A sign pointing the way to Hi Jolly Monument caught my eye in Quartzsite, Arizona, so I checked Google and found that yes, I wanted to see Hi Jolly Monument. Hi Jolly, AKA Hadji Ali, was a camel driver recruited from Syria to help run Jefferson Davis’ experimental transportation project. Who knew that the US imported 74 camels to haul freight across the “Great American Desert in the 1850s?”
If only the Civil War hadn’t trampled the effort, the Southwest might be crawling with camels today, and camels are cool!
At least some of the Corps’ camels were freed to tackle the desert on their own. Their offspring survived into the 1940s. Some say there are still camels lurking there among the lost gold mines.
In any case, the disbanding of the Camel Corps put Hadji Ali out of a job. He became a citizen and did what he could to make a living, including sheparding a mule train for the cavalry during the Geronimo campaign. Eventually he settled in Quartzsite and made so many good friends that his passing prompted the town to erect a memorial in his honor.