The Iron Dog who watches over Florence Rees
‘ grave in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery is one of the most curious and beloved features on the grounds. When I took these photos over a year ago the bedstead-styled grave was decorated with coins, jewelry, toys and other grave goods, a sight which always warms my heart.
Florence, a daughter of Thomas B. and Elizabeth S. Rees, only dwelled amongst the living for less than three years according to her death notice below. She died from scarlet fever
, an all too familiar cause of death for children in the 19th century in my research.
Her obituary from the Richmond Dispatch on February 8, 1862 reads:
“DIED, On the morning of the 7th inst., of scarlet fever, FLORENCE BERNARDIN, an infant daughter of T.B. and E.S. Rees, aged 2 years, 7 months, and 14 days. The funeral will take place this (Saturday) afternoon, at 3 o’clock, from their residence on Main, between 9th and 10th streets. Relatives and friends are invited to attend without further notice.“
In Hidden History of Richmond Walter S. Griggs describes the various legends surrounding Black Dog Hill. In one story the statue was placed at the grave by an anonymous benefactor. This mysterious person had remembered how much Florence loved the dog when she and her father walked by the shop where it was displayed on Main Street. Two other possibilities are that either the dog’s owner gave it to the family to spend eternity with Florence or that Thomas purchased it for the same purpose. Another tale passed down through the decades is that the dog was taken to the cemetery to save it from being melted down for bullets during the Civil War. Even when needed materials were in short supply, no one would dare destroy a sacred grave statue.
How the statue landed in the Rees plot is shrouded in mystery but regardless of its origin, if not for the black cast iron Newfoundland Florence Rees might have faded into obscurity along with so many others.
Recently I took advantage of an unseasonably warm day to return to Raleigh, North Carolina’s Oakwood Cemetery. Because I have so many photos of graves that I haven’t researched or posted yet, I concentrated more on landscape shots with a few exceptions.
This was the first time I had the opportunity of seeing Elizabeth Edwards’ 8 foot tall white marble grave marker, which features a pair of hands underneath 27 flying doves. I wrote about her son Wade’s impressive marker some time ago.
Another interesting story from Oakwood is that of Henry K. Burgwyn Jr., the “Boy Colonel” who died at Gettysburg.
John Dolson was a Minnesota Civil War soldier who died in a federal hospital and mistakenly buried as a Confederate soldier after officials mistakenly recorded his name and other demographic information. Decades later his true identity was revealed but he remains a Union soldier buried amongst his battlefield enemies.
There are plenty of other fascinating micro-biographies to be written about those interred at Oakwood, but sometimes it’s nice just to take a stroll and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Continue reading February At Oakwood