The Richmond History Podcast

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shockoe Hill Cemetery

Shockoe Hill Cemetery with the old City Hospital in the background & The History Pug in the foreground,  photo by Jeff Majer

On a beautiful spring day in the middle of February with my wife and The History Pug, I visited Shockoe Hill Cemetery.  The almost forgotten, beautiful and historic cemetery, opened in 1822 because the original graveyard in Richmond, Va at St. John's Episcopal Church was nearing capacity by 1820.

John Marshall and his wife Polly, probably the most famous people in Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer
While there, we were lucky enough to run into John Burden, The president of the The Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery, the volunteer organization that maintains the grounds.  He was very helpful and had the kind of excitement that makes history fun.  He was doing the dirty work...literally.  He brought bags of dirt to prop up a fallen stone.  Burden pointed out noteworthy markers and told us some stories that only an insider would know.

Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer
Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer
Just past the west wall is Gilpin Court which doesn't have a great reputation.  It may or may not be dangerous around there, you can make your own decision, but when we were there, there was about 8 other people walking around the grounds so it felt pretty safe.

The northern boarder is lined by the charming former Richmond City Hospital building and the Beth Ahabah Cemetery.  (More on Beth Ahabah Cemetery in an up coming post but they have a great museum)

A Marker to the Union and Confederate Soldiers in Shocke Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer

Burden told us that from his research it seemed as though the Union soldiers were originally buried on the other side of the wall (in the back ground above photo), and that it seems like they were all moved to the Richmond National Cemetery on Williamsburg Rd in Richmond's east end.

A monument to the Revolutionary, 1812, and Civil war dead at Shockoe Hill, photo by Jeff Majer

Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer

In the foreground of the photo above you can see just behind the flag a newish stone marking a confederate burial.  The Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery have been trying to get them put in.  When a veterans grave is identified the US Government will provide the stone, but it has to be carved and installed with private funds.

Iron Work at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer

Burden pointed out another volunteer at the cemetery that day, that had taken it on him self to paint the ironwork.  It may or may not be historically accurate but the paint is protection from the elements and adds a bit of color.

A stone cross and an iron marker at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer

There are a few of iron markers in the cemetery.  The above marker on the right is only one example.

Jane Standard Craig's Marker, photo by Jeff Majer

Jane Standard Craig's Marker, photo by Jeff Majer

If you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe you will find many of his friends at Shockoe Hill, including Jane Standard Craig Poe's friend's mom and the inspiration for his poem Helen, Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, who Poe was engaged to and John Allen, Poe's step dad.  Poe himself is not buried here but was a frequent visitor.

Elizabeth Van Lew, photo by Jeff Majer

Elizabeth Van Lew, AKA "Crazy Bet", AKA, one of the most important spies for the Union Army has this unique actual stone.  In the photo above you can see a note in a zip-lock bag that I reeeeaaaaalllllly wanted to open and read but I restrained my self.

Angel at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer
Shockoe Hill Cemetery, photo by Jeff Majer

Some of the residents are unknown to me but have wonderful sculptures over their resting places.  

Other notables include Peter Francisco (1760-1831) "The Sampson of the American Revolution", John Wickham (1763-1839) a prominent lawyer who represented Aaron Burr in his treason trial and his home is now a part of The Valentine Richmond History Center and among others.  Even if you don't know who any of those people are it is a great place for a walk through an out door sculpture garden.  If you go you may see me because I will defiantly be back.

FYI:  It seems narrow but you can pull you car right in the gate, parking is a little sparse in the area.

For more information or to help support the cemetery:

Please share your experiences at Shockoe Hill in the comments below.

"LIKE" this blogs page on Facebook to keep in touch 
Follow on Twitter @historyreplays


  1. Great post! We look forward to seeing you, your wife, and History Pug again.

  2. Very nice posting and great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Absolutely guys, Thanks for checking in, check back.