From the Richmond Times, 3/11/1900, p. 22, c. 4

Some Interesting Facts About the Old Burying-Ground.
One of the Oldest God’s Acres in the State – Number of Noted Characters of Ante-Bellum Times Buried There.

On the northern limies of the city, between Second and Fifth Streets, and directly in front of the City Hospital and Almshouse, is one of the oldest burying-grounds in the State and the second oldest in the city, known to residents of Richmond as Shockoe Hill Cemetery. This might practically be called a burying-ground of the past generations, as the large majority of the graves within its limits date between the fifties and sixties, while those of more recent years are in very small minority. Yet this cemetery is still in use and some families of the city, who own sections therein, and whose ancestors sleep in this peaceful, quiet spot, still bury their dead here, but in spite of this, the old cemetery is fast falling into disuse.


This burying-ground was established in 1822, when St. John’s church-yard, on Church Hill, was the only cemetery in or around Richmond. This soon became the principal grounds of its kind in this vicinity, and the families of the Capitol City soon brought up the entire number of sections. For a number of years all the prominent people and best families of this section were buried here, but its dimensions were too small, being only twelve acres, for the rapid growth of the city, and it soon became necessary to establish other cemeteries. Hollywood, Oakwood and the other grave-yards soon claimed the attention of the city. Since the ever-increasing popularity in these new grounds began, the interments in Shockoe Hill have continued to fall off, and the interest in the cemetery to fail, as the old owner, to whom it was a sacred and beloved spot, died out and were laid to rest beneath its quiet shades.


The cemetery belongs to the city and has always been cared for by them, but the sections owned by private persons are private grounds and the city and cemetery attendants cannot do anything to improve the general appearance of the grounds, because they cannot, without the order of the section-owners, keep these sections in order, as they might in some way violate the wishes of the owners by removing some paint or stone with a sacred meaning. Yet in spite of the efforts of Mr. George B. Davis, who has charge of the cemetery, the majority of these sections are not kept in order by their owners as they should be.

When Shockoe Hill Cemetery was in its palmist days the city derived a large amount of revenue from the sale of sections and single graves there, but since the sections have long ago been all sold, and since there are no more single graves to be had, the revenue of former days has almost entirely ceased, and hence the interest taken by the city and the money appropriated by the Council to keep it in proper condition has stopper.

Since Hollywood and Oakwood have drawn most of the money in their direction, the amount spent on Shockoe has been very small.


Through the untiring efforts of Mr. Davis and a few friends, the Council has made recently an appropriation of $1,100 to build a new wall around the entire cemetery, as the old one is in a very dilapidated condition, and the City Engineer has been authorized to draw up plans and obtain bids on the work. This will greatly improve the appearance of the grounds, which ought certainly to be kept up, as within it sleeps some of the most illustrious of Virginia’s sons. There are but two sections in the entire cemetery which are endowed with perpetual care. Several other sections are well taken care of by the owners, but the majority of them are in sad need of attention, as the handsome monuments and slabs are leaning and ought to be righted. Most of the monuments are of the old style, plain, straight columns and very little modern work of this kind is to be seen.


Near the centre of the cemetery is the Marshall section, in which lies the remains of Chief Justice John Marshall and his family. By the side of the old tombs, which mark the resting places of this great man and his family is a small grave which has nothing to tell who sleeps beneath it. Not far off is the grave of Peter Franciscoe, which is marked by a plain wooden slab with his name and 1836 upon it, and in recent years the Sons f the American Revolution have placed a revolutionary grave marker there, which shows that he was a soldier in the war for independence. This man was noted for his immense strength, his great power of lifting and fighting and capture of six British soldiers. His grave is always shown to visitors.


Among others who rest here in this quiet spot are James McDonald, editor of the Richmond Whig; John Minor Botts, 1869, and Archibald B. Botts, who died during the Mexican War; Judge Dabney Carr, 1837, and John Hampton Pleasants, a prominent editor, Whig and politician of ante-bellum days, who was killed in a duel by William F. Richie.

The first body to be buried in this cemetery was that of Mrs. McCormick, who was buried on April 10, 1822.

In recent years a large number of bodies have been disinterred and moved to Hollywood. Mr. Walter L. Blackburn, the grave-digger and attendant of Shockoe Cemetery, has worked in this capacity for the past seventeen years.


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