Johnny Morehouse is perhaps one of the most famous graves in Woodland Cemetery. Johnny drowned in the mid 1800s, and there are many stories about his dog’s death.
One story is that Johnny’s dog jumped in the river and drowned trying to save him. The family was so moved by his loyalty to the boy that they had the grave marker sculpted of him and Johnny.
The other story is that the dog tried to save the boy, but lived to mourn his failed attempt and spent every day sleeping curled up on Johnny’s grave. When the dog died, he was buried with the boy, and the monument was built to commemorate the dog’s dedication.
Stories have circulated over the years about the boy and his dog walking the cemetery at night. There’s even a story about someone living near the cemetery calling the police because they saw a young boy and a dog walking the cemetery alone in the dark. The police explored the cemetery, but found no traces of the boy or dog.
Etched into the side of the monument are the words, “slumber sweet.” Are these words a doting farewell from Johnny’s parents or an admonishment, reminding him to be at peace in his final resting place?
Today, the monument is often adorned with small toys, coins, and other trinkets, as seen in the picture above. Some say this is for luck, others do it for tradition’s sake. Rumor has it that a woman goes to the cemetery every morning and gathers all the coins, then uses the money to buy more little trinkets for Johnny. One of the groundskeepers at Woodland tells me there is a warehouse full of Morehouse trinkets left at his grave over the years (including some of my own).
Of course, not everyone participates in the time-honored tradition of respect for little Johnny and his dog. The dog’s head has been cut off and stolen many times, necessitating Woodland to beef up security by installing cameras.