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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.
  General Dodge
 Dodge House

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.


  1. Myths and legends of a region are reason to visit, learn and pass on these wonderful stories. What a great one this is. Thank you so much for sharing it. Doris

  2. Thank you Doris. As a kid we all heard the legend but not so much the true story behind the statue and how it came to be. All I actually knew about Grenville Dodge was that he was involved with the railroad and that Abraham Lincoln had visited him at his home. I knew even less about his wife and two daughters.

  3. Barn, what a great post. I've never heard of this folk tale, but it's a good'un. Folk tales say so much about our past, don't they?

    Thanks for sharing this with us! :-)

    1. I am happy you enjoyed it Kathleen. With Halloween just around the corner, although this is a bit early, I think we can all enjoy of a good ghost story.

  4. My husband's people came out from Iowa. We have been through there since but not to spend time. I have it on a future travel agenda and will add seeing this. I like these kinds of stories.

    1. I really enjoyed my visit to the Dodge House. I love antiques and most of the furnishings in the house are the original furnishings while the Dodges lived there. As far as the statue of the Black Angel, it still stands guarding the entrance to the cemetery. Over the years vandals have thrown paint over the statue adding more to the legend about the angel turning black once she was in place. I hope you enjoy your visit when you come to Iowa.

  5. Great post, Barb. I love folk tales and ghost stories and this is a new one, and a good one.


  6. Me too Kirsten. Fall is just around the corner and along with it comes Halloween. When I wrote this post it was for my July blog. I got confused on the day I was to blog so it got held back until today. When I wrote this my intention was to just write about General Dodge but as I researched the Dodge family, although most of us in the area know about the legend, I became intrigued as to where the legend came from. I am so happy you enjoyed it.

  7. Sorry to be a bit late, Barn! I haven't been able to get on the computer as much as usual with the happenings going on in real life for me right now. I did want to let you know how much I enjoyed this post. What a great story! And how strange that she would have had that dream three nights like that and then finally gave in to drink of the water. I would have kept holding out! LOL Love that statue. What a fantastic story, all the way around.

    1. Thank you Cheryl. I don't think I would have drank the water either. I remember thinking while I was writing this blog, it sounded a bit like a vampire theme since she talked about the water making her immortal. I did forget to add in my post that it was said that the statue was white when they placed it in its chosen spot, but by the next morning it had turned black, hence its name the Black Angel..

  8. Barb,

    Ooh, I do love these kinds of ghost stories - just enough spookiness to give me a chill and not scary enough to make me sleep with the lights on and all the pets on the bed with me. ;-)