Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is a historical gem for Dayton.
Last year, Woodland officially commemorated its 175th year, but no matter the year this historic cemetery is always worthy of celebration.
Here are five notable memorials to take note of:
1. A 15 ton rock, 6 feet long and more than 5 feet high, marks humorist Erma Bombeck’s grave site. Bombeck had loved the rock, and when she died it was shipped from Arizona to Dayton on a flatbed truck. The stone was lifted into place by two cranes, and a crater had to be dug to stabilize it. A third of the rock is below ground.
2. One of the most celebrated monuments is a boy and dog carved from marble. In 1860 Johnny Morehouse and his dog were playing near the canal running through downtown Dayton. The boy fell in and the dog jumped in to save him. Though he was pulled from the water, Johnny did not survive. Legend has it the dog visited his master’s grave daily. A local sculptor created the monument to commemorate the bond. There are no dates on the marker, but the words “Slumber Sweet” are carved into it, as are a ball, a top, a cap and a mouth harp, items said to have been found in Johnny’s pockets when he died.
3. A monument created for Asa McMillen in 1855 is referred to as the “McMillen Angel.” The base and cross were carved locally from Dayton limestone. The angel was sculpted in Italy from Carerra marble. The angel’s right arm is resting on a stone slab, and a rag is in her left hand. This pose signifies wiping a slate clean after one dies and that past sins are forgiven. McMillen was a successful woolen machinery manufacturer in the 1840s.
4. The Queen of the Gypsies is buried in Dayton. In January 1878, Matilda Stanley died in Mississippi. Her body was brought to Dayton, where it lay in a receiving vault until her burial that September. The gap was to give time to notify gypsies throughout the world of their queen’s death. More than 25,000 attended her funeral at the cemetery.
5. Nine generations of a local Smith family has included “Preserved” as one of their names. While crossing the Atlantic in 1604, the ship the Smiths were on was caught in a strong storm. According to lore, the family fell to their knees and prayed, “God preserve us.” The sea calmed, and the ship made it to land. In honor of their preservation, a son in the succeeding generations was named “Preserved,” including the Preserved Smith who became the vice-president and treasurer of the Barney and Smith Manufacturing Co. that made railroad cars and is buried at Woodland Cemetery.
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