A cast iron Newfoundland stands guard over the grave of two-year old Florence Bernadine Rees, the daughter of Thomas B. and Elizabeth S. Rees, who died on February 7, 1862, of scarlet fever. Her obituary from the February 8th Richmond Dispatch 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”.
The gravesite has become an attraction in the sprawling and beautiful Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond, Virginia. Many visitors leave small trinkets in the alcove of the gravestone for the little girl and, oddly, for the dog.
As the story goes, the dog was built in the 1850s, cast at a Baltimore foundry. The statue possibly stood in front of Charles Rees’ photography store. Little Florence loved to go to her uncle’s store and sit atop the Newfoundland. When she died, the cast iron sculpture was moved to her graveside—some say as a way of preserving it from being melted down during the Civil War for munitions—others say it was because the little girl loved it. Either way, the proud dog stands guard on what has become known as Black Dog Hill.