Probably the most famous Quartzsite citizen would be Hadji Ali, better known as Hi Jolly. Hi Jolly was part of a very interesting military experiment that involved 77 camels. The story begins in 1855 when Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War at the time, was told of a new plan to establish a wagon supply route from Texas to California. Since it was a very arid and hostile environment, the military decided to use camels. Camels were familiar with this type of terrain and were thought to bode well. Convinced that this idea would work, Davis proposed to Congress a Camel Military Corps. He said, “For military purposes, and for reconnaissance’s, it is believed the dromedary would supply a want now seriously felt in our service.” With Congress’ approval and giving of $30,000, Major Henry Wayne set out to the Middle East. There, he bought 33 camels and with trouble, loaded them onto a Navy ship which was specially customized to accommodate them, and then sent to Texas. Once at Texas Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale took over. Later, 44 other camels arrived in Texas. With these camels came Hadji Ali and one other Syrian who were hired to instruct the soldiers how to pack them. However, the Americans couldn’t quite pronounce Hadji Ali so they nicknamed him Hi Jolly. In June of 1857 with Hi Jolly as the chief camel driver, Beal left on a western journey. Each camel had about 600 to 800 pounds of cargo and supplies. Traveling about 30 miles a day, they finally reached California and headed back to Texas.
It was a success in Beale’s mind and if it was successful to others, the Army could set up a series of posts along this wagon route. Beale wrote, “The harder the test they (the camels) are put to, the more fully they seem to justify all that can be said of them. They pack water for days under a hot sun and never get a drop; they pack heavy burdens of corn and oats for months and never get a grain; and on the bitter greasewood and other worthless shrubs, not only subsist, but keep fat." He later said, “I look forward to the day when every mail route across the continent will be conducted and worked altogether with this economical noble brute.” However, optimistic Beale failed to realize that the camels might not fit in. In fact many prospectors and Army animals were afraid and would panic when they saw the camels. In 1858, John Floyd, the Secretary of War told Congress, “The entire adaptation of camels to military operations on the Plains may now be taken as demonstrated.” With this, he encouraged Congress to buy 1,000 more camels. However, since they were preoccupied with the trouble growing between the North and the South, they denied this request. However, as the Civil War began, the Camel Military Corps was dead and gone. Many of the camels were auctioned off, but some ran away into the desert, which many claim they are still out there today.
Hi Jolly kept a few of the unneeded camels and began a freight business between mining camps and the Colorado River Ports. This business did not last and Hi Jolly released his one remaining camel into the desert of Gila Bend. Later in his life, he married a woman from Tucson and had two kids. He then moved to Quartzsite where he took up mining. In 1902, at 73 years old, he died. He is buried in a monument in the Quartzsite Cemetery.
Woodbury, Chuck. "U.S. Camel Corps remembered in Quartzsite, Arizona." Out West 2003: n. pag. Web. 17 Jun 2010. <http://www.outwestnewspaper.com/camels.html>.