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Sheaff family papers


Held at: Highlands Historical Society [Contact Us]7001 Sheaff Lane, Fort Washington, PA, 19034

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Highlands Historical Society. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Highlands was originally built for Anthony Morris (1766-1860), a lawyer and politician who served as speaker of the Pennsylvania Senate from 1793-1794. The home was built by Morris to escape the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 in Philadelphia. The estate served as a farm and summer house for Morris and his family until it was sold to the Sheaff family in 1813.

George Sheaff (1779-1851) was a wine merchant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Sheaff family, which included George's wife Ann Catherine Sheaff and their nine children, were the first family to reside at The Highlands year-round. Members of the Sheaff family occupied the mansion for 102 years. Sheaff was interested in "progressive" agriculture and scientific farming, and the grounds blossomed under his hand. The most notable change that Sheaff made to the property was the addition of the two-acre garden which remains today. Some land was sold after the death of George Sheaff, but fifty-nine acres, including the mansion, were kept by the family. John Sheaff (1821-1915), his wife Fanny Platt (1833-1902), and two of his sisters Kate (1809-1880) and Ellen (1813-1909), continued to reside at The Highlands. Shortly after the death of the last Sheaff heir in 1915, the mansion was sold to Miss Caroline Sinkler (1860-1949).


Signs displayed at The Highlands, November 14, 2011.

The Sheaff family resided at The Highlands for 102 years, during which time family members faithfully maintained daily journals. These primary documents shed light on both the day-to-day activities of the Sheaffs and 19th century life in general. In its archives, The Highlands Historical Society has twenty-four original journals, dating from 1838 to 1904.

The Sheaff family papers also include property plans and surveys, wills and estate records, construction agreements, and newspaper advertisements for the sale of the property. There are several framed original deeds and indentures from the 19th century. A highlight of the collection is a ledger kept by George Sheaff, 1813-1816.

Twenty of the Sheaff journals were a gift of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, circa 2005. The George Sheaff ledger was given to the Highlands Historical Society by the Historical Society of Fort Washington in 1976. The other documents were found on the property.

Highlands Historical Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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