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Ottumwa Stories: The Dog in the Cemetery...An Ottumwa Enigma

Published October 16, 2018

Standing vigil in the Ottumwa Cemetery is a life-size statue of a Greyhound dog. Thanks from a grateful owner? A tribute from a turn of the century dog lover? The statue or “the dog” as it is referred to by Ottumwans, has given rise to many stories on just how the statue came to be placed in the cemetery.

The statue was placed on the lot of Thomas J. Nash at about the turn of the century. The oldest legend was retained in the memory of Leroy Christie, former Superintendent of the Cemetery. According to Mr. Chrisite, T.J. Nash lived on East Second Street, just west of College Street. His favorite dog died and he had Naugle & Son of Ottumwa make the statue. For several years it stood in Nash’s front yard, one morning the stone dog was missing from the Nash yard and appeared on the Nash lot in the Cemetery.

Another legend, reported to the Ottumwa Courier in 1936, states that Nash’s four-year-old grandson, George, owned a dog. When George died in 1904 the grief-stricken pet visited his master’s grave every day. One day he was found dead of a broken heart on the burial spot. The boy’s grandfather had the statue cast as a monument to the devoted dog.

After the 1999 Cemetery Lantern Tour, Millie Morris-Amos did a story for the “Rippling Waters Review”. She uncovered some new information and found a companion for the Statue on the Nash lot. There were two Greyhound Dogs resting on the ledge of the entryway to a home, a male sitting & a female lying down. Home-owner “Link” Reynolds was told that the stonemason who built the foundation to the house also made these statues of the dogs. His granddaughter, Betty Jane, remembers her grandfather telling the story of the dogs. One day an unknown gentleman came to the door and asked if he could have one of the dogs to “mark” the grave of his young grandson who died. The dog in the sitting position was given to him.

Is this the dog sitting on the Nash Lot? No one knows which story is the truth. The Greyhound Statue has been standing guard for nearly 100 years and will continue to do so into the next century.

In the spring of 2004, the dog statue was “attacked” in an act of vandalism. The body of the statue was chipped in several locations and the head was broken off and stolen. The head was later recovered and was presented as evidence at the trial of the vandal responsible for the damage. The statue was removed for a complete professional restoration before resuming its place at Ottumwa Cemetery.

(Photo and text courtesy of the City of Ottumwa)

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