who otherwise would not have received them, delivering donuts to local teachers, and helping out a Charles Town resident who had lost his home in a fire.

“Closing out the year with the Christmas ornament is a perfect fit for us,” Wasson said. “It is a historic building and as part of our anniversary, we put together a history book of the bank. The ornament was a way of carrying our anniversary on throughout the year.”

The ornament is now on sale at the Historic Shepherdstown Museum, located in the Entler Hotel building, which is open on Saturdays (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Sundays (1 p.m.-4 –p.m.) through October and during Christmas in Shepherdstown. It is also available through the Historic Shepherdstown office (304-876-0910, open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or The museum is also selling 2015-2018 ornaments, which feature McMurran Hall, the Old Marketplace Building, Rumsey Monument and the Entler Hotel. Closer to Christmas, this year’s ornament will be available at the Jefferson Security Bank office downtown and at the Barron Office on Martinsburg Pike, and other local businesses. 

Speaker Series, 2019 – Ret. Pastor Randall Tremba, Shepherdstown Stories

On Wednesday, October 16, Dr. Randall Tremba will be the final speaker in Historic Shepherdstown’s 2019 Speakers Series. His talk is entitled “Dr. Price, Mrs. Williams and Her Corgi Plus Other Tales and Characters of Shepherdstown.” He will be telling stories selected from his collection gathered over 45 years. In the process, he will provide a picture of the town and the many changes it has seen over nearly half a century.

            The talk will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium of the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education on the Shepherd campus. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

            Randall Tremba was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He took a bachelor of arts in philosophy at Wheaton College, Illinois (1969), a master’s of divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California (1973), and a doctor of ministry at Princeton Seminary (1992). He was installed as minister of the Shepherdstown (WV) Presbyterian Church in July 1976. Forty-one years later he retired. In between, he married Paula, became a parent (Jonah, Nathanael, Amanda) and a grandfather, founded the Rumsey Radio Hour (1990), and co-founded the Shepherdstown Good News Paper with Ed Zahniser (May 1979).

            Light refreshments will be served after the talk.

            Historic Shepherdstown will announce the speakers for the 2020 Speakers Series early next year. For more information about the October 16 event, contact the Historic Shepherdstown Commission office at or 304-876-0910.

Sharing Stories Across Generations

Collecting and Preserving Each Others’ Stories

SAIL (Shepherdstown Area Independent Living) will present a panel discussion on Collecting and Preserving Each Others’ Stories on Tuesday, October 1, at 7 pm at the Byrd Center on the campus of Shepherd University.  With support from the WV Humanities Council, the program is free and open to the public.

The panel will be moderated by Dr. Jerry Thomas, Professor Emeritus of History at Shepherd and SAIL member; Betty Snyder, local author and SAIL member; Dr. Keith Alexander, Associate Professor of History at Shepherd; and Caitlyn Sheets, 2019 Shepherd alumna. The panel presentation is part of a year-long intergenerational project entitled “Hear This! Sharing Stories Across Generations.”  The project matches a SAIL member with a Shepherd student to conduct oral history interviews of each other about the transformative experiences in their lives.  

Panelists will share a sample of the stories collected and discuss the benefits of two generations talking together about what shaped their lives.  The panel presentation will also promote the value of oral history as a way to preserve local stories and aims to inspire other groups to use oral history as a way to save the rich variety of stories in our community.

Launched last spring, the project will yield 20 hour-long interviews of seniors in SAIL and Shepherd students at Shepherd that are being recorded and transcribed. A central question of the interviews is, “What events or persons have influenced the course of your life?”  Ten SAIL members and ten Shepherd students are participating in the project

Once all twenty stories have been collected and preserved, they will be available to the public at the Scarborough Library of Shepherd University and the Martinsburg Public Library.  The project will wrap up in the spring of 2020 when selected SAIL members and students will tell their stories to a public audience after being coached on how to craft and tell a story by Shepherdstown’s internationally acclaimed story teller Adam Booth.

The October 1st panel is co-sponsored by the Historic Shepherdstown Commission, the History Department of Shepherd University, and the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education

SAIL’s will be presenting a second panel on Collecting and Preserving Each Others’ Stories moderated by Dr. Marie Tyler-McGraw on Saturday, October 12, at 3 pm at the Martinsburg Public Library on King Street.

SAIL (Shepherdstown Area Independent Living) is an organization helping seniors remain in their own homes and actively engaged in the community as long as possible.

You may download the event flying by clicking the file link below:


Marianne Alexander, Project Director,
SAIL website: www.shepherdstownSAIL.orgSAIL
email address:

Historic Shepherdstown Museum Participates in Annual Museum Day!

The Smithsonian Magazine holds an annual museum day each year–and we’re joining!

The Historic Shepherdstown Museum will open its doors free of charge to all Smithsonian Museum Day ticketholders on Saturday, September 21, 2019, as part of the Smithsonian Magazine’s 15th annual Museum Day, a national celebration in which participating museums emulate the free admission policy at the Smithsonian Institution’s Washington D.C.-based museums.

“The Shepherdstown Museum is pleased to participate in this Smithsonian event. It’s a chance to join with others in highlighting the fascination of museums. Our focus is on items that reveal Shepherdstown’s story, which is at the heart of much of American history, and we welcome visitors to share that with us,” says Historic Shepherdstown president Jerry Bock.

Museum Day tickets are available for download at Visitors who present a Museum Day ticket will gain free entrance for two on September 21. Other participating museums can be found at

The Shepherdstown Museum is joining the Smithsonian in celebrating their “Year of Music,” with permanent and temporary displays that reflect the history of music in the community. Among these are the Museum’s massive 1870’s square piano that belonged to the Show family of German Street; a piece of original sheet music for a bugle march, found in a Shepherdstown attic; and several vintage instruments, including two dulcimers, a concertina, and an accordion.

The Shepherdstown Museum is open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Museum will be open on weekends from now through October and during Christmas in Shepherdstown. Visitors who would like to visit at other times may inquire at the office (304-876-0910 or

Speaker Series, 2019 – Four Experts to Discuss Artisans of the Lower Shenandoah Valley

On Wednesday, September 11th, Historic Shepherdstown will present “Artisans of the Lower Shenandoah Valley,” a panel discussion by four experts on the history of decorative arts in this area. Located at the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education on the Shepherd campus, the free event will begin at 6:45 with Historic Shepherdstown’s annual meeting followed by the talks from 7 to 8:30. Light refreshments will be served afterwards.

Matthew Webster, former Shepherdstown resident, now Colonial Williamsburg’s Director of the Grainger Department of Architectural Preservation and Research, will lead the discussion. He assembled this group of young speakers, saying that they are “up and coming stars in their field. I have seen their lectures develop from research and each is highly regarded.  This is a great opportunity for them and Shepherdstown.”

The three additional speakers will be: Kate Hughes, Decorative Arts Trust Curatorial Intern and Research Scholar of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Katie McKinney, Colonial Williamsburg’s Assistant Curator of Maps & Prints; and Nicholas Powers, Curator of Collections, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.

The titles of the individual talks will be:

  • Matt Webster: “But with a Banner Left”
  • Kate Hughes:  “Piedmont’s Portraits: Patrician Image-Making in the Lower Shenandoah Valley” (Piedmont refers to the old Briscoe home in Jefferson County.)
  • Katie McKinney: “William Roberts’ ‘Excursion over the Mountains’: Backcountry Landscapes ‘by the Pencil of a Virginian’ “
  • Nicholas Powers: “Frederick Kemmelmeyer: Hessian Mercenary to American Artist” (Kemmelmeyer’s last signed portrait was of Shepherdstown’s Catherine Weltzheimer.)

Each talk will take place at 7 p.m. at the Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education.