In the 1890s, residents at 16th Street & Hennepin Avenue (where the Basilica currently stands) called the recently-formed Minneapolis Humane Society on their neighbor. His camel, it seemed, must've been cold while parading down the street in a promotional display in the middle of winter. The camel's owner, eccentric businessman and entrepreneur Robert Fremont "Fish" Jones, didn't seem to put too much weight on the complaint. He responded by having a custom-knit sweater and pair of pants made for his camel.
There is nothing remarkable about Mr. Jones' grave. No text tips off the reader that the person buried below kept his beloved camel at his home. Nothing about his stone would inform you that Mr. Jones operated a large, successful zoo complete with lions and seals by Minnehaha Falls. You wouldn't even know that he was more commonly known by his nickname, "Fish," which he earned by spending his first years in Minneapolis sitting on Hennepin Avenue with his pet bear, luring passersby into his newly-opened seafood market (the first in Minneapolis).
But with a bit of digging (but please no literal digging!), you can read a cemetery like the index pages of a local history book. Robert Fremont "Fish" Jones is among my favorite figures in Minneapolis history. I was able to conduct research and write about Mr. "Fish" Jones for Lakewood Cemetery. Read more about Jones' animals and entertainment dynasty on the Lakewood blog. And keep your eyes pealed for Part 2 of this post, where I elaborate on how Jones helped bring one of Minnesota's most famous animals into the limelight.