Fourth and Hospital Street
There are an estimated 300,000 bodies buried in Shockoe Hill, these include such notables as Chief Justice John Marshall and unionist spymaster Elizabeth Van Lew, intermingled with the wealthy (especially after Chief Justice John Marshall was buried there in 1835) and the poor, the native and the immigrant, all in Richmond’s first city-owned and operated cemetery.
All Southern states (except Arkansas) are represented here by soldiers killed in battle. Including both wartime casualties and veterans.
The Cemetery is still open to burials of family members in existing family plots; the last such burial occurred in 2003. In July 2016 the City reclaimed title to several unused plots, on one of which will stand a columbarium with niches to hold cremated remains. Those plots and niches are now available for purchase by the general public, marking the first sale of grave spaces in the Cemetery since about 1900.
The city still maintains the cemetery, although it is in a rather sad state of disrepair. There are over 25 notable people buried in Shockoe Hill and if you visit there are sign posts that hold maps, but even then it isn’t very easy to find the graves you are searching for.
Here are some of the notable ones that I found.
A Revolutionary soldier, Congressman, and Secretary of State, Marshall served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States between 1801 and 1835. In Marbury v Madison he ensured that the judicial branch was made co-equal to the executive and legislative branches with the power to invalidate actions at odds with the Constitution. He is buried here with his wife, Mary Ambler “Polly” Marshall and other family members.
Elizabeth Van Lew (1818-1900) was raised in a prominent Richmond family but grew to abhor slavery. As an adult she created the most effective Unionist espionage ring in Richmond during the Civil War. From her home on Church Hill she organized spy missions, assisted escaped prisoners, and dispatched critical data to Ulysses S. Grant. After the war, President Grant named her Postmistress of Richmond. She went on to champion black Richmonders and integrated the postal service. Her grave marker is a memorial gift from Union soldiers.
Jane Stanard (1793-1824) was the mother of a close friend of Edgar Allan Poe. His home life was turbulent and he often turned to Jane Stanard for respite and comfort. She treated Poe with kindness and encouraged his writing. She died early and Poe spent long nights pining at her grave. She is believed to be the inspiration for his poem “To Helen”.
Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton (1810-1888) had a romance with Edgar Allan Poe when they were teenagers. When Poe went off to the University of Virginia their romance cooled and they each married others. By 1848 both of their spouses had died and they rekindled their relationship. Sarah is thought to be “Annabel Lee” in his poems.
The center stone if for Peter Francisco (1760?-1831). A Portuguese orphan, Peter grew to almost seven feet tall, leading him to be nicknamed the “Sampson of the American Revolution”. He fought in more than a dozen battles, and suffered as many serious wounds. In his last years he served as Sergeant-at-Arms to the Virginia State Senate. Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusets all celebrate a Peter Francisco Day.
John Mercer Patton(1797-1850) was the great grandfather of General George S. Patton. John Mercer trained as a doctor but never practiced, instead, he went into law and politics. He served as a Congressman and briefly as a provisional Governor in 1841. All eight of his sons served in the confederate military two of which are buried here.
One of the more sad stones in the cemetery is this one. This is the March 1863 Memorial Marker. The marker was placed on the 150th anniversary of the explosion on Brown’s Island in Richmond that killed dozens of munitions workers, mostly young girls. Fourteen of the victims are named on the marker and are buried in the cemetery.