Oaklands Cemetery was founded as a response to the closure of graveyards within the borough of West Chester and the stoppage of future burials allowed within it. An act to incorporate the cemetery was passed by the Pennsylvania legislature and approved by Governor William F. Johnston on April 14, 1851. Land was purchased from Joseph L. Taylor located a mile and a half north of West Chester to become the cemetery, with a portion allotted for Catholic burials which became St. Agnes Cemetery. Roads were laid, a small lake was created, and a receiving vault, superintendent's cottage and gateway were built for the new cemetery. Oaklands Cemetery was dedicated on December 10, 1853 and burials from the closed borough cemeteries were reburied there the next year along with the start of new burials.
In 1895, additional land was purchased as an annex for the burial of black people.