A Genealogical Forest
Alligator Joe Campbell from the front of his
pamphlet on alligators.
Name: Hubert Ian Campbell 1
Nick Name: Alligator Joe 4
Birth: 10 JUN 1872
in Berhampur, India
Death: 10 MAR 1926 in Jacksonville, Duval, Florida USA 1
1910 AND 1926 Alligator Farm Owner in Jacksonville, Florida
Residence: 1881 St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands6
Residence: 1910 Hot Springs, Garland, Arkansas 5
Residence: 1920 Jacksonville, Duval, Florida 2
ARVL: 1888 England, to New York,
New York, USA5
DPRT: 1911 from Dover, England 3ARVL: 2 OCT 1911 New York, New York 3
ARVL: 2 OCT 1911 New York, New York 3
Times-Union files (Jacksonville, Florida)
Marriage 1 Sarah Emma Tolmie b: 23 OCT 1883 in Quebec,
My Grandmother, Dorothy Emma Swart, told me stories about "Aunt Sadie" who
had married a fellow named Alligator Joe, and they had moved first to
Arkansas, and then to Florida. After Grandma died, my Aunt Mary Lee
Johnson sent me a scrap book through my sister, that Grandma's mother Mary
Edith Tolmie kept, of clippings of family members from newspapers,
including a large rotogravure of Alligator Joe sitting amidst his den of
gators, as if in deep contemplation, probably around 1920 or a little
later. Earlier this year in June 2007, I visited Evergreen Cemetery,
where I found the locally famous gravestone of Hubert, Sadie, (who had
remarried) after Hubert died, her second husband,Walter Douglas Godfrey,
her sister Bertha Tolmie (Roohan), George S. Comstock, J. F.
Pridmore, and Emma I. Pridmore, all in the same plot. I am not sure
of the relationship of Comstocks (who were with them in Arkansas, and had
known the Tolmies in Saratoga Springs) and the Pridmores to the
Campbells. Below is the text of an article I found on the internet
about Joe and Sadie. The picture below, I took on my trip to
Jacksonville searching for them. I have other pictures of individual
stones there. I also have copies of the interment papers given to me by
the office at Evergreen Cemetery. Check out the top of
Hubert's impressive headstone, about 5 feet tall. The inscription on
the base reads " Hubert Ian Campbell, Born in Berhampur, India, June 10
1872 Died in Jacksonville, Fla. Mar 10, 1926 BELOVED BY ALL" Sadie is
directly next to him - Sarah E. Campbell Godfrey.
C A Lee, Winter Park, Florida, USA -
Sept 29, 2007
Photo by C. A. Lee,
FROM OUR PAST: Florida's original tourist theme
park featured -- what else? -- alligators
By Leni Bessette and Louise Stanton Warren, From Our
Last modified Sat., July 08, 2006
- 12:57 AM
Originally created Saturday, July 8,
Alligator Joe Campbell really had rounded up "worthless dogs and stray
cats" to feed the big, bull gator he rode, few would care if Joe himself
wound up in the gator's mouth.
However, although Joe had
ridden with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, that roundup tale was
Joe's real name was Hubert and he was born in India in
1872, his father a decorated English officer. His passion was alligators
and after his Wild West days and a stint of ostrich riding and training,
he chose to live in Jacksonville, where, for all his showmanship, he was
a well-respected naturalist.
Due to the drainage of the
Everglades and other state development, 2.5 million alligators were
reportedly killed in the 1880s. Commercial hunters and gun-happy
tourists helped decrease the population. There seemed to be no better
fun than killing gators while cruising on a steamboat.
Campbell also hunted alligators, because he feared their extinction he
merged with Jacksonville's ostrich farm, the best in the country. By
adding his gator collection to the lanky menagerie, he could study and
breed both species.
Hubert "Alligator Joe" Campbell's
cemetery marker, with alligator atop, at Evergreen Cemetery; his epitaph
reads "Loved By All." Sadie, his wife, is buried beside him.
In 1912, when 200 ostriches strode into
their new billet at Phoenix Park, Alligator Joe and his patient pod of
gators were already awaiting the bubble-bottomed birds. This lively
tourist destination, Florida's original theme park, percolated east of
Jacksonville at Talleyrand Avenue, near Evergreen Cemetery and the
Ostrich racing was a great sport of the era as
contemporary ads and postcards indicate. So, to prevent hurt feelings
and jealousy, Campbell likewise trained his gators to race and to carry
riders. The alligators' education extended to climbing and to waltzing.
While the reptiles and ostriches were not competitive, they spent little
time together, promoting ostrich longevity.
In 1907, the
Dixieland Park exposition and resort opened at the ferry landing in
South Jacksonville, where Alligator Joe, some ostriches and alligators,
together with electric fountains, burros, bands and theater productions,
were major attractions. The reptiles climbed ladders, slid down chutes
and carted children on their broad, rough backs. Campbell was also
becoming famous in the movies and newsreels for his alligator
shenanigans and study of the creatures.
In 1916, the Ostrich Farm
and Alligator Farm, in some queer arc, shifted across the river to South
Jacksonville on the site of the Aetna Insurance building, originally
Prudential Insurance. Campbell and his wife, Sadie, lived on a houseboat
near the southern end of the future Main Street Bridge.
Joe and Sadie continued farming gators in what they called the swamp. As
accomplished as Joe, Sadie could mimic the alligator's wild, guttural
sound, sometimes a hunting ploy, which lured gators to the river's
surface. Often, she accompanied him on tracking expeditions, during
which she was also able to nab some floating snakes by looping their
While Campbell wrestled the reptiles and
delivered lectures, Sadie managed the store at the Alligator Farm,
displaying all possible contrivances from alligator parts, including
ashtrays and purse latches (made from the smaller heads), etc. In
addition to meat and hides, every part was utilized, creating products
from alligator oil to claw purses, from embryos for study to egg shells
for souvenirs. In addition, filling orders from across the country,
together with instructions for care, the Campbells shipped thousands of
baby gators in light, cypress boxes filled with Spanish
They continued to keep some ostriches, and Sadie remembered
a surrey race between an ostrich and a horse. She declared, in the short
run, an ostrich could always beat a horse, but this ostrich, frightened
by a balloon, sat down, giving the horse the advantage.
years, Campbell wrote a pamphlet about alligators, which included
explanations of his life and work. His early gator farming was in Palm
Beach, Arkansas and California. By the time he developed his
Jacksonville enterprise, hoping to discourage their cannibalistic
tendencies, he separated his alligators by size into pens of 200 head,
numbering in the thousands.
When not hibernating, his reptiles
ate a total of between five and six tons of fish a week. Old Oklawaha,
which according to Joe's own pamphlet reached the thoroughly impossible
age of more than 800 years, was his oldest alligator. His type ate a
hundred pounds of fish each feeding.
Sadie recalled the only
dangerous accident at the farm was when her pet otter escaped and bit
her. Of course, she had been bitten by snakes and nipped by gators
several times. Then, there was the terrible incident when a guide lost
his arm while sticking his head in a gator's mouth and sightseers pulled
died in 1926 at age 53. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery with guess
what marking his grave?
***Jacksonville attorney Louise Stanton Warren and
retired teacher Leni Bessette investigate the stories behind the
headstones in the city's oldest cemeteries. Warren, mostly the writer,
and Bessette, mostly the researcher, developed their interest while
creating the Port of Jacksonville Pilot Club's annual cemetery tours.
For more information, contact Warren at Louesq@bellsouth.net, or c/o
Heather Lovejoy, Community News, The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949,
Jacksonville, FL 32231, fax