The grave marker of Ruth Anne Dodge aka ‘The Black Angel’ in Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Iowa is a very intriguing place to visit. The angel stands at the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, which is near the entrance of Fairview Cemetery. This cemetery is one of the oldest in the region. It began as a Native American burial ground. The angel was erected around 1919 to celebrate the life of Ruth Anne Dodge. She was the wife of General Grenville M. Dodge, a Civil War veteran and chief engineer of the Transcontinental Railroad.
Have you ever watched AMC’s “Hell on Wheels?” The characters are loosely based on actual individuals who made the Transcontinental Railroad a reality. The lead character, Cullen Bohannon, is very loosely based upon Grenville M. Dodge, Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad. Grenville M. Dodge is credited with being the individual who decided to route the railroad along the Platte River Valley in Nebraska and over the Rocky Mountains to connect with the railroad line running from the Pacific. See the photos in the slideshow with this story and discover that Cullen Bohannon and Grenville M. Dodge have an uncanny resemblance.
Ruth Anne Dodge died in September 1916 at her home in New York. Her body was brought to Council Bluffs, where she was buried. Her daughters, Anne Dodge and Eleanor Pusey, commissioned Daniel Chester French to sculpt the angel to their specifications. You see, an angel appeared to their mother during a series of visions that came shortly before her death. Their mother was able to describe the angel in full detail. The sculpture shows a beautiful angel that carries a vessel of water. While not a deep urn, the statue pours water from the vessel into a fountain—continually offering the “water of life”. Over time, the fountain had declined but has been restored to its glory. The water in the fountain was shut off in 1960 but restored to life again in 1985. Through the years, weather has changed the statue to a dark hue.
Some acquaintances said Ruth’s “visitations” were merely dreams. But, according to Mrs. Dodge, they were realistic and overwhelming visions. Her daughter Anne stated, “We realized this was no dream, no ordinary occurrence, but an apparition such as appeared to those saints of olden times, who were spiritual seers, holy enough to penetrate the fleshly veil and view spiritual things hidden from the worldly minded.”
Ruth described the breathtaking visions to her daughters. She said she never closed her eyes but was transported to the rocks of a faraway sea shore she had never seen. She felt something spectacular was about to happen. Out of the mist, she saw an ancient boat. It was covered with roses and fragrant flowers. As the boat slowly approached, she saw a beautiful young woman standing at the bow of the ship. Ruth knew this was a spiritual being and not of this earth.
The young woman approached Ruth carrying a deep vessel—like a Grecian urn—under her arm. It was filled with glistening and sparkling water. The woman urged Ruth to drink from it; assuring her it contained a blessing. As much as Ruth craved the water, she told the vision she was not ready to drink it just yet. A few moments later, she was back in her own room and the vision was gone.
Ruth continued to have the same vision the three nights preceding her death. On the third visit, she drank from the water the angel offered her and felt she transformed into a new and glorious spiritual being. A few days later, Ruth died. On her deathbed, Ruth informed her daughters that the angel offered her the “wonderful water of life. I drank from it and it gave me immortality.”
If you go: The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial is located at the head of Lafayette Avenue and North Second Street at the edge of Fairview Cemetery.
308 Lafayette Avenue
Council Bluffs, IA 51503