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The Quartzsite Report: What’s with the camels?

Russ and Tiña De Maris
If you’ve even just “set foot” in Quartzsite, you’ve seen camels. OK, camel images. Each of the town’s four entryways is decorated with signs, decked out with camel silhouettes. The local transit system is dubbed “The Camel Express.” Camels, camels, everywhere—but not a hoof print to be seen. “What’s with the camels?” some ask. Blame it all on Hi Jolly.

The moniker stuck

“Hi Jolly” was the name dubbed onto a colorful Greek gent, back in the mid-1800s. Born Phillip Tedro in Syria of Greek and Syrian parents, Tedro later converted to Islam and took on the name, Ali. After making a pilgrimage to Mecca, he was granted the first name, or title, Hadji—one who has made the Hajj, or pilgrimage. But when Hadji Ali wound up in the U.S., his Eastern name was just too much for the American tongue, and the “Hi Jolly” moniker stuck.

“Yes, but what’s this got to do with the camels?” We hear you. OK, let’s go back to 1856. The U.S. Army developed an interesting plan to use camels to haul material across the “Great American Desert.” Of course, not too many U.S. soldiers had experience in jockeying camels, so the military went to the lands of camels and found both camels—and camel drivers. Hi Jolly was hired on as the lead camel driver of a team of eight men.

A good idea—at first

Initially the idea of using the camels appeared genius. The U.S. Camel Corps made a trip from Texas to California without a hitch. But things turned a little sour after that. Bill Kesier knew why. Bill was a gold prospector who knew Hi Jolly, and related much about him to an Associated Press reporter back in the 1940s. He told the reporter about the demise of the U.S. Camel Corps.

“I’ll tell you why the government quit fooling with the camels,” he said. “It wasn’t because they didn’t do a good job. They could carry a thousand pounds of freight 65 miles a day and they went three days without water. But they scared hell out of every varmint that sighted ‘em and they caused plenty of trouble.

“Hi Jolly told me all about it. Those camels were lonesome for the caravans of their home country and every time they sighted a prospector’s mule train they’d make a break for it. You’ve heard of how horses bolted at the sight of the first automobiles. That wasn’t anything compared to the fright those ugly, loping camels threw into mules. The mules would lay back their ears and run for their lives and then the prospectors would cuss and reach for their guns and shoot at the camels. A lot of camels got killed that way.”

Army discharges camels—but Hi Jolly keeps trying

It may have been the end of the U.S. government and their camels, but it wasn’t for Hi Jolly. The government sold the camels in 1864, and Hi Jolly bought some of them. Six years later, he was discharged from the military, and he worked to develop a camel-based freight service between the Colorado River and points east. Sadly, it never took off, and Hi Jolly turned his camels loose near Gila Bend, Arizona.

So what’s with the camels and Quartzsite? Not a great deal, directly. After Hi Jolly turned the last of his long-legged pack animals loose, he changed his name back to Phillip Tedro. It’s said that he made the change after his heart was taken by an American woman with a Christian background. Apparently an Islamic name just didn’t fit with the family ideals. After spending time running pack mules and prospecting, Hi Jolly spent his final years in Quartzsite, Arizona—then known as Tyson Wells. On his death in 1902, he was buried in the local cemetery.

Jeremy Butler on wikimedia commons

Maybe Hi Jolly drove some camels through Tyson Wells at one time or another, but we’ve found no direct documentation. It wasn’t until 1935 that camels took the spotlight in Quartzsite. The then-governor of the state had a monument built on Hi Jolly’s grave. It’s a small pyramid of stones. On top is a copper camel, harking back to Hadji Ali’s colorful past. All it took was a bit of local PR work, and the camels of Quartzsite have taken on their popularity.

The weekly statistics

How many folks in Quartzsite? It’s impossible to accurately gauge. We’re using the census count from the Hi Jolly Short Term Visitor Area as a gauge.

Last Week This Week Change
127 115 9.5% decrease

 

Fuel Costs (Average)

Last Week This Week Change
Gasoline (Regular) 3.659 3.653 Flat

Best price, $3.56 Love’s

Diesel 4.132 4.173 1.0% increase

Best price, $4.059 Chevron on Main Street

Propane 3.236 3.236 Flat

Best price, 76 and Mobil—$2.95. Worst, Love’s— $4.30

 

Note: Motor fuel costs are based on credit card purchase price.

Internet Speeds

Last Week This week
Verizon Mobile 1.84D/1.69U 4:10 PM  

2.09D/.072U 3:45 PM

1.05D/0.72U 9:59 PM

ATT Mobile 7.94D/8.36U 4:10 PM 8.37D/10.32U 3:45 PM

1.89D/2.32U  9:59 PM

Note, tested speeds are on 4G networks.

Health issues

Our “face mask count” is based on numbers of folks at three locations: a popular grocery store, the post office, and a “dollar store.” The count is the total number of folks present and those who are masked up. The percentage given is the percentage of mask-wearers. We are changing our COVID patient count methodology. We’re including new cases within the last week, and comparing the percentage of change from two weeks back. The data is provided by the Arizona Department of Health.

Face Mask Count [Total people counted/masked (% masked)]

Last Week This Week
84/26 (31.0) 105/18 (17.1)

 

COVID Patient Count

Our statistics are from the Arizona Department of Health, as presented by Arizona Central. They are:

Quartzsite average daily cases in last week: 1
Quartzsite average cases per 10,000 people: 3 (week prior: 4)
Change in number of cases from two weeks ago: 57% lower

Want to know more about Quartzsite? Have something to share? Here’s what to do. Fill out the form below and include “Quartzsite” in the subject line.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

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Michael
7 months ago

Great summary of the camels! There’s a Hi Jolly gift shop on Main St. in Mesa, AZ. I always wondered where the name came from.

Firefly
7 months ago

The movie Hawmps is about the Camel Corps.