Established in 1820, with the initial burial in 1822, Shockoe Hill Cemetery was the first City-owned municipal burial ground in Richmond. The cemetery expanded in 1833, in 1850, and in 1870, when it reached its present size of 12.7 acres. Shockoe Hill Cemetery is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places. The City still owns and maintains the cemetery. The Friends of Shockoe Hill Cemetery , a volunteer group formed in 2006, acts as a steward of the cemetery and assist with upkeep and improvement, including organizing the placement of government-issue military markers.
Among many notables interred here are Chief Justice John Marshall, Unionist spymaster Elizabeth Van Lew, Revolutionary War hero Peter Francisco, and Virginia Governor William H. Cabell. More than a thousand servicemen are known to be buried here, including 27 Revolutionary War veterans; an estimated 430 or so War of 1812 veterans; and an estimated 600 or so Civil War soldiers, both veterans and wartime casualties. The Society of the War of 1812 in Virginia has suggested that more veterans of that war are buried at Shockoe Hill, than at any other cemetery in the country. About five hundred Union Army POWs had been buried just outside the east cemetery wall from 1861 to 1863, but their remains were moved to Richmond National Cemetery, three miles to the east, in 1866–67. Two markers, one placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1938, and the other by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (a/k/a MOLLUS) in 2002, memorialize those POW burials.
The Cemetery is 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.
Shockoe Hill Cemetery is across the street from the Hebrew Cemetery of Richmond, a separate and privately owned cemetery.
The cemetery holds the graves of Chief Justice John Marshall; attorney John Wickham (counsel for Aaron Burr in Burr's 1807 treason trial); Revolutionary War hero Peter Francisco; famed Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew, as well as many members of her spy network; John Minor Botts, a Congressman and later a dedicated Unionist who helped lead opposition to the Confederate government; Virginia Governor William H. Cabell; Virginia Acting Governors John Mercer Patton (General George S. Patton's great-grandfather), John Rutherfoord, and John Munford Gregory; Judge Dabney Carr; United States Senators Powhatan Ellis and Benjamin W. Leigh; Dr. Daniel Norborne Norton, developer of the Norton grape; dozens of Revolutionary War soldiers; and hundreds of Confederate soldiers. It is believed the more than 400 veterans of the War of 1812 buried here is the largest such assemblage in the country.
Many people important in the life of Edgar Allan Poe, who grew up and lived much of his adult life in Richmond, are interred at Shockoe Hill. Among them are Frances K. Allan, beloved foster-mother to Poe, and her husband John; Sarah Elmira Royster Shelton, perhaps the great love of Poe's life; and Jane Stith Craig Stanard, wife of prominent judge Robert Stanard and the inspiration for his poem "To Helen".