Tusculum is the original home of the Crawford family in Amherst County and one of the oldest and most architecturally significant dwellings in the Virginia Piedmont.  Built in the 1750s, it features a timber-frame construction and two wings, connected by an innovative breezeway. It is the birthplace of U.S. Senator William H. Crawford (1772-1834) and the childhood home of Maria Crawford, wife of Elijah Fletcher and mother of Indiana Fletcher Williams, the founder of Sweet Briar College.

An Overview of the Crawford Family Residence

Tusculum was built in two stages: the initial house was built ca. 1750s for either David Crawford II or his son, David Crawford III, and a large addition was added in ca. 1805.  William Sidney Crawford (1760-1815) inherited the house and property from his grandfather sometime after 1762.  William was educated at Princeton and practiced law. While living in Clifford, he served as the Clerk of the Amherst County Courts and worked out of the "master's office" on the Tusculum grounds. 

Elijah Fletcher Inherits Tusculum

In 1813, William Sidney Crawford's daughter, Maria, married Elijah Fletcher, a young schoolteacher from Vermont.  Elijah began operating the Tusculum plantation upon his father-in-law's death in 1815. He eventually inherited the property from the Crawford heirs.

By 1819, Elijah Fletcher and his wife had moved to Elm Avenue in nearby Lynchburg, and he soon became one of its most prominent citizens.  Between 1825 and 1841, Elijah published a Whig newspaper, The Virginian.  He also served several terms on the Lynchburg town council and was elected mayor of the city in 1830 and 1832. 

Elijah and Maria had four children together.  Beginning in 1830, the Fletcher family began spending time at their new Sweet Briar plantation, named by Maria Crawford Fletcher for the herbaceous Eglantine rose growing on the property (Rosacea sweetbriarensis).  While Sweet Briar is mentioned mostly as a summer residence, the family visited it and Tusculum all through the year. In corresponding with Crawford relatives in Kentucky, Elijah constantly remarked on the condition of Tusculum, the appearance of the garden, and the health of the slaves.  It was obviously well loved by the family. 

Sidney Fletcher: the Next Generation at Tusculum

Fletcher's eldest son, Sidney, began managing the Tusculum plantation around 1841 between his various travels after college. Despite his education in medicine from Yale, Sidney Fletcher preferred farming and the property was formally transferred to his ownership in 1849.  Elijah remarked in a letter, "Everything looks neat and Flourishes there. The prettiest crop of wheat I have seen anywhere this Spring. Sidney is a first rate manager." Sidney remained at Tusculum until his death in 1898. 

The Williams Family and the 20th Century

In his will Sidney bequeathed the house to his cousin, John Jay Williams (descended from Elijah Fletcher's sister, Lucy, who married into the Williams family). When John Jay Williams inherited Tusculum, he moved in with his wife and five boys. The house remained in the Williams family until 1987, when it was sold to Dr. Clarence "Bud" Edwards.

Lucy Fletcher Williams (Elijah Fletcher's Sister).
Photograph contributed by Fran Bogausch, a descendant.
Modified version of Lucy Fletcher's Birth Announcement as Found in the Family Bible. Contributed by Fran Bogausch, a descendant.