2145 Compton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231

The Arlington Memorial Gardens History January 1, 2017



Washington’s Land Warrant

AMG_1776 FlagWashington’s Land Warrant:  Arlington can be traced directly to our country’s very beginnings through the Abner Johnson family. Of Scotch ancestry, the Johnson family immigrated to Basking Ridge, New Jersey long before the American Revolution but during the War of Independence Abner Johnson joined the military and became a Wagoner in General George Washington’s army near Morristown, PA.  Following the war, his services to General Washington and to his country were rewarded with land warrants covering half a section of land.  Mr. Johnson contracted with the well-known surveyor, Israel Ludlow in 1778 requesting that Colonel Ludlow locate a favorable half section within eight to ten miles of Cincinnati.  In 1779, Colonel Ludlow selected the west half section of 32 adjoining the village of Mt. Pleasant.

Settling the Land

In 1804, Abner Johnson’s young son, twenty-three year old Cary, came west over the mountains on horseback to settle the land and establish the Johnson farm. Upon arriving, Cary built a log cabin (about 100 yards northwest of the present Administrative Center) that stood until 1880.  In 1807, Cary was joined by his brothers Andrew and Samuel, and all three sons were deeded property by their father, Abner, who migrated to the area in 1813.

The Homested

AMG Old Farm PhotoAfter marrying Rachel Jessup in 1805, Cary Johnson, who was a trained carpenter, began building a brick home. Native stone was used to form the basement walls and clay, excavated from the property was formed into bricks, fired on site, and laid-up in several courses to build the first and second floor walls.  Mortar used between the bricks was made of a mixture of sand and lime while wood harvested from the property was used to build the federal-style “homestead.”  The homestead remained in the Johnson family into the early 1900’s.  Cary’s son, Benson, who lived in the homestead his entire life, inherited the property upon his father’s death in 1866 and he and his wife, Sarah, farmed the 236 acres of land that had been cleared from the wilderness.


The Picnic Grove

Following the death of Benson and Sarah, a group of enterprising businessmen purchased the property and developed what came to be known as Johnson’s Picnic Grove.  This was an active recreational area especially on Sunday afternoons.  A large dance hall was built as well as concession stands.  Ball games were played and horseback riding and other activities were available for the locals to enjoy.

Memorial Park Established

In the early 20th century, memorial parks were springing up throughout the country.  Rather than upright monuments, central features were located in the center of each “garden” and flush bronze memorials were used to mark the graves.  The cemetery, rather than appearing as a place of death, took on the uncluttered appearance of a place of life. The Picnic Grove, with its abundance of majestic hardwoods and gently rolling terrain was determined to be a naturally accommodating location for a memorial park and in 1934, Arlington was established.  The Johnson homestead, which still stands today, served as the office and doubled as the residence for the cemetery superintendent.



Today, Arlington encompasses 165 acres with all but 30 developed.  The grounds are divided into 29 individually unique gardens featuring themes of Christianity, patriotism and world peace.  Incorporated into each garden are inspiring sculpted memorials by renowned artists Dominic Zappia and Aldo Buttini executed in marble or granite symbolizing Arlington’s permanent and enduring beauty and a mausoleum complex is a fixture on the south side of Arlington Lake.

Corporate Leadership

In 2002, the Arlington Board of Trustees approved construction for a new Administrative Center to replace the that would facilitate the cemetery’s operations.  The resulting new building offers bright new spaces and private family conference areas, but it also blends in with the historical homestead, which was preserved by the Trustees.
The Board of Trustees consists of a group of community leaders who oversee Arlington’s not-for-profit corporation. This special not-for-profit status is reserved for corporations that are formed for purposes other than operating a profit seeking business (for instance, a purpose such as a charitable, religious, educational or scientific cause). However, the not-for-profit status does not mean that the corporation cannot make money; it simply is prohibited from making money for private gain. This designation therefore supports the perpetual mission of a cemetery corporation.
Furthermore, in order to advance its perpetual mission, the Board of Trustees elects new members upon the retirement or resignation of a member and operates under laws established by Ohio’s General Assembly and its own internal corporate policies. To promote the efficient management of the cemetery, the Board appoints officers who are responsible for day-to-day activities.


  1. REPLY
    Linda Mahoney says

    I have 4 plots that are all together and wish to sell them. How would I go about this.

    • REPLY
      Lisa McClain says

      Hello Linda. Lauren, a Family Care Advisor here at Arlington, has reached out to you via email. If you would like, you may also contact her either my email or by calling our office. The office # is 513-521-7003 and her email is lauren.c@amgardens.org

      Thank you.

Post a comment