Established in 1820, Shockoe Hill Cemetery is the first city owned municipal burying ground in Richmond, Virginia.
Interred in the 12-acre cemetery (first named the New Burying Ground) are both the famous and the infamous. The famous include John Marshall, the former Federalist leader, who became the 4th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1801-1835). There are several Virginia governors and acting governors, including William H. Cabell, John Munford, and John Mercer Patton, and two U.S. Senators — Powhatan Ellis and Benjamin W. Leigh. There is also Revolutionary War hero Peter Francisco, who is joined by many veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
On the infamous side, there is Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew, who operated one of the largest spy-rings in the nation during the Civil War. She was supposedly buried vertically, positioned in eternity towards the North.
The cemetery also hosts the Allan family, the adoptive family of the poet Edgar Allan Poe. These include Frances K. Allan, his foster-mother. Poe’s beloved Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, his first love and fiancée at the time of his death, also rests here. Many believe that she was the inspiration for the poem “To Helen.” His childhood friend Robert Craig Stannard and his wife are also here. It is said that during his life Poe could often be found at the cemetery, walking up and down the neat, orderly rows of graves.
By 1904, the cemetery had reportedly fallen into disrepair. Today, this National Historic Landmark has been restored by The Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery, a volunteer group dedicated to preserving the memory and history of the cemetery. It annually hosts walking tours, plays, and historic celebrations.
Know Before You Go
Parking is plentiful inside the cemetery, please observe lanes and right of way. Entrances are on Hospital Street and East Bates Street.