Madison Family Cemetery

Mansion & Grounds

Visit the Final Resting Place of James Madison and His Beloved Wife Dolley

Two obelisks mark the graves of James and Dolley Madison. Every year on James Madison's birthday (March 16), a ceremony is held to commemorate his contributions to the nation and the U.S. Marines lay a Presidential wreath on his grave. Also, within the Madison family cemetery lay not only the final resting place the President, but ancestors and descendants who called Montpelier home.

The seven earliest burials in the Madison Family Cemetery occurred between 1732 and 1775. In these unmarked grave sites rest his grandfather Ambrose Madison; his grandmother, Frances Taylor Madison, who continued to reside at Mount Pleasant after her husband's death, and who died on November 25, 1761; and five siblings of James Madison, who died as infants or young children.

President James Madison was laid to rest in the family cemetery on June 30, 1836. A large assembly of family, friends, and slaves gathered for the ceremony. His pallbearers included neighbor and  former Governor of Virginia James Barbour, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Philip Pendleton Barbour, Charles P. Howard, and Reuben Conway. Gov. Barbour provided a description of the burial scene in a eulogy read some months afterward:

"...He was a devoted husband, a kind brother, a warm friend, a good neighbor and an indulgent master. Many of you were at his funeral; you must have seen his slaves decently attired in attendance, and their orderly deployment; the profound silence was now and then broken by their sobs - they attended the procession to the grave."

Barbour (1836)

The president's grave lay unmarked until September 1857 when the existing granite obelisk was put in place. This marked a turning point in the cemetery’s history, when the nation looked to the graveyard as a visible and physical connection to the last of the Founding Fathers, President James Madison.

Dolley Madison was initially buried in the public vault at Congressional Cemetery and then moved, in 1852, by her niece Annie Payne Causten, to the Causten family vault. Dolley's wish, however, found in her will, was to be buried by the side of her husband in the Madison family cemetery. Her family members wanted to wait until the railroad line reached the town of Orange before they moved her remains to Montpelier. The railroad was completed to Orange by 1854, but unfortunately those who were responsible for her reburial died before this date. She was not buried at Montpelier until 1858. A newspaper article found in the January 26, 1858, issue of the Richmond Enquirer describes the circumstances of her final journey home:

"We learn that the remains of Mrs. Madison were brought from Washington by her newphew, Mr. Cutts, on Wednesday, the 13th inst., and deposited in the cemetery at Montpelier, near the monument recently placed by the citizens of this country over the grave of her husband. This, we understand, was in compliance with a wish expressed by Mrs. Madison herself. Circumstances unavoidable heretofore delayed it."

– Richmond Enquirer, January 26, 1858

Sometime after her burial at Montpelier a gravestone was procured from J. W. Davies, the same stone carver who had constructed President Madison's obelisk, and the stone was placed above her grave located behind that of her husband.