#646:  Grave of George Caralambo, "Greek George"

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Founders' Memorial Park, Broadway at Gregory Ave, Whittier





Historical marker located in Whittier Museum, 6755 Newlin Ave, Whittier. Open select hours. In 2018, marker was located in veterans memorial exhibit.



From the Guidebook:

This is the grave of 'Greek George,' a camel driver from Asia Minor who came to the United States with the second load of camels purchased by the War Department as an experiment to open a wagon road to Fort Tejón from Fort Defiance, New Mexico. Because of the Civil War, the experiment was abandoned. 'Greek George' became a naturalized citizen in 1867 under the name of George Allen. He built an adobe home on Santa Monica Boulevard.

From the Plaque:

"Greek George"

Born in Smyrna as George Caralambo. Came to this country as a camel driver for the United States government in 1857. Naturalized -- George Allen in 1867. Died Sept. 2, 1913 at Old Mission.

Historical marker erected by Whittier parlor No. 298 Native Daughters of the Golden West. Courtesy of F.G. Simmons and R.D. White. June 30, 1956.

From the Informational sign:

One Whittier resident arrived in the most peduliar way...on camelback! In the spring of 1855, t he U.S. Secretary of War (and soon to be Confederate President) Jefferson Davis, sent the Navy storeship "Supply" to Northern Africa to purchase camels for the American Southwest. The Army wanted to augment cavalry with a pack animal that would function better in harsh environment. The Americans who went to purchase the camels were assisted in 1857 by Mimico Teodora ("Mico") Hagiatis Yannaco ("Long Tom"), Anastasio Corali ("Short Tom") along with Hadji Ali ("Hi Jolly"), and George Caralambo ("Greek George"). Eventually, they all arrived in Fort Defiance, N.M., where they found that the 'Camel Corps' had inadequate funding. Soon, everyone but 'Hi Jolly' and 'Greek George' left. After several years of being shuffled around, the Army decided the camels were too expensive and in November 1863, sold the camels to Samuel McLeneghan in Nevada. The camels, which were sued to carry freight to the Comstock Lode, were still accompanied by 'Hi Jolly' and 'Greek George'. After most of the Silver was mined out of the Comstock Lode in1865, McLeneghan took the camels to Fort Yuma to sell. On the way to Fort Yuma, McLeneghan died and "Greek George" and "Hi Jolly" decided to turn the camels loose. They occasionally were seen wandering in the desert. Greek George changed his name to "George Allen", became a citizen, and settled in Whittier. His tombstone, until recently, was located at the Pio Pico mansion.

©2009 David Schmitt