Hi Jolly, Muslim American Hero

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Hi Jolly is an Americanized version of the name Hadji Ali, a Muslim who served the United States Army between 1856 and 1861, when the US Civil War caused the United States to abandon the project. It is believed that Hadji Ali was born to a Christian Syrian father and a Greek Christian mother and that he converted to Islam as a young adult. As a citizen of the Ottoman Empire, he and made a pilgrimage to Mecca, thus earning the title, “Hadji.” Upon arriving in the US, Americans had difficulty pronouncing his name and called him Hi Jolly instead. Although he married a Christian and used the name Phillip Tedro during his marriage, it is presumed that he did this because the church would not marry them otherwise. His neighbors, who adored him, reported that he was often “kneeling and fasting.” They knew him to have been a Muslim and honored him with a memorial that is now listed in the National Registry of Historical Landmarks. This memorial is located in Quartzite, Arizona, which is just off Interstate Highway 10 about half way between Phoenix and Los Angeles.

In 1848, Mexico ceded the territory that later became California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and much of New Mexico. However, the United States Government struggled with establishing communication, transporting goods, and maintaining control over these territories due to a lack of transportation over the very arid lands. Railroads had not yet spread to the area, and roads were not yet built. The United States Army needed surveyors to create roads through the area. The Secretary of War at the time, Jefferson Davis, was appointed by President Pierce in 1953 to begin the Pacific Railroad Survey. Jefferson had an idea to create a Camel Corps to help the United States government to achieve its goals for expansion in the area and was granted $30,000 to begin the project.

In 1856, 33 camels and 8 Greek or Turk camel drivers were brought to Indianola, Texas. Later, 44 more camels were purchased and transported to Camp Verde, Texas, which was designated as the camel station. Hi Jolly was hired as the lead camed34c3a_50dfb9d74b17452db3dd647643c86db4-jpgl driver for the project. In 1957, President Buchannan ordered that the Camel Corps assist former Navy Lieutenant, Edward Beal, to take 25 of the camels trough the southwest to carry supplies to Fort Defiance in California. When they arrived there successfully, Beale used the camels on his ranch near Bakersfield for various purposes. The remaining camels in Camp Verde were used for reconnaissance of several areas in the southwest.

When the Civil War started in 1861, the project was abandoned. Some of the camels were sold back to overseas destinations. Hadji Ali came to acquire a few of the camels and attempted to start his own transport business, which failed, likely because the railroads were starting to fulfill the same need more efficiently. He released his remaining camels into the wild and for several years afterward, people reported sightings of the feral animals and their descendants. Hi Jolly left his wife and children to prospect as a miner. He also occasionally continued to work for the US government as a scout. He eventually settled in Quartzsite, Arizona where he died in 1902. Although he became a US citizen in 1880, he was not given a military pension because he was not a citizen while he was serving in the military.  He died a poor man, living on the support of some friends.  He is reported to have died searching for one of his camels in the desert. The US Department of Transportation erected a monument over his grave. Today, Hi Jolly Cemetery is the burial spot for several American pioneers.unknown-3

Study Questions:

  1. How did Hi Jolly serve the US military?
  2. Where is Hi Jolly buried? Where did he arrive in the US?
  3. What evidence is given to support the claim that Hi Jolly was a Muslim?
  4. What evidence is given to support the claim that Hi Jolly honored and liked by his neighbors?
  5. Why did the Camel Corps and Hi Jolly’s transport business eventually fail?
  6. What happened to the camels of the Camel Corp?





Estevanico was an explorer who lived between 1503- 1539 who was reported to have explored the Gulf Coast, some of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Estevanico was a slave of Andres Donates de Carranza, who joined an expedition for the Governor of Mexico to find wealth in neighboring lands.  When several hurricanes hit, the captain of the ship deserted them and left 250 passengers stranded.  Four of them, one of whom was Estevanico, survived and landed near what is now Galveston, Texas.  During their travels back to Mexico, all four were taken as hostages by Native Americans.  While in captivity, Estevanico learned the languages of several natives. He also learned to communicate with them with Native American hand signs. After escaping, he made it back to Mexico by posing as a Native American medicine man.   He came back to Mexico and was asked to tell his stories.  His stories were so remarkable that  he  was asked to lead an expedition north into what is present day Arizona.  He was killed by Zuni Native Americans before he could return to Mexico tell his more stories of his great adventures.

Although Estevanico was a slave, he was not the kind of slave that one typically thinks about when slavery is mentioned in America.  Instead Estevanico was considered to be a Morisco.  A Morisco is a person who is a descendent of someone who lived in Spain under the Andalusian Empire,  but was exiled or forced to become baptized as a Catholic after the Inquisition of 1492.  The Andalusian Empire was ruled by Muslims for about 700’s years and consisted of both light skinned and dark skinned Moors, some of whom came from Arab descent, and some of whom came from Spanish descent, but converted to Islam during the time when Muslims were flourishing in Spain.

When Moriscos were expelled from Spain, most of them went to live in Morocco or Algeria. Some stayed in Spain as galley slaves until they were exported to Morocco in the early 1600’s.  Before the 1700’s any one group of people who lost a war likely became slaves of the people who had won.  Therefore, Estevanico was not snatched secretly from his home in Africa as most would imagine how most African Americans became slaves at the time.   Instead, he came from among a group of Muslims who were first living in Spain and then  persecuted because of their religion and ethnicity.  For this reason, it is difficult to know just how much Estevanico really practiced Islam.  Although, it is documented that he was born in Morocco and was considered to be a Morisco, very little else is known about his personal life.  Such was the case for most Moriscos at the time.


  1. What is a Morisco? Why were most of them slaves?
  2. What skills did Estivanico have that his slave owners did not?
  3. Research the other names of Estivanico by searching the web. List them.
  4. Research the Andalusian Empire. Describe the area it controlled, the names of it’s leaders, it’s rise and fall, and some of the contributions of its people.
  5. Describe the terrain of Arizona and New Mexico and list some of the challenges the Estivanico must of faced as he explored the area.
  6. List the cities or landmarks that Estivanico traveled to in the order that he arrived there.
  7. Why is there little known about Estivanico’s personal life and his religious practices or beliefs?