Maury and Mount Olivet cemeteries are located on the south side of the James River, within an easy walk to Forest Hill Park.
Initially, the settlement across the falls from Richmond had been known as Rocky Ridge, to be renamed Manchester after becoming a town in 1769. Burials in this busy area took place on scattered private lands.
In 1872, the town’s trustees passed an ordinance outlawing private burials within the town limits. Two years later, in 1874, the town purchased a portion of the nearby Buck Hill estate and opened Maury Cemetery, named in memory of the Confederate naval officer and scientist. Area authorities began directing that remains previously buried within the town be removed to the new site. As a result, some markers as early as 1847 predate the founding of the cemetery.
At Maury, Manchester’s authorities practiced the well-established tradition of segregating burials, relegating African American burials to an adjoining “colored” section at the site. In January 1876, the Richmond Daily Dispatch described the whole cemetery as covering “ninety-six acres, twenty of which are unenclosed,” which may have represented the segregated section. A total of 69 whites and 25 African Americans had been buried in the cemetery during its initial year. The first interment in Maury had apparently been that of a white man, John Andrews, who had fallen from a city bridge. The Manchester Almshouse was located nearby. Early superintendents raised a central “mound” and made other improvements to the grounds.
When the city of Richmond annexed Manchester in 1910, it folded Maury into its existing administration of city-owned cemeteries, including Shockoe Hill, Oakwood, and Riverview. That same year, two residents representing the Love and Union Club, a Manchester-based beneficial society providing illness and death benefits to its African-American members, petitioned the city to change the name of the “colored section” to Mount Olivet Cemetery, a name more consonant with this community’s values. The city granted the request. Both sections were placed under the control of a single keeper.
Both Maury and Mount Olivet sections were laid out in grids with decorative circles, and they were separated by a barrier, since removed.
Maury Cemetery inaugurated official Memorial Day commemorations after 1910, and in 1930, the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised a small Confederate monument and flagpole there. Two larger war memorials are aligned on a bluff near the entrance from Maury Street; the first lists the names of “our heroes” who fell during World War I, and the second offers tribute to the “sons of south Richmond” who gave their lives during World War II. The American Legion apparently initiated or sponsored those memorials.
Recently, the city was awarded annual state funding for the upkeep of historic African American graves in the Mt. Olivet section, under the program initiated by House Bill 1547.
For more information, see:
Veronica Davis, Here I Lay My Burdens Down: A History of the Black Cemeteries of Richmond, Virginia (Richmond: Dietz Press, 2003)
Nancy C. Frantel, Richmond, Virginia, Lost Souls Restored: African-American Interments as Listed in the Mt. Olivet Cemetery Register, 1875-1908 (Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2011)
Benjamin B. Weisiger III, Old Manchester & Its Environs, 1769-1910 (Richmond, Va.: B.B. Weisiger, III, 1993)
Find a Grave site for Maury Cemetery
Find a Grave site for Mount Olivet Cemetery