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I traveled to Virginia in 2013 to do some family research in Goochland County, near Richmond. Since it was my first trip to Richmond, I wanted to take in some local historic sites. I spent a quiet rainy morning at Hollywood Cemetery — a 150-acre cemetery that is the final resting place of 5th USA President James Monroe, 10th USA President John Tyler, Jefferson Davis, and many other notable people.

One grave — that of Bernadine Rees — caught my eye because of the black iron dog that keeps an eternal watch over her grave. Bernadine was a child when she passed away from Scarlet Fever around 1862.

There are several stories about why the statue of the dog was placed at her grave site. One story says that a 2-year-old Bernadine would visit a merchant’s shop with her mother, where the dog statue was outside of the merchant’s business. Bernadine loved the dog statue and would pet and talk to the “dog” whenever she visited. When she passed away, the merchant offered to place the statue on the child’s grave, since she had loved it so when she had been alive. Another story is that the family moved the statue to the grave during the Civil War to keep it from being melted down for bullets.

Hollywood Cemetery was opened in 1849. It is a peaceful and hauntingly beautiful location on the James River in Richmond.

Bernadine Rees and the Black Iron Dog

Dog statue at the grave of Bernadine Rees.

The iron statue of a Newfoundland keeps eternal watch over the grave of infant Bernadine Rees.

Bernadine Rees and the Black Iron Dog

Dog statue at the grave of Bernadine Rees.

Many people leave toys, such as this blue ball, at the gravesite.

Read More About Hollywood Cemetery and the Black Iron Dog

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