President John Tyler was not a very popular president. In life, he became the first Vice-President to ever take over after his running mate’s death— a decision so unpopular all but one member of his cabinet resigned. He continued to upset members of both his party and his opponents for years and then made the unwise decision of backing the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, a decision that led to him being the only president in American history whose death was not observed by the United States.
Tyler’s final resting place was not to his liking. He never even wanted to be buried in the Confederacy’s capital. For him, his eternal home was to be at his beloved Sherwood Forest Plantation on the banks of the James River in eastern Virginia. Tyler lived on the property for much of his adult life and selected a handsome spot on the property’s front lawn that overlooked the house for his burial.
Even though Tyler wouldn’t be laid to rest at his home, future Tylers were—albeit not any humans. Sherwood would stay in the family for generations and is still owned by the Tylers today. A pet cemetery was also established on the property, making it the only presidential house in America to have a completely sectioned-off area for pets.
The tradition was actually started by Tyler himself. Sometime after leaving office in 1845, his beloved horse, The General, died. Tyler had him buried on the property, accompanied by an epitaph that read,
“Here lie the bones of my old horse, ‘General’, who served his master faithfully for twenty-one years. And never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same!”
For generations thereafter, dogs and cats alike were buried alongside The General, many of their headstones bearing similarly funny phrases and quotes. Alongside small wooden crosses stand adorable stone statues of felines and canines, a touching remembrance for the fuzzy friends who make life all the more worth living.
Know Before You Go
Upon entering the property, the cemetery is directly on the right. If you're on the self-guided tour, it is stop #1.