In Cemetery symbolism, the sleeping lamb usually marks the grave of a child. Highland Cemetery has many graves marked by the sleeping lamb. The most moving of these sleeping lambs rests atop the grave of Winnifred Watling, the daughter of John and Una Watling. Her father was the first college educated dentist in the state of Michigan, and was a founder of the dental school at the University of Michigan. Winnifred died on Sunday, February 10, 1884, at the age of 11. The cause of death is not reported, but death at an early age was common then. Friends and family came to pay their respects at the home on North Huron Street, on Tuesday, February 12, 1884. Visitors included Professors and students of the Dental School of the University. Gravestone inscription: Winnifred Second daughter of John A & Eunice Wright Watling Died Feb. 10, 1884 Age 11 years 1 Month “Little Winnie will be missed beyond the immediate home circle; for her bright intelligence, ready utterance, and sweet demeanor graced ever by a charming sprightliness characteristically her own, had won for her hosts of loving friends both old and young,” noted The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, February 16, 1884. The obituary included the following poem: Within her dowry cradle, there lay a little child, And a group of hovering angels unseen upon her smiled; When a strife arose among them, a loving holy strife, Which should shed the richest blessing upon her new life. One breathed upon her features, and the babe in beauty grew, With a cheek like morning’s blushes, and an eye of hazel hue; Till everyone who saw her was thankful for the sight Of a face so sweet and radiant with ever fresh delight. Another gave her accents, and a voice as musical As a spring bird’s joyous carol, or a ripping streamlet’s fall; Till all who heard her laughing, or her words of childish grace, Loved as much to listen to her, as to look upon her face. Another brought from heaven a clear and gentle mind, And within the lovely casket the precious gem enshrined; Till all who knew her wondered that God should be so good As to bless with such a spirit a world so cold and rude. Thus did she grow in beauty, in melody and truth, The budding of her childhood just opening into youth; And to our hearts yet dearer, every moment than before, She became, though we thought fondly heart could not love her more. Then out spake another angel, nobler, brighter than the rest, As with strong arm, but tender, he caught her to his breast: “Ye have made her all too lovely for a child of mortal race, But no shade of human sorrow shall darken o’er her face: “Ye have turned to gladness only the accents of her tongue, And no wail of human anguish shall from her lips be wrung: Nor shall the soul that shineth so purely from within Her form of earth-born frailty ever know a sense of sin. “Lulled in my faithful bosom, I will bear her far away, Where there is no sin, nor anguish nor sorrow nor decay; And mine a boon more glorious that all your gifts shall be— Lo! I crown her happy spirit with immortality!” The Watling family ordered a memorial portrait of a blonde haired girl. This image may have been a likeness of Winnifred. Memorial portraits of deceased members of the family were a common practice during the 19th century. This portrait was displayed in the Children’s Room of the Ypsilanti Public Library for many years. Today, this portrait is above the fireplace in the front parlor of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum. (James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the Gleanings, and a researcher in the YHS Archives.)
Photo Captions: 1. The sleeping lamb on top of Winnifred’s gravestone.