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Magnolia Cemetery — Charleston, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Charleston County  |  Magnolia Cemetery

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Magnolia Cemetery

Historic Magnolia Cemetery rests on the banks of the Cooper River in northern peninsular Charleston. Established in 1850, the storied burial site occupies 92 acres of a former rice plantation, Magnolia Umbra. The former plantation home, which dates to 1805, now serves as the superintendent’s office (pictured below).

Magnolia Umbria House

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The site’s design follows a mid-nineteenth century trend towards rural cemeteries. A yellow fever outbreak gripped Charleston in the 1850s, creating an even greater need for public cemeteries such as this one.

Eliza Barnwell Heyward, Magnolia Cemetery

Mike Lempert of Mount Pleasant, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Over the past 170 years, Magnolia Cemetery has evolved into a museum of sorts. It was laid out by noted architect Edward C. Jones, who also designed the United States Custom House on East Bay Street, among other popular buildings throughout Charleston and South Carolina.

Magnolia Cemetery

Allen Forrest of Jacksonville, FL, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The funerary art seen at Magnolia Cemetery is considered among the most beautiful in the United States. Mausoleums, memorials, headstones, and statuary adorn the landscape and tell stories of the deceased while reflecting on spirituality.

Magnolia Cemetery

Terri Vines of Summerville, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A special section of Magnolia, located near the old plantation house, is reserved for Confederate soldiers killed during the Civil War. Of particular note, Magnolia holds the remains of the third and final crew of the H.L. Hunley. On the night of February 17, 1864, the Hunley made history by becoming the first submarine to successfully attack and sink an enemy ship, the USS Housatonic. Everyone aboard both ships perished.

Magnolia Cemetery

Allen Forrest of Jacksonville, FL, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The crew’s remains were recovered, along with the Hunley itself, on August 8, 2000. The remains were laid to rest in Magnolia Cemetery on April 17, 2004, following a service at the Battery and a procession to the grave sites. The crew was comprised of Lieutenant George E. Dixon (Commander), Frank Collins, Joseph F. Ridgaway, James A. Wicks, Arnold Becker, Corporal C. F. Carlsen, C. Lumpkin, and Augustus Miller.

Magnolia Cemetery Hunley Crew

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The grounds also serve as the final resting place of many prominent South Carolinians, including several former governors.

The receiving tomb at Magnolia Cemetery, shown below, housed the newly deceased while his or her grave was prepared. The masonry vault – which features thick, windowless walls – was designed to keep bodies cool during a time when modern embalming techniques had not yet been adopted. Most bodies were stored for only a few days, but some bodies were preserved here for longer periods.


Keith Rice of Aiken © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Records show that at least one person, William Burroughs Smith, remained in the receiving tomb for 30 months. The vault can store as many as four bodies at once, and it was not uncommon for the departed to be kept inside for a year or more. The families of the deceased were charged $25 per month for rent.

Magnolia Cemetery Receiving Tomb

Robert Benson of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

In 2011, the receiving tomb at Magnolia was listed as one of the Preservation Society of Charleston’s first Seven to Save. The list, which the organization uses to coalesce “intellectual and financial resources” to help save local landmarks, is updated each time a landmark is restored.

The tomb won a $118,000 grant and has since been stabilized, but the entire cemetery was added to the Preservation Society’s list in 2014.

The Charleston Cemeteries Historic District is located on land formerly belonging to the Magnolia-Umbra plantation adjacent to Magnolia Cemetery. Considered an outstanding example of the Rural Cemetery Movement of the mid-nineteenth century, the District comprises a uniquely diverse collection of 22 contributing cemeteries of different religions as well as African–American mutual-aid burial societies. The societies were founded to provide insurance against the financial cost of burying loved ones and to provide care for widows and orphans.

As the Preservation Society further notes, “A large number of people care about and have a deep connection with these historic cemeteries, but their caretakers are overwhelmed by the maintenance and preservation tasks associated with them.”

Magnolia Cemetery Funerary Art

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Many infants are interred in the hallowed grounds of Magnolia. In the days before vaccinations and emergency medical treatments, children often did not make it to adulthood. Visitors looking at their graves today will find trinkets, flowers, and other mementos. Even today, they are looked after and loved.

Magnolia Cemetery Bear

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Affectionally known as “Grandfather Oak” by the staff of the cemetery, this live oak tree located near the office of the property is said to be over 800 years old. Standing over 60 feet tall, with a circumference of 25 feet and, a bough spread of 117 feet, this is without a doubt one of the grandest relics on the premises.

Grandfather Oak, Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The grave of Rosalie Raymond White is perhaps one of the most well known graves in the cemetery. Rosalie was born in Charleston on January 27, 1882 and died seven months later on September 5. She was the daughter of Blake and Rosalie White, of their three daughters named Rose, two died in infancy.

Rosalie Raymond White Grave

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The grave is fashioned after a cradle, or bassinet, and adorned with a death mask. A death mask is a cast of a person’s face following death, usually made by placing plaster directly on the face of the corpse. These molds were used for the creation of portraits and keepsakes to remember loved ones before photographs were commonplace. The death mask was common from the Middle Ages until the 19th century.

Rosalie Raymond White, Death Mask

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The stately gates at Magnolia Cemetery close just as the sun begins to set in the evening. The neighboring chapel of Bethany Cemetery can be seen as you exit the gates onto Cunnington Avenue.

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Learn more about famous people buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

More Pictures of Magnolia Cemetery

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Assorted Graves Magnolia Cemetery

Ted Jennings of Summerville, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Pamela Talbird of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Pamela Talbird of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Pamela Talbird of Charleston, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery Road

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Confederate Section of Magnolia Cemetery

Connie Fowler of Mount Pleasant, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery Trees

Brandon Coffey of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Tombs at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston

E. Karl Braun of North Charleston, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery Grave Marker

Kathie Lee of Hollywood, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Magnolia Cemetery is listed in the National Register:

Magnolia Cemetery, a large public cemetery, covers approximately 92 acres and contains the graves of numerous prominent South Carolinians. Established in 1850, Magnolia is extensively landscaped with winding drives and paths interspersed with small ponds and a lake, and contains excellent examples of late 19th century cemetery architecture and sculpture. The original design included a chapel, formal garden, keeper’s house, and receiving room. Of the original cemetery structures, the Receiving Tomb remains, plus a ca. 1805 structure (now the superintendent’s office), three 1890s structures, five mausoleums, and many impressive examples of cemetery art and architecture. Also remaining are excellent examples of iron work, of the late 19th century and remnants of the original landscape patterns. Magnolia enjoyed prominence during the mid and late 19th century, a time when it was also a popular spot for picnicking during the Victorian era. The cemetery is an excellent reflection of the arts, tastes, and social mores of the 19th century.

Magnolia Cemetery Sources



Magnolia Cemetery Info

Address: 70 Cunnington Avenue, Charleston, SC 29405
GPS Coordinates: 32.816154,-79.946349
Website: http://www.magnoliacemetery.net/

Magnolia Cemetery Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

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21 Comments about Magnolia Cemetery

V. Kessel says:
January 13th, 2020 at 3:16 pm

I found my way to your website shortly after I visited Magnolia Cemetery in late December, and really enjoy the photos you have here! Could I add some more? There would be about half a dozen, with short commentary for each. All relate to the symbolism found on grave markers. Obviously, you could pick and choose which to use. Please let me know how to submit. Thanks.

Linda Kellogg says:
August 15th, 2019 at 7:09 pm

I am in search of my great-grandmother Margaret Harrison – the story from my family is that she was buried in this cemetery around 1870, but so far I am unable to place her here. Is there any one to talk with regarding this? Thank you in advance.

Guy E. Crauwels says:
July 21st, 2019 at 11:23 pm

Nice pictures. We visited Magnolia the same day we visited the Hunley. Only 5 aboard the USS Housatonic perished.

SC Picture Project says:
December 27th, 2018 at 12:08 am

Hello Travis, we are not directly affiliated with Magnolia so do not have further information about the cemetery or where plots may be if you were seeking that sort of information. If you were, we would recommend reaching out to them directly, their phone number is (843)-722-8638. Thanks so much and hope this helps you, best of luck!

Travis May says:
December 26th, 2018 at 9:30 pm

I am researching a William H. Holmes who is a distant relative to an Elizabeth Holmes Farr who through DNA has a match to me. I also have a brother, Donald G.May who is buried at Magnolia, next to his wife’s first husband.

Martha B Macdonald says:
September 1st, 2018 at 7:54 pm

I think the pictures are awesome. I am interested in knowing who Joan Perry was. Will you tell me? Who is Lila Heyward?

tammy flowers says:
October 18th, 2017 at 2:27 am

My Great great Grandfather Soloman Jacob Rothrock is buried there. He died during the Civil War. He was born 2-12-1834 and died in 1864 in a hospital there of yellow fever. If you have any information on him could you let me know.

SCIWAY says:
June 8th, 2015 at 8:53 am

I wish we had the resources to help you! Best of luck in your search.

Sheila says:
June 2nd, 2015 at 10:59 am

Can you tell me how I would find where a person has their burial plot, and which cemetery? I have a friend that lived in Georgia and he said he had a cemetery plot paid in full on Johns Island, South Carolina, and he has now passed. I can’t reach any of his kin? Can you help me?

Jan Siever says:
February 12th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Interested in Meiburg burials.

Chip says:
August 30th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Individual information about deceased South Carolinians can often be paired up with the companion memorial on FindAGrave.com.

Franklin Clark Sheen says:
July 30th, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I have a death notice with picture that says:
” Sybil Amelia
Wife of
E. W. Gurley
Died at Charleston, So. Ca.
March 21, 1908
A True Wife. A Loving Mother. A Good Woman”

SCIWAY says:
March 7th, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Hi Kim! Thank you so much for your kind words. We believe that the best place to find this information would be the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Even if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, they will be able to steer you in the right direction. Good Luck! – SCIWAY

Kim Porter says:
March 6th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Thanks so much for your work on this site. Is there a list of those buried in this cemetery? I’m hoping to locate my great grandamother who is reportedly buried there. Her name was Sybil Amelia Gurley and she possibly married a man by the last name of Bicaise before she died. Any ideas how to find her grave?

James D Payne says:
February 11th, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I was looking for Capt Thomas Paine, Sr who was a harbor master in Charleston. He died 1828 and was buried in cemetery of Second Presbyterian Church at 342 Meeting Street in Charleston. Captain Thomas Paine was buried with sons Stephen Paine, who died in 1811, and Joseph Bridgham Paine, who died in 1827. They are all three buried in the cemetery at Second Presbyterian Church, Charleston, Lot 72, Square 3, Stone # 8. Was it customary to be buried stacked on top of each casket?

I also am trying to find Nathaniel Russell Paine’s grave in Magnolia Cemetery. He was buried about 1863-1865.

James Payne

Chip says:
January 22nd, 2011 at 7:15 pm

William Burrows Smith, was an industrious man, leaving school at the age of 15 to seek his fortune in the cotton factorage business (a sort of business agent for the cotton planters to use to sell their cotton harvests to the various milling interests.) The pyramid was erected by his family after his death, and his remains entombed. His crypt is behind the marble panel at the center back wall, under the stain glass window. His wife Frances Susan Jones Smith is entombed directly under his crypt.

To the left of the door, are three kin: Daughter Helen Smith Whaley (wife of William Baynard Whaley, Jr), Her son, Rep Richard Smith Whaley, who also was appointed by the president to the bench as a Federal Judge, and Lillian Heyward Nylander, a daughter of Frances ‘Fannie’ Smith Heyward (Helen’s older sister). To the right of the front door, is another of Helen’s sons and daughter-in-law. Dr Thomas Prioleau Whaley and his wife Henrietta, and on the bottom right, Heyward Champion, who died young, was a manager at Worthington Arms Co. He was the grandson of Fannie Smith Heyward, and the brother to the famous naval aviator, Carleton Cole Champion, Jr. All these names are documented and have memorials on the web at Find A Grave. They are a fascinating and very accomplished family. The pyramid mausoleum is featured on Ted Phillip’s book about Magnolia, ‘City of the Silent’.

susan thomas says:
November 30th, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Spent a very scary Halloween night walking thru Magnolia cemetary with friends back in the teenage years. Beautiful cemetary and several family friends and family members are buried there.

sharon shisler says:
November 14th, 2010 at 11:34 am

My great grandparents are buried here.

Dee Woods says:
August 29th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Spent many peaceful hours visiting those who had given their lives for what they believed to be right. I will always cherish those memories.

SCIWAY says:
August 9th, 2010 at 7:40 am

Hello! It is such a beautiful cemetery. We weren’t able to uncover very much information about the pyramid online, but we do know that it is called the “Wm. Smith Pyramid” and that there are very few of these pyramid-styled mausoleums in our country. Apparently, they were created for wealthy tycoons who wanted to be remembered for as long as the ancient Egyptian pharaohs! Here is a picture of the pyramid, and we hope this helps!


sheryl says:
August 7th, 2010 at 11:47 am



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