December 23, 2002 — Hi Jolly's tomb at Quartzsite, Ariz.
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
Sign at the cemetery reads:
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.