Manus Hand

Visiting James Monroe's Grave

Here I am at one of the great cemeteries in the country, Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, visiting the grave of President Monroe. This visit was made with my wife and her parents on September 7, 1991. A day or two earlier, we visited Monroe's law offices in Fredericksburg. Now it is a small but worthwhile museum tended by an elderly lady who obviously knows her subject. (It was raining and there was a drop of water hanging from the nose of an outdoor bust of Monroe. I was photographed wiping the raindrop and now I have a picture that looks like I've picked a President's nose.) We also visited Monroe's home, called Ash Lawn-Highland. The house sits atop a mountain outside Charlottesville, within eyesight of Jefferson's Monticello. The house had only been opened to the public recently, but it already held a few original pieces of furniture. The garden path is preserved as the President maintained it, and the very visible tale of the renovations that Monroe made to the house is quite interesting.

The thing that struck me first about the trip to Monroe's Richmond grave was (since I come from the wide-open Rockies) that it seems that there is no way to get into Virginia's capital city without paying a toll. The government there has completely ringed the city with toll-booths. Once we did get into town, we found the cemetery against the hilly banks of the foggy James. Theoretically, there were brochures to serve as guides to the famous graves, but the office was closed and the mailbox from which we were supposed to be able to get maps was empty. So we were on our own snaking through the roads of the cemetery in search of the Presidential graves. The cemetery contains a great many walk-in crypts, probably more than I have seen in any other cemetery on this tour. The grave of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was the first famous grave we reached. It is prominently located and seems to be well-tended by sons of the Confederacy. To reach President Monroe's grave, we had to travel quite a bit further back in the cemetery, and eventually we located his caged-in sarcophagus atop a hill. A plaque on the sarcophagus details the posthumous travels of its contents; how Mr. Monroe was initially buried in New York City and removed to Richmond decades later to fulfill a wish of the Commonwealth of Virginia that it locate within its borders the remains of all its native sons who served as Chief Executive.

....More to Come....

...White House Biography of President Monroe...
...Ash Lawn-Highland, Monroe's Virginia Home...
...Hanover College's page on President Monroe includes many resources...
...Search for Rare Books on President Monroe...