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Lee and Jackson in Lexington, Virginia
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This cemetery is the final resting place of many influential persons in Virginia, Civil War, Washington & Lee University, and VMI history, including Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Other burials include two Virginia governors, four Confederate generals, one of the founders of VMI, and the "Poetess of the South." Established in the late 1700s by the Lexington Presbyterian Church, the cemetery is now owned by the city and regularly restored by the Historic Lexington Foundation. It is still in use today. In July 2020, the "Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery" name was officially removed, and the Lexington City Council officially decided on the name "Oak Grove Cemetery" on September 3rd of that year.


  • Oak Grove Cemetery - formerly known as the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, and originally known as the Presbyterian Cemetery
  • Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery sign - Removed in July 2020
  • Stonewall Jackson's Grave & Statue

The cemetery was established around the Lexington Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1789; the oldest extant, marked burial dates back to 1792. While the church relocated away from the cemetery to its present location in 1845, it continued to maintain and run the cemetery until its transfer to the city in 1949. It was at this time that the cemetery's name was officially changed from the Presbyterian Cemetery to the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery has recorded Lexington's history from the passing of its founders and Revolutionary War patriots through the death toll of the Civil War and up to the present day. It also memorializes the story of the city's two institutions of higher learning, Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute (VMI).

It is said that 296 Confederate soldiers are buried in the cemetery, including four generals other than the cemetery’s longtime namesake, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. He was buried here on May 15, 1863, after a funeral at the Presbyterian Church and only five days after his death from friendly fire and pneumonia on May 10 in northern Virginia. The bronze statue adorning his grave, sculpted by Edward Virginius Valentine, was placed at his burial site much later; it was dedicated on July 21, 1891, in a ceremony keynoted by General Jubal Early and attended by 30,000 people. Buried under it are Jackson, his first and second wife, and his three children – a stillborn son, a daughter who died in childbirth, and his daughter Julia Jackson Christian. Julia’s husband, William, and their son, World War II general Thomas Christian, are buried there as well. 

Other famous burials include Virginia governors James McDowell and John Letcher (governor during most of the Civil War), the "Poetess of the South," Margaret Junkin Preston, and several Congressmen and Senators. One of VMI’s founders, John Preston (husband of Margaret), and its first and second superintendents, Francis Henney Smith and Scott Shipp (who also led the VMI cadets at the Battle of New Market) are buried in the cemetery. There are also graves of many involved in the early history of Washington & Lee University, including the cabinetmaker who crafted the statue of George Washington (nicknamed "Old George") that stood on top of the University's Washington Hall from 1844 to 1990.

Today, the Historic Lexington Foundation works to preserve and restore the cemetery and promote its history and legacy. The foundation occasionally holds tours and work days and has raised funds and hired professional conservators to restore dilapidated headstones and monuments. In July 2020, as part of the renewed nationwide reevaluation of Confederate symbols and monuments following the George Floyd protests, the Lexington City Council unanimously decided to remove the "Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery" name from the property. While the move was met with mixed reactions from local residents and politicians, the city council continued with plans to accept public suggestions for a new name. They chose the name "Oak Grove Cemetery" on August 20th and officially approved it on September 3rd, 2020, with a unanimous vote.

Allen, Mike. Lexington council votes Stonewall Jackson cemetery name change into law, The Roanoke Times. September 3rd 2020. Accessed September 8th 2020. https://roanoke.com/news/lexington-council-votes-stonewall-jackson-cemetery-name-change-into-law/article_3ceee2ff-6c3d-566a-80c4-5f6d785039a4.html.

Graham, Alison. Lexington City Council votes to rename Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, The Roanoke Times. July 6th 2020. Accessed August 11th 2020. https://roanoke.com/news/local/lexington-city-council-votes-to-rename-stonewall-jackson-memorial-cemetery/article_3b960bd6-8868-55b3-a3b1-45826e2bf09c.html.

Hasfurther, Don, Executive Director. Walking Tour through Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. Lexington, VA. Historic Lexington Foundation.

Historic Lexington Foundation. Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. Sign. Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, VA. Viewed January 20, 2020.

History: 250 Years of History - The W&L Story - Home, Washington and Lee. Accessed January 27th 2020. https://www.wlu.edu/the-w-l-story/history/.

History, Lexington Presbyterian Church. Accessed January 25th 2020. http://www.lexpres.org/history/.

HLF Focuses Community Attention on Historic Cemetery Conservation. Historic Lexington Foundation Newsletter. Summer 2018, 4 - 5. Accessed January 25th 2020. http://historiclexington.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/newsletter-2018-summer.pdf.

HLF Promotes Preservation of Area’s Historic Cemeteries. Historic Lexington Foundation Incorporated: News & Views. Winter 2017. Accessed January 25th 2020. http://historiclexington.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/news_views_2017.pdf.

Oliver, Emily and Courtney Penzo. Margaret Junkin Preston: Poetess of the South, Virginia Center For Civil War Studies. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://civilwar.vt.edu/margaret-junkin-preston-poetess-of-the-south/.

Preserving and Interpreting Lexington’s Historic Cemeteries. Historic Lexington Foundation Newsletter. Summer 2019, 4. Accessed January 25th 2020. http://historiclexington.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2019-Summer-HLF-Newsletter-low-res.pdf.

Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Find A Grave. November 13th 2005. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2158181/stonewall-jackson-memorial-cemetery.

Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://lexingtonvirginia.com/directory/attractions/stonewall-jackson-memorial-cemetery.

Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Virginia Is For Lovers. January 31st 2019. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://www.virginia.org/listings/HistoricSites/StonewallJacksonMemorialCemetery/.

Stonewall Jackson's Grave, American Battlefield Trust. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://www.battlefields.org/visit/heritage-sites/stonewall-jacksons-grave.

Stonewall Jackson's Grave, Virginia Is For Lovers. January 25th 2019. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://www.virginia.org/listings/HistoricSites/StonewallJacksonsGrave/.

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, American Battlefield Trust. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/biographies/thomas-j-stonewall-jackson.

Washington & Lee University Library, Rockbridge Historical Society, APVA/Preservation Virginia, and City of Lexington. Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Washington and Lee University Library. Accessed January 25th 2020. https://sjcemetery.wlu.edu/.

Williamson, Jeff. Lexington City Council unanimously agrees to rename Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, WSLS 10 News. July 3rd 2020. Accessed August 11th 2020. https://www.wsls.com/news/local/2020/07/03/lexington-city-council-unanimously-agrees-to-rename-stonewall-jackson-cemetery/.

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Author (Benjamin Woodard)

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