Examining Local History in Burke

Examining Local History in Burke

Glenn Curtis presents stories of Burke’s past.

Saber of the civil war soldier that died under John and Mary Marshall’s house.

Saber of the civil war soldier that died under John and Mary Marshall’s house. Photo by Jennifer Albarracin


Glenn Curtis, born in Burke in 1930, was interviewed by Mary Lipsey, a retired history teacher, at the recent Burke Historical Society meeting.

On a Sunday afternoon, Aug. 21, in a meeting room at the side of the Pohick Regional Library, the Burke Historical Society congregates to share and feed their curiosity on Burke’s History. One might think the topic would not pique the interest of a large crowd, but people kept pouring in well after the meeting started, with additional chairs needed.

The program attracting the attention: Glenn Curtis, born in Burke in 1930, interviewed by Mary Lipsey, a retired history teacher and a member of the society herself.

“I went and looked into the 1860s census information about John [Marshall] and he is listed as a farmer, owner of 100 acres of which 70 he was farming,” Lipsey told society members and Curtis, himself a descendant of the Marshall family.

John and Mary Marshall were prominent figures in the mid- to late 1800s owning much of Burke and a general store located at the heart of the town that no longer exists. John was a train station manager and later appointed the first post master of Burke, serving between 1852-1854. In addition, Curtis is a founding member of the Burke Volunteer Fire Department. During the meeting, he recounted tragic accidents that occurred in the area from fires, train crashes and a collapsing bridge.

Curtis, now 89 years old, holds many memories and of what Burke used to be through his grandfather, Robert E. Marshall. “They (John and Mary Marshall) had no children but had lots of nieces and nephews and I heard this house kept on expanding so the nieces and nephews could come and visit,” says Lipsey. One of those nephews was Robert, Curtis’s grandfather. Robert Marshall briefly owned the General store, passed down to him by the Marshalls. It was two stories high and had a double decker porch. “Grandad said bartering was a big thing,” said Glenn about how the store functioned back then. A railway was built nearby, with the help of Colonel Silas Burke, who the town was named after. It allowed the general store to easily carry timber and other supplies until it was relocated in the early 1900s. In 1939, a fire destroyed the store, forcing it to go out of business.

One of the many captivating stories is of an unidentified Civil War wounded soldier who Curtis says, “crawled up (under the Marshall’s house porch) and died there.” The Marshalls decided to bury him in their familial burial plot what is today known as the Marshall Family cemetery. Left behind was his saber, now a family heirloom, brought in by Mike Young, Glenn Curtis’s nephew, to the meeting for everyone to see.

The Marshall House, a historical marker, has seen many stories unfold before its eyes.

“Does the Marshall House exist today?” Lipsey asks. She answers herself, “Sort of.” The house was moved to the Burke Nursery and Garden Center around the 1970s but burned down on a Halloween. Despite it all, the Marshall’s history and spirit still persists in the replica house that was made after, made using the original plans of the house according to Curtis and in the stories shared at meetings held by the Burke Historical Society.