Magnolia Cemetery (Mobile, Alabama)

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Magnolia Cemetery including Mobile National Cemetery
Magnolia Cemetery Mobile Alabama 7.JPG
Neoclassical-style statuary monument for Eliza Bleecker.
LocationAnn and Virginia Streets, Mobile, Alabama
Coordinates30°40′27.00″N 88°3′50.11″W / 30.6741667°N 88.0639194°W / 30.6741667; -88.0639194Coordinates: 30°40′27.00″N 88°3′50.11″W / 30.6741667°N 88.0639194°W / 30.6741667; -88.0639194
Architectural styleFunerary
NRHP reference #86003757[1][2]
Added to NRHPJune 13, 1986

Magnolia Cemetery is a historic city cemetery located in Mobile, Alabama. Filled with many elaborate Victorian-era monuments, it spans more than 100 acres (40 ha).[3] It served as Mobile's primary, and almost exclusive, burial place during the 19th century.[3] It is the final resting place for many of Mobile's 19th and early 20th century citizens. The cemetery is roughly bounded by Frye Street to the north, Gayle Street to the east, and Ann Street to the west.[4] Virginia Street originally formed the southern border before the cemetery was expanded and now cuts east–west through the center of the cemetery.[4] Magnolia contains more than 80,000 burials and remains an active, though very limited, burial site today.[3][5]


Magnolia Cemetery was established by municipal ordinance on an initial 36 acres (15 ha) parcel outside the city limits in 1836 as Mobile's New Burial Ground.[3] The cemetery grew to its present size with the addition of the numerous new sections.[3]

A portion of the Jewish Rest section, with graves inscribed in English and Hebrew.

The Jewish Rest section, also known as the Old Hebrew Burial Ground, was deeded to Congregation Sha'arai Shomayim, the oldest Reform Jewish congregation in the state of Alabama, by the City of Mobile on June 22, 1841.[3] Jewish Rest is the oldest Jewish burial ground in Alabama. The Jewish Rest section was full after only a few decades and led to the establishment of two additional Jewish cemeteries in Mobile, the Sha'arai Shomayim Cemetery for the Reform congregation and the Ahavas Chesed Cemetery for the Conservative congregation.[4]

The Confederate Rest monument, surrounded by the graves of 1100 Confederate war dead.

In 1846 the city began to grant free burial plots within the cemetery to civic, labor, and religious organizations.[6] The Coal Handlers Union, Colored Benevolent Institution Number One, Cotton Weighers Society, Draymens Relief Society, Homeless Seamen, Independent Ladies Mill and Timber Association, and the Protestant Orphan Asylum Society were among those organizations to take advantage of this policy until it was ended in 1873.[6]

The Confederate Rest section was added on November 25, 1861 for Confederate soldiers.[7] It was initially called Soldiers Rest.[7] The Mobile National Cemetery annex was established immediately after the war, on May 11, 1866, when the city donated 3 acres (1.2 ha) to the United States government for use as a National Cemetery.[8] The cemetery as a whole was renamed Magnolia Cemetery on January 15, 1867.[3]

The Greek Revival-style Wilson Mausoleum.

On August 20, 1868 the 7 acres (2.8 ha) Goldsmith and Frohlichstein extension was added to the cemetery, adjacent to the Jewish Rest section.[9] The elevated and highly desirable plots in this section eventually became the resting place for both Jews and Gentiles, and came to contain some of the more elaborate sculptures and mausolea in the entire cemetery.[9] The cemetery was enclosed with a fence in 1883. 1913 saw the addition of a set of monumental twin Mediterranean Revival gatehouses and wrought iron gates at the George Street entrance.[9] Small additions continued to be made to the cemetery into the 1920s, extending the earlier Goldsmith and Frohlichstein section.[9]

With the expansion of Mobile and the establishment of large private cemeteries in the first half of the 20th century, Magnolia Cemetery began to go into decline.[9] Mobile National Cemetery was closed to burial in 1962 due to it being filled to capacity, like most of the remainder of the cemetery.[10] By 1970 nearly 60% of the cemetery was not being cared for and had become extremely overgrown.[10] In 1984 the Historic Mobile Preservation Society formed the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery as a non-profit corporation.[10]

One of the mid-19th century portions of the cemetery, indicating the variety of monuments that may be found there.

The goals of the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery included the establishment of perpetual care for the plots, cleaning up the cemetery, removing or improving the existing vegetation, improving maintenance, restoring historic monuments and ironwork, hiring a superintendent for day-to-day operations, and surrounding the site with a new wrought iron fence. The new fence was conceived and designed by local architects Arch Winter and Thomas Karwinski.[10] Along with its notable monuments and the prominent individuals interred, the efforts by the Friends of Magnolia Cemetery helped lead to the cemetery being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.[10]

In 1997 local veterans requested that the Mobile National Cemetery section be reopened to burial with an expansion into the last city owned piece of property at the southeast corner of Ann and Virginia Streets.[10] Upon investigation with ground-penetrating radar it was re-discovered that the proposed area of expansion had at one time been used as a paupers field for indigent burials. Although these remains had been relocated to another location years earlier, Veterans Administration rules would not permit the area to be reused for veteran burials.[10]

Notable monuments[edit]

The Rouse monument, in the restrained Grecian mode.

The Pomeroy family mausoleum is one of two cast iron over brick mausoleums in the cemetery.[5] The Rouse monument is a Neoclassical style monument with a classically robed mourning woman placed beneath a low profiled gable supported at the four corners by columns.[5] The Confederate Rest section of the cemetery contains 1100 war dead and many large, elaborate monuments and includes an obelisk commemorating the men who died on the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.[5] The Jewish Cemetery contains many simple styles with Hebrew inscriptions, in addition to some of the more elaborate plots within the cemetery.[5] The Caldwell mausoleum is an example of a Gothic Revival style mausoleum. It contains a lifesize interior angel.[5] The Wilson mausoleum, by contrast, is in an example of Egyptian Revival style and features an interior wall with stained glass.[5] The LeBlanc memorial is dedicated to two sisters who died in infancy and whose grandmother commissioned the small Neo-Renaissance statuary of two putti leaning together over a stone marker. It is one of the most photographed markers in the cemetery.[5] The Bellingrath-Morse monument is a classical semicircular Doric colonnade and is one of the tallest monuments within the grounds.[5] The Mobile National Cemetery annex includes a Second Empire-style gatehouse and a brick stable built in the 1880s.[4] This annex contains over 5000 burials and a monument for the 76th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[11] The monument was erected in 1892 by the Union Army survivors of the Battle of Fort Blakely.[11] The annex also contains the graves of thirteen Apaches who were held as prisoners nearby at Mount Vernon Arsenal between 1887 and 1894 by the Federal government.[5][11]

A sailor of the British Merchant Navy during World War II, whose grave is registered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is buried here.[12]

Notable interments[edit]

Bettie Hunter monument, a prominent 19th century African American businesswoman.
The Gothic Revival Caldwell Mausoleum.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "Alabama – Mobile County". Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Welcome to the Magnolia Cemetery Website". "Magnolia Cemetery website". Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d Sledge, John Sturdivant. Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile's Historic Cemeteries, pages 24–26. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The Story of Magnolia Cemetery". "City of Mobile". Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Sledge, John Sturdivant. Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile's Historic Cemeteries, page 33. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
  7. ^ a b Sledge, John Sturdivant. Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile's Historic Cemeteries, page 42. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
  8. ^ Sledge, John Sturdivant. Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile's Historic Cemeteries, pages 50–51. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
  9. ^ a b c d e Sledge, John Sturdivant. Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile's Historic Cemeteries, pages 56–58. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Sledge, John Sturdivant. Cities of Silence: A Guide to Mobile's Historic Cemeteries, pages 61–64. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
  11. ^ a b c "Mobile National Cemetery". "U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs". Retrieved November 27, 2007.
  12. ^ [1] CWGC Casualty record.
  13. ^ "Former Governors of Alabama". "". Retrieved November 19, 2007.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Magnolia Cemetery". "Find A Grave". Retrieved November 19, 2007.
  15. ^ Derek Smith The Gallant Dead: Union and Confederate Generals Killed in the Civil War (2005) pg. 273

External links[edit]