Person Sheet for Hubert Ian "Alligator Joe" Campbell

Lee's Trees

A Genealogical Forest

Times-Union files (Jacksonville,  Florida)

  • 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
  • Occupation: BET 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

    Marriage 1 Sarah Emma Tolmie b: 23 OCT 1883 in Quebec, Canada

  • Note:   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, June, 2007

    FROM OUR PAST: Florida's original tourist theme park featured -- what else? -- alligators

    By Leni Bessette and Louise Stanton Warren, From Our Past***

    Last modified Sat., July 08, 2006 - 12:57 AM
    Originally created Saturday, July 8, 2006

    If 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 false.

    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.

    Although 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 river.

    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.

    Alligator 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 so-called necks.

    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 moss.

    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.

    In later 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 him free.

    Alligator Joe 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, or c/o Heather Lovejoy, Community News, The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL 32231, fax 359-4478.