Poplar Grove Farm and the land where Seven Lakes Subdivision is now located were part of the land holdings of George Curtis, Jr, who is the father of Sallie Curtis French, first of our family to live at Poplar Grove Farm. George Curtis also owned Green Meadows and Ludlow, which is now Seven Lakes Subdivision and where the Curtis family cemetery still stands at the corner of Meridan and Ruffian Drive.
SALLY LOU FITZHUGH appears relaxed in a comfortable chair at her home at Poplar Grove Farm as she reminisces about her great-grandmother Sarah “Sallie” Curtis French and her life and times in Stafford County.
“Growing up in Stafford was not easy; times were hard,” Fitzhugh says, adding that her great-grandmother and her family proved to be one of the more resourceful, tenacious and colorful families of the community, with a history dating back to the days of American Indians, Quaker settlements and the Civil War.
One vestige of the Curtis family extends to the backwoods of Garrisonville, where Sallie Curtis was born on a 1,032-acre farm called Green Meadows. Atop a hill bordered by Leyland cypress and one large, majestic red cedar lies a small burial ground belonging to George and Jemima Curtis, who married and began their lives together at the beginning of the 19th century. The land, about eight miles west of the Interstate 95 interchange on State Route 648 (Stefaniga Road), is now known as Seven Lakes subdivision.
Situated behind undeveloped property at the corner of Meridan Road and Ruffian Drive, this interesting little plot has only two tombstones; the graves of other members of the Curtis family are marked by stones of various sizes. There are 12 graves in all. The two tombstones are identical in size and shape, with ivy leaves chiseled into the stone. They are not the graves of the family patriarch and matriarch, but rather of George Curtis’ grandson, William H. Curtis, and William’s daughter Amelia, George’s great-granddaughter.
In those times, the land was divided, part known as Green Meadows and the other part (where the family plot is) known as Ludlow. Sallie’s father acquired the land when Quakers who settled during the 17th century decided to leave the area around 1780.
Some residents of Seven Lakes subdivision have taken an interest in beautifying the old Curtis family cemetery. A formal tea was given in September in Fitzhugh’s honor at the home of Dee Dorminey, and the cemetery project was discussed. Three other members of the Curtis family attended the tea: Francis Curtis (William H. Curtis’ grandson); Robin Curtis Bishop (Francis’ daughter); and Darlene Curtis Johnson, granddaughter of Jesse Curtis, who sold 500 acres to Stafford County for Curtis Memorial Park.
George Curtis, the patriarch at Green Meadows, was a farmer, and the money crops were corn and cotton. “They tried tobacco, with little success,” said Fitzhugh. “Very little money actually circulated.” What they raised was mostly to sustain the farm. They bartered and traded, “that sort of thing,” she continues. “Some people even had mills to grind their own grain, but when some in the community became millers, people would bring their grain to them and come back with barrels of flour and so forth.”
“They hunted game, too,” Fitzhugh says, adding there are more deer and turkey in the area now than in the early days, “when a deer was a rare thing.” That’s because back then, even “70, 80 years ago, they didn’t have the habitat they have now,” she says.
Sallie Curtis was born April 1, 1812, the youngest of the girls, and one of nine children (one of her siblings died). When Sallie turned 18 she married James French of Loudoun County, on Sept. 23, 1830, in Stafford. In terms of property her father was well off, and as a wedding gift he gave his youngest daughter a 1,000-acre farm called Poplar Grove, about 12 miles northwest of Fredericksburg in Stafford County.
It is here that the fabric of the Curtis family comes to life in stories handed down through generations and Sallie’s poignant letters. …
Sallie French died on May 28, 1872, at the age of 60, of typhoid pneumonia. She is buried at Poplar Grove.
… the presence of the Curtis family lives on.
“After all,” says Fitzhugh, “we’ve been here almost as long as the Indians!”
JUDY STOBBE of Stafford County is a Realtor and freelance writer.Stobbe, Judy. “Curtis Family Roots Run Deep in Stafford.” Free-Lance Star Newspaper [Fredericksburg, VA]. Nov 16, 2002. https://fredericksburg.com/curtis-family-roots-run-deep-in-stafford/article_1ed7ca5e-1e13-50fb-859c-bc4d74132fa4.html