Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California


"What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote." ~Edward Abbey

Old Schoolhouse Museum photo

Photo of the Hi Jolly monument

  The 2021-2022 Second Friday Lecture Series continues...
    Friday, December 10th at 7:00pm

   "History of Hi Jolly and the Great Camel Experiment in the Southwest"
    by Steve Brown

"The History of Hi Jolly and the Great Camel Experiment in the Southwest" takes us back to the United States in the days leading up to the Civil War. The country was conflicted over the issue of slavery, and at the same time was expanding westward at a breakneck pace. With that rapid expansion came the need to transport men and supplies across the vast arid region of the Southwest. Prominent Americans, including Jefferson Davis, looked to the desert lands of the Middle East and asked themselves what could be better suited to desert transportation than the fabled "ship of the desert?"

Thanks to the advocacy of Davis and others, who often had less than patriotic reasons for their support, the U.S. Army's "camel corps" was established. One man, whose name we know as "Hi Jolly," became the Army's legendary camel driver. There is much we don't know, or have gotten wrong about Hi Jolly - even his name. Journalist and historian, Steve Brown, will take us on a journey through the facts and legend of Hi Jolly, and the great camel experiment. It's a story of sultans and emirs, the emerging Confederacy and the Union, the opening of the West, the Ottoman Empire, slave runners and entrepreneurs, and one man whose knowledge of camels brought him from the Middle East to become an enduring - and endearing - part of American history and lore. Yes, Robert E. Lee will make a guest appearance.

Steve Brown is a journalist and historian who currently produces Southwest Stories, a regional travel series for national PBS distribution, Southwest Stories magazine, and historical documentary videos and television programming in partnership with the Oregon-California Trails Association, the Amargosa Conservancy, and other organizations. His latest production, "History and Change on the Old Spanish Trail: Mountain Springs to Salt Creek," debuts on KVCR PBS TV on December 26. AramcoWorld magazine published Brown's story, "Hi Jolly - Uncle Sam's Camel Captain," in March 2021

  Sponsored by the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park and the Twentynine Palms Historical Society, this in-person lecture will be held on Friday, November 12, at 7 pm. The fee for the presentation is $5.00 paid at the door.

For further information call:
The Desert Institute
or email

Download a flyer with this season's schedule.

The 2021 Twentynine Palms
Weed Show logo SM
was held on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6 & 7.

This years theme was What's Next??.

The 2021 Weed Show rules and categories can be seen by clicking the image below.

Weed Show Graphic
"What's Next??"

A list of all 2021 winners can be found here.

Photos of all 2021 entries can be found on our Facebook page at

Our Museum and Gift Shop is now open
Wednesday - Sunday 1:00-4:00 PM

Now available in our gift shop

One With The Creosote cover
One With The Creosote – Memories of a Desert Child
By Chris (Spangenberg) Tiffany

With a blending of poetic imagery and journalistic prose, writer Chris Tiffany reflects on her childhood growing up on the Mojave Desert during the '50s and '60s, to reveal the origins of an interwoven connection to the natural world around her and its influence on her life's paths and perspectives.

Tiffany, a Santa Ynez Valley resident who grew up in Twentynine Palms, is daughter of the late Joe and Margot Spangenberg, who moved their family from San Pedro, California, to Twentynine Palms in 1953. The Oasis of Mara, at the northern entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, was her childhood playground.

Photo of Chris Tiffany Since age 10, Tiffany has kept personal diaries and journals, and credits her writing talent to her mother, who worked as a reporter for The Desert Trail for many years.

A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, Tiffany is a former director of the Santa Ynez Valley Family School, whose curriculum encourages exploration of the surrounding Los Padres National Forest as an extension of the classroom.

A 40-year resident of the Santa Ynez Valley, she is a past editor of the Women's Environmental Watch newsletter, and served as the initial publicist and program coordinator for Arts Outreach for many years.

She continues to enjoy frequent retreats to her cabin on the boundary of Joshua Tree National Park.

One With The Creosote cover
Willie Boy & The Last Western Manhunt
By Clifford E Trafzer

The saga of Willie Boy has survived over one hundred years and the captivating story remains alive today. American Indians throughout Southern California, the American Southwest, and Great Basin remember the story well. Willie Boy's pursuit of redemption, his attempt to become culturally whole again, reflects a tragic journey that still resonates today, over a hundred years on from the deaths of William Mike and Carlota. In his journey to survive, Willie Boy challenged numerous lawmen eager to capture or kill him, prompting the posse, press, and citizens to demonize Willie Boy.

Clifford E. Trafzer is a Distinguished Professor of History and Costo Chair of Amerian Indian Affairs at the University of California, Riverside. He has published A Chemehuevi Song, Fighting Invisible Enemies, Strong Hearts & Healing Hands, and Shadows of Sherman Institute.

2021 Old Timer of the Year honoree
Thurman Carson Photo of Thurman Carson

Thurman has lived in Twentynine Palms since 1946, when he and his younger brother, Johnny, were adopted by Vi and Paul Carson after their mother was killed in a car accident in Pasadena.

Thurman was just 6 years old when he and his brother arrived in Twentynine Palms. He attended first grade in the old school where the Post Office is today, then went to school in the Quonset hut for three years. He attended fifth grade in the new Twentynine Palms Elementary School off Utah Trail, and attended the sixth through eighth grades in the Old Schoolhouse on Morongo Unified School District property at Utah Trail and Two Mile Road.

In 1954, Thurman's class was the last one to graduate from the Old Schoolhouse, which then sat dormant until 1992, when the Twentynine Palms Historical Society purchased the building from MUSD and moved it to its current location on National Park Drive to transform it into a museum that opened in 1995.

From 1954 to 1958, he attended Twentynine Palms High School. While growing up, he worked in the family business, Carson Roofing, which he continued to do on the side after going to work in the salt mines in Amboy after graduation.

After eight years with the salt mines, he went to work at the Iron Age Mine in the Dale Mining District east of Twentynine Palms, serving as Kaiser Steel Corp. union representative and bodyguard for the president of operation engineers. He held those positions until the mine shut down a year and 10 months later.

By the time the Iron Age Mine reopened, he was again working full-time at Carson Roofing, where he would stay until retiring in 2018 and turning the business over to his youngest son, Devon Carson.

Throughout his life, Thurman has been active in community affairs, serving on the Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce board for four years, two as president.

While serving as chamber president and for many years after, Thurman put on at least eight rodeos for Pioneer Days, and put on three rodeos for Grubstake Days in Yucca Valley.

He also was a member of the Needles Rod and Gun Club in Lake Havasu, Arizona, serving as the club's president for six years. The club was started by veterans, including Paul and Vi Carson, in the early 1940s.

Paul and Vi Carson, who had no biological children of their own, are remembered as wonderful people who extended kindness to everyone. The couple picked up and fed local miners on holidays and helped many who needed assistance in Twentynine Palms and the surrounding communities.

In 1952, they also took in Randy and Clem Rogers, the adopted sons of actor, writer and Congressman Will Rogers Jr., who asked the couple if they would take the two boys to Twentynine Palms for one semester. One semester stretched into many, and stayed with the Carsons until graduating from TPHS.

The Carsons loved all four boys equally, and each considered themselves brothers. Thurman Carson has many stories of adventures with his brothers, and of outings the family enjoyed that included visiting movie sets with Will Rogers Jr.

It is with great pleasure that the 29 Palms Historical Society names Thurman Carson as our 2021 Oldtimer of the Year Honoree.

The "Old Timer of the Year" program was created to honor early or long-time residents who contributed significantly to the development or betterment of the Twentynine Palms' community. The program is intended to honor "everyday heroes" whose contributions and efforts over the years have largely gone unsung.

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