Black Angel - Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial

Black Angel Ruth Ann Dodge MemorialLocally known as "The Black Angel," this statue honors Ruth Anne Dodge, the wife of General Dodge. Sculpted by Daniel Chester French, creator of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Black Angel commemorates Ruth Anne Dodge's 1916 death.

Council Bluffs began its fine military record during the Civil War when, in 1861, the attack on Fort Sumter brought four companies of the town's volunteers to the famed Fourth Iowa Infantry. In command was Captain Grenville M. Dodge, later promoted to Colonel, then General.

As the War ended, Dodge returned to the Bluffs, built an impressive home on Third Street for his wife, Ruth Anne, and family, and took a job as surveyor and chief engineer for the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Four years prior to the War, Abraham Lincoln, in a personal visit, had designated Council Bluffs as the eastern terminus for this first transcontinental line. Dodge later built railroads all over the world and was president of seven of them before he died.

Grenville's daughters, Anne Dodge and Eleanor Dodge Pusey, commissioned and contributed this city's most valuable work of art in memory of their mother, Ruth Anne Dodge.

Affectionately called the Black Angel, this work in solid bronze was created by the noted American sculptor Daniel Chester French, and has been called by him one of his finest works. He is known nationally for his statue of the Minute Man in Concord and the seated Lincoln in the Memorial in Washington D.C.

The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial is located at the head of Lafayette Avenue and North Second Street at the edge of Fairview Cemetery. It is of heroic size, representing a winged angel standing in the prow of a boat, one arm outstretched and the other holding a vessel from which flows a stream of water.

The sculpture is said to be the translation of a dream experienced by Mrs. Dodge on the three nights preceding her death in 1916. According to the legend, Mrs. Dodge related to family members that she had a vision of being on a rocky shore and, through a mist, seeing a boat approach.

In the prow was a beautiful young woman whom Mrs. Dodge thought to be an angel. The woman carried a small bowl under one arm and extended the other arm toward Mrs. Dodge in an invitation to partake of the water flowing from the vessel.

Then, according to accounts later published by Mrs. Dodge's daughter, Anne, the angel spoke twice, saying: "Drink, I bring you both a promise and a blessing."

The daughter wrote that the vision came three times to her mother and, on the third visit, Mrs. Dodge took the drink as offered and felt "transformed into a new and glorious spiritual being." Mrs. Dodge died soon after the third vision. The monument was dedicated in 1920 and carries these inscriptions:

"Blessed are the Pure of Heart,for they shall see God. " Matt. 5:8

"And he showed me a pure river of the water of life; clear and crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. " Rev. 22:1.

"Let him that is athirst come and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. " Rev. 22:17

Restoration of the monument and surroundings was begun in June of 1984. The cleaning of the corroded surfaces has returned its original luster, and the water flows again. The stone aggregate basin was rebuilt and the original steps reset. The addition of lighting, landscaping, walkways, and wrought iron fencing complete the historic landmark.

The National Park Service has placed this memorial on the Register of National Historic Places. The monument is continually available for public viewing.

Restored under the auspices of the Bluffs Art Council and the City of Council Bluffs, through the generosity of: The Peter Kiewit Foundation, The Gilbert M. and Martha H. Hitchcock Foundation, The Union Pacific Foundation Iowa West Racing Association, The Iowa Arts Council, The City of Council Bluffs, The Council Bluffs Savings Bank, and InterNorth Foundation (Enron).