Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> U.S. CAMEL CORPS
The Hi Jolly Song
Performed by The New Christy Minstrels (1962)


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HI JOLLY, THE CAMEL DRIVER
by Randy Sparks

Performed by The New Christy Minstrels
Columbia 1962

(Lyrics as written)

Hi Jolly, hey Jolly, twenty miles a day, by golly
Twenty more before the morning light
Hi Jolly, hey, I gotta get on my way
I told my gal I'd be home Sunday night

Hi Jolly was a camel driver, long time ago
He followed Mr. Beale way out west
Didn't mind the burning sand in that God-forsaken land
But he didn't mind the pretty gals the best

Hi Jolly, hey Jolly, twenty miles a day, by golly
Twenty more before the morning light
Hi Jolly, hey, I gotta get on my way
I told my gal I'd be home Sunday night

There's pretty girls in Albuquerque, 'least that's what I've heard
There's pretty gals in Tumcumcari too
Now honey, I ain't blind, but I don't pay them any mind
'Cause I'm savin' all my lovin' just for you

Hi Jolly, hey Jolly, twenty miles a day, by golly
Twenty more before the morning light
Hi Jolly, hey, I gotta get on my way
I told my gal I'd be home Sunday night

Old timers down in Arizona tell you that it's true
That you can see Hi Jolly's ghost a-ridin' still
When the desert moon is bright, he comes ridin' into sight
Drivin' four and twenty camels over the hill

Hi Jolly, hey Jolly, twenty miles a day, by golly
Twenty more before the mornin' light
Hi Jolly, hey, I gotta get on my way
I told my gal I'd be home Sunday night

Also recorded by:
The Travelers 3 (1962)
Canadiana Folksingers (1964)
The Merrymen (1993)
River City Ramblers (2001)


Syrian camel jockey Haiji Ali — whose name was Anglicized to "Hi Jolly" — came to the U.S. to drive the herd of camels that formed the "United States Camel Corps" under command of Lt. Edward Fitzgerald Beale. The short-lived corps was deployed to chart the shortest distance between Ft. Defiance, in Texas, and the Colorado River. Although the U.S. Army officially abandoned the experiment, Beale used the camels — and, evidently, continued to use Ali's expertise at handling them — to haul supplies back and forth from Los Angeles to Fort Tejon by way of the Santa Clarita Valley in the late 1850s and early 1860s. (Some of the other camels from the herd were sold to circuses and others were left to roam the desert; see below.)

Plaque affixed to Ali's pyramidal tomb in the small cemetery in Quartzsite, Ariz., reads:

The last camp of Hi Jolly, born somewhere in Syria about 1828 / Died at Quartzsite December 16, 1902 / Came to this country February 10, 1856 / Cameldriver - packer - scout - over thirty years a faithful aid to the U.S. government. Arizona Highway Department, 1935.

Sign at the cemetery reads:

HI JOLLY

The famous camel herd with which the name of Hi Jolly is linked constitutes an interesting sidelight of Arizona history .... Jefferson Davis (afterward president of the Southern Confederacy), as Secretary of War, approved a plan to experiment with camels for freighting and communication in the arid Southwest .... Major Henry C. Wayne of the U.S. Army and Lt. D.D. Porter (later a distinguished admiral in the Civil War) visited the Levant with the storeship Supply and procured 33 camels which were landed at Indianola, Texas, February 10, 1856. 41 were added on a second voyage .... With the first camels came, as caretaker, Haiji Ali whose Arabic name was promptly changed to "Hi Jolly" by the soldiers, and by this name he became universally known. His Greek (?) name was Philip Tedro ... On the Beale expedition in 1857 to open a wagon road across Arizona from Fort Defiance to California, the cames under Hi Jolly's charge, proved their worth. Nevertheless, the War Department abandoned the experiment and the camels were left on the Arizona desert to shift for themselves, chiefly roaming this particular section. They survived for many years creating interest and excitement .... Officially the camel experiment was a failure, but both Lt. Beale and Major Wayne were enthusiastic in praise of the animals. A fair trial might have resulted in complete success.

U.S. CAMEL CORPS
~ HI JOLLY ~

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SCV History Moment

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Hi Jolly Song

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Hi Jolly's Tomb 2002

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Hi Jolly's Tomb 2018

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Trek Map

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1858 Story

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Story 1940s

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E.F. Beale & the Beasts of Tejon

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Fort Tejon Camels by Vischer

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Loading Camels ~1857

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Fort Davis TX

Reynolds Story


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