Tuesday, August 26, 2014
The Black Angel by Barb Betts
Good Morning All,
B. J. Betts here or as Kathleen so cutely calls me Barn. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of touring the General Grenville Dodge House. I had not been there in years and that was to chaperone an outing with my daughter's 5th grade class so there was little time to really enjoy all of the wonderful artifacts from that era that the home offers. If you are ever in this neck of the woods stop in for a tour. It is really enjoyable.
For those of you who are Hell On Wheels fans the Dodge family will hold a special interest. General Dodge was a man of many talents. During his lifetime he engaged in the mercantile business, organized a bank, surveyed the Missouri River Valley to the West for the Transcontinental Railroad, and served with distinction during the Civil War and earned the rank of General. It is said he was the youngest General until WWII. But it was due to his expertise as a railroad builder he gained his wealth, fame and historic importance.
Lincoln Monument in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Where President Lincoln stood and looked over the city while planning out the Transcontinental Railroad.
The Dodge House as we locals call it sits high on the bluff over looking the city. It is absolutely beautiful and a tour takes you back to a kinder and gentler time. A time of sipping lemonade in the flower gardens and of grand balls held up on the third floor of the home. I was amazed at how tiny Mrs. Dodge was. They had a number of her clothes on display and she was no larger in stature than a twelve year old child. Her waist no bigger than a minute.
Oh, but this is not all about the Dodge family. Growing up in Council Bluffs, we all hard the legends of the Black Angel...
She stands high up on the bluff guarding the way into the Fairview Cemetery. A cemetery once used as an Indian burial ground but was taken over as a place to bury their dead by the Mormons. In 1916 Ruth Anne Dodge died in her New York home. He body was sent back to Council Bluffs for burial. Before her death, she told her two daughters, Anne Dodge, and Eleanor Dodge Pusey about a vision she had been having.
She told them of standing on a rocky beach and through the fog she saw an ancient ship coming towards her. She said the ship was covered in sweet smelling roses and rare flowers. On the bow of the ship she saw a beautiful woman standing there. Her hair was the color of spun gold and made a halo around her head as her hair fell to her shoulders. Her clothes were folds of brilliant white and fell to her feet. She was so beautiful that Ruth Ann knew she wasn't of this world and her eyes so brilliant in color they looked at her but yet past her.
In her arm she carried a Grecian urn. It was filled with water that sparkled like a million diamonds. She bid Ruth Ann to drink of the water but she said no, she wasn't ready yet. She told her daughters that she dreamed the same dream three times and each time the angel bid her to drink the water. On the third night she did drink the water and died a few days later. On her death bed she told her daughters the angel gave her the water of life and that she would now be immortal.
The two daughters commissioned Daniel Chester French, the famous sculptor who made the Lincoln Monument to make a sculpture of the angel their mother had seen. Their instructions were explicit about how the angel must look. When the sculpture was finished the daughters donated it to the city of Council Bluffs. The angel stands to this day at the gates of the cemetery, water flowing from the urn she carries offering, "The water of life."
So as far back as I can remember, it was said if you visited the Black Angel and then dreamed about her for 3 nights in a row, you would surely die. Of course, everyone had a cousin or great uncle that perished after having dreamed about the angel.
I will admit as I walked through the Dodge House that day a few hairs did rise up on the back of my neck. Perhaps the story is true after all, and Ruth Ann Dodge still walks the halls of the Dodge House.