Cemetery Hound


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.


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6 Responses to Cemetery Hound

  1. Claire Quimby says:

    Hello Mr. Rife! I loved reading about all the canine grave markers. I wanted to give you the contact info for the headstone carver we talked about a few weeks ago at the Debate tournament. His name is Casey Winningham. You can find him on Facebook or at caseywinningham at gmail. If you don’t mind, I’m going to let him know about your blog.

  2. Errant Pear says:

    Hello Mr. Rife! I’m enjoying reading your blog, and I wanted to pass along the contact info for the headstone carver I told you about at that debate tournament several weeks ago. His name is Casey Winningham, and you can find him on Facebook or at his website: http://www.pasttimesremembered.com/. Hope you are well!

  3. Hey Pal,

    These are great pictures — and more importantly, great stories.

    Did you think the trinkets left behind are tacky?

    When I was there, I saw a bunch of emojii stuffies there. To me, that just didn’t feel right.

    Would love your take on it!

    • I think the fact that people bring things to leave at the gravesite is a show of respect and love. While some of the trinkets may be a bit tacky, the act of the bringing the small token represents thoughtfulness and respect. Some cultures use a pebble placed on the top of the gravestone to show that the deceased is remembered and that the gravesite has been visited. These little trinkets are just a different version of that.

  4. Pingback: A true companion: The Cast Iron Dog | ladycultblog

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