The death of the Rt. Rev. John Johns (1796-1876) provided the catalyst for the establishment of a cemetery at Virginia Seminary. Bishop Johns had enjoyed an intimate relationship with the Seminary as fourth Bishop of Virginia and President of the Seminary's Board of Trustees (1862-1876), as well as neighbor. Near the time of his death on April 6, 1876, and subsequent burial at Alexandria's Ivy Hill Cemetery, members of the Seminary Board of Trustees persuaded the Johns family to agree to his re-interment at the Seminary when a cemetery was established on its grounds.
On May 14, 1876, the full Board confirmed this action and, by the end of November 1876, the new cemetery had been created and the remains of Johns and those of William Meade, third Bishop of Virginia and one of Virginia Seminary's founders; John Payne, VTS 1836 and first Missionary Bishop to Liberia; and William Sparrow, professor and dean were reburied within.