Madison Family Cemetery (1723-1763)

Research & Collections

The Madison Family Cemetery lies just west of the original homestead, Mount Pleasant. Today it is a rectangular plot surrounded by a brick enclosure covering 95×70 ft., and contains approximately 100 individuals buried from 1732–1938.  The first person buried in the cemetery was Ambrose Madison — allegedly murdered in August, 1732, a handful of months after the Madisons had taken up residence at Mount Pleasant. With the subsequent death and burial of family members, this plot would become the Madison Family Cemetery.

The family cemetery represents not only a sacred space, but also a testament to the hardships of 18th-century colonial life.  Five siblings of James Madison, Jr. were interred between 1758 and 1775, their lives ended through acute disease and stillbirth. The eldest, Elizabeth (age 7) passed with her brother, Reuben (age 3), from a dysentery epidemic that swept through Orange County in 1775.

While continued to be used by family descendants until 1938, many of the graves in the Madison Family Cemetery remain unmarked. A recent ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey revealed the locations of many of these burials, including what are likely the graves of James Madison, Sr. and Nelly Conway Madison adjacent to that of James Madison, Jr. and his beloved Dolley Madison.  

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Artists impression of the Mount Pleasant site during the Colonial Years (1723-1763).

Credit: Linda Boudreax-Montgomery.