Louise Speaks: If you’ve ever driven from Phoenix to California on the I-10 you have gone through Quartzsite. And other than stopping for something to eat or drink you’ll probably say there is nothing much in Quartzsite. Well it is a winter haven to RVers escaping brutal winters and there is the annual gem shows, but besides that there is not much in Quartzsite. That is of course until we stumbled on the Hi Jolly Monument.
When you see the signs directing you to the Hi Jolly Monument, you think it’s the burial spot of a camel. You go by the cemetery and see this large monument / tomb and you’re still thinking its the burial spot of a camel, It does have something to do with camels, but a camel is not buried there. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis had a novel idea: transporting freight and people across the desert Southwest on camels. He eventually imported over 70 of the beasts. His American masters called him Hi Jolly.
A plaque on the Hi Jolly’s tomb says of the camel experiment: “A fair trial might have resulted in complete success.” But the Civil War intervened, Jefferson Davis changed jobs, and without his support the project was abandoned. The camels were set free to fend for themselves in the desert near Quartzsite. Hi Jolly remained, living into his seventies. The locals were so fond of him that, after he died, they spent several weeks building Hi Jolly a special pyramid tomb, made of multicolored petrified wood and quartz. It was dedicated on Jan. 4, 1903. Thirty-three years later the Arizona Highway Department came along and cemented a bronze plaque to the tomb, telling Hi Jolly’s story, and topped the pyramid with a metal camel silhouette. You have to drive through Quartzsite to get to Hi Jolly. There are signs directing you but once there his tomb is the biggest thing and sits back in the tiny patch of desert solitude.
So next time you go through Quartzsite and you think there’s nothing to see, drive thru town and go see the Hi Jolly Monument,