Early in the 20th century, a remarkable lady named Camel Girl, Ella Harper captured the public’s interest. Ella Harper was identified as having an unusual medical condition that caused her knees to bend backward, giving her the look of a camel. Ella was born on January 5, 1870, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, to William Harper and Minerva Ann Childress. Congenital genu recurvatum is a rare condition, and Ella was one of the few individuals known to have it.

On a chilly winter’s day in 1870, in the sleepy Tennessee community of Hendersonville, Ella Harper, the fabled Camel Girl, was born. William, her father, was a well-respected farmer and stock breeder in Sumner County who was renowned for his prodigious work ethic and talent with animals. Ella’s mother, Minerva Ann Childress, was a capable and loving person who worked hard to support her big family.

Sallie, Willie, Everett, Ella, and Jessie Harper were among the five members of the big and devoted Sumner County, Tennessee, Harper family. However, disaster struck the family early in its history when Everett and Willie died, leaving them in deep sorrow.

Despite these setbacks, the Harper family stayed close and encouraging of one another, finding comfort in their common love and a sense of purpose. They toiled assiduously to support one another, with Ella’s father, William gaining a reputation as a capable farmer and stock breeder in the neighborhood.

Ella Evans Harper was born into this close-knit family, and from the moment of her birth, she stood out from her peers due to her special physical condition. Ella was unique, but despite this, her family never treated her differently because they adored and treasured her just the way she was.


Evans was Ella’s middle name, so few people today know this fact attests to the mystery and intrigue surrounding this extraordinary woman’s life.

Ella had always been different from her brothers because of a physical defect that caused her knees to bend backward. Despite the difficulties brought on by this illness, Ella was a strong-willed young girl who didn’t let them stop her. The identity of Ella’s twin brother, Everett, who sadly died three months after his birth, was not found until later in life.

Despite the difficulties presented by her condition, Ella ultimately learned to walk on both her hands and feet and started working as a performer in the circus. Ella was only 13 years old when she was found by a talent scout in 1886, and he took her to New York to perform in the Coney Island sideshow. She attracted large crowds of curious onlookers who marveled at her unusual appearance and her acrobatic exploits, rapidly becoming a well-liked attraction.

Ingrid Harper Carrier

Ella Harper became famous the minute she entered the public eye. She quickly became well-known due to her unusual physical condition and soon found work as a sideshow act.

In October 1884, Ella made her stage debut in St. Louis, Missouri, where she rapidly established a reputation as one of the most extraordinary performers of the era. She dazzled spectators with amazing displays of strength and flexibility, frequently performing alongside a live camel for additional spectacle.

By 1886, Ella had established herself as a genuine star, touring with the renowned Nickel Plate Circus and receiving rave reviews from reviewers and audience members. She was hailed as a natural marvel in newspapers nationwide, with headlines like “the most incredible freak of all time” and “a living miracle.

Ella Harper Nickel Plate Show

However, Ella’s renown was not without its critics, as is common with extremely successful people. May 1886 saw the start of reports that she was a fraud and nothing more than a pretty visage with bending knees. Some even went so far as to say she was a camel herself but in a cunning disguise.

Ella was determined to remain strong despite these damaging and baseless accusations. She carried on giving performances and inspiring crowds across the nation while continuously aiming to improve herself.

And even though Ella Harper’s pitch card may have been more modest in its description, there is no disputing the enormous effect she had on the entertainment industry and the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to see her extraordinary talents in action.

Elliott Harper The choice Ella Harper made in 1886 to stop performing in the circus marked a pivotal moment in her life. She had the world at her feet thanks to her incredible income, allegedly up to $200 per week, or an astounding $5,000 by today’s standards.

Many people think that Ella used her newfound riches to pursue other passions, possibly returning to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to concentrate on her studies and discover a more private way of life. Nevertheless, despite her notoriety and wealth, Ella remained a mystery to those who knew her and vanished from public view for years.

It initially appeared as though Ella had disappeared from history. However, as with all major mysteries, some remained dedicated to finding the elusive “Camel Girl.” A new group of admirers would later get to know and appreciate Ella Harper for the extraordinary person she was in reality.

Later Years: Ella Harper’s Tragedy in Her Personal Life

Ella Harper’s existence was full of highs and lows on and off the stage. She married Robert L. Savely, a teacher who subsequently worked as a bookkeeper for a business that sold photo supplies in 1905. In 1906, the pair gave birth to a daughter named Mabel Evans Savely, but tragedy struck when the infant died only six months later.

In the late 1900s, Ella and Robert emigrated to Nashville and settled with Ella’s mother on Joseph Avenue. When they acquired Jewel Savely as a baby in 1918, their happiness was short-lived once more, as Jewel died within three months.

Ella was identified as having colon cancer and passed away on December 19, 1921, at her residence in Nashville, as if these losses weren’t difficult enough to endure. On her death certificate, which noted that she was interred in Spring Hill Cemetery, her husband was named as the informant.

Despite her difficulties, Ella Harper’s reputation as the “Camel Girl” endures due to her fortitude and fortitude under pressure.

Ella was a strong and determined woman who refused to let her physical differences characterize her, even though her life wasn’t without difficulties. She accepted and benefited from her distinctive appearance, establishing a lucrative profession as a performer and entertainer. Today, she is recognized as a trailblazer for defying social norms and paving the way for others to follow in her path.

The grave of Ella Harper is in the Spring Hill Cemetery, across Gallatin Pike from the Nashville National Cemetery. Although it has only had a burial home since the 1990s, it has existed since the early 1800s. Ella is interred in the Harper Family Plot in Section B of the cemetery’s ancient historic section. Minerva, Ella’s mother, died in 1924.

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