The land (originally 20 acres or 8 hectares) was set aside for the cemetery and gazetted on 19 November 1857 – only four years after the Melbourne General Cemetery opened for burial.
The first trust comprised five leading residents: Robert Caldecott Walker, James Smith Lavender (both Church of England), Alexander Watt Bowman (Presbyterian), George Keys (Wesleyan) and Thomas Herbert Power (Roman Catholic). The land at that time was heavily timbered with huge red gums, while some parts were swampy. Later sections included Russian Orthodox, Druze, Church of Christ and Non-Sectarian.
The first burial is believed to have been an Aborigine who worked part-time for Edward Kirkham. But records for those first years are non-existent and even the position of the first graves unknown. One of the earliest headstones marks the grave of Benjamin Rossiter who died on 28 January 1858, aged 73 years, and another early headstone is that of Denis Neville who died on 17 November 1860.
In 1871 a suspicious event occurred. John Orhtgies successfully applied to the Land Board for 10 acres (4 hectares) of the cemetery land. The sale of the land did not appear to have been advertised in the newspapers as was the usual practice. By July 1875 the owner of the property had built a brick cottage and fenced the land without any opposition from adjoining property owners.
The trustees changed in 1875, Michael Reedy and John Dobson joined Alex W Bowman and George Keys. All had been members of the Dandenong Improvement Society, formed in 1863, and were responsible for making improvements to the cemetery. In the 1880s the cemetery was divided into denominational sections, after which more accurate records were kept.
The cemetery has a brick office of 1929, and a few significant trees including two Monterey pines, three oaks and 13 mature gum specimens and 4 flowering gums.
The Dandenong Shire Council took control in 1945 for financial reasons. In 2003 the Dandenong Public Cemetery Trust (DPCT) was disbanded and the Necropolis Springvale assumed management of the site under contract. In December 2007 the cemetery was transferred to the care of the Necropolis Springvale.
Notable interments include:
Well-known pioneers such as the families of Kirkham, Masters, Rossiter, Mosig, Greaves, Ordish, Hutton, Frawley, Suding, Twiss, Roulsten, de Vries, Keys, Bowman and Orhtgies.