Magnolia Cemetery, described at its dedication as a “spot most precious to the musing hour,” was designed by the Charleston architect Edward C. Jones. It features family plots surrounded by stone coping or cast-iron fences; winding streets and paths with cast-iron benches; ornamental trees and shrubs such as magnolias, live oaks, cedars, and hollies; a small lake; and a vista of the marsh and the nearby river.

(Charleston). Overlooking the Cooper River north of Charleston, Magnolia Cemetery was established in 1850. An excellent example of the rural cemeteries then popular in mid-nineteenth-century America, it followed the example of such cemeteries as Mount Auburn near Boston, Laurel Hill near Philadelphia, and Green-Wood near New York City.

Magnolia Cemetery, described at its dedication as a “spot most precious to the musing hour,” was designed by the Charleston architect Edward C. Jones. It features family plots surrounded by stone coping or cast-iron fences; winding streets and paths with cast-iron benches; ornamental trees and shrubs such as magnolias, live oaks, cedars, and hollies; a small lake; and a vista of the marsh and the nearby river. Gravestones include marble or granite tablets, ledgers, box-tombs, tomb-tables, obelisks, and pedestal-tombs, as well as several prominent mausoleums.

Among the most striking monuments are the Elbert P. Jones Monument (1853), designed by the architect Francis D. Lee; the Vanderhorst Mausoleum (1856), an elaborate Egyptian-revival structure; the Colonel William Washington Monument (1858), designed by the architect Edward Brickell White and sculpted by William T. White and featuring a fluted column with a rattlesnake coiled around it; and the Defenders of Charleston Monument (1882), the focal point of the Confederate section. The cemetery also features many fine examples of work by the White brothers of Charleston—William, Edwin, and Robert—perhaps the most prolific and accomplished stonecutters of nineteenth-century South Carolina. Their stones, often cut from imported Italian marble, are notable for their distinctive lettering and remarkably detailed carving. Some of the prominent South Carolinians buried here include the antebellum industrialist William Gregg, the U.S. senator and secessionist Robert Barnwell Rhett, the author and poet William Gilmore Simms, the merchant and secretary of the Confederate States Treasury George Alfred Trenholm, and Confederate generals James Conner, Micah Jenkins, Arthur M. Manigault, and Roswell S. Ripley. Captain Horace L. Hunley and the second and third crews of the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley are also interred in Magnolia Cemetery.

Fraser, Charles. Address Delivered on the Dedication of Magnolia Cemetery, on the 19th November 1850. Charleston, S.C.: Walker and James, 1850.

Magnolia Cemetery: The Proceedings at the Dedication of the Grounds, to Which Are Appended the Rules, Regulations and Charter of the Company; with a List of Officers and Members of the Board. Charleston, S.C.: Walker and James, 1851.

Phillips, Ted Ashton. “City of the Silent.” Typescript, 1995. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Simms, William Gilmore. The City of the Silent: A Poem, by W. Gilmore Simms, Delivered at the Consecration of Magnolia Cemetery, November 19, 1850. Charleston, S.C.: Walker and James, 1850.

Stuart, Benjamin R. Magnolia Cemetery: An Interpretation of Some of Its Monuments and Inscriptions. Charleston, S.C.: Kahrs and Welch, 1896.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Magnolia Cemetery
  • Author J. Tracy Power
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/magnolia-cemetery/
  • Access Date January 17, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update February 7, 2017