Almon Harris Thompson
First Lieutenant, United States Army
When John Wesley Powell's crew of topographers, geologists, other scientists, artists, and photographers arrived in Kanab in 1871, the settlement was in its infancy. Only a few scattered houses stood outside the fort. Fruit trees, shade trees and vines were just getting a start. Yet the town was a haven for men who had just spent grueling weeks voyaging down the Green and Colorado rivers. Malnourished and exhausted, the men had a chance to recuperate and improve their diet in Kanab. Furthermore, the location was ideal for pursuing further geographic investigations of the Colorado Plateau. The town was Powell's field headquarters during 1871-73. Powell's second expedition down the Green and Colorado in 1871 and his mapping and survey work during the next two years have been overshadowed by his dramatic first expedition in 1869. Yet, the later methodical investigations provided the scientific data so valuable in understanding the physical features of the Colorado Plateau. The headquarters in Kanab were extremely important to the field investigations and the production of maps and photographs. From this base camp the survey fanned out in all directions. Kanab supplied the survey crew with food, services, and employees. On the personal side, residents gave the men, far from home, friends, and family, the social interaction that brightened their days.
Powell's brother-in-law and chief assistant,
Almon Harris Thompson, set up the base camp a few miles south of Kanab
(actually in Arizona) in the fall of 1871, following the major's directions.
There the crew made short forays into the surrounding area, worked on their
maps, and analyzed field data. In town they could buy butter, milk, cheese,
molasses, meat, potatoes, and vegetables; pick up their mail and send letters;
find blacksmiths and wood workers to make repairs, make posts for their
survey flags and other necessary items, and shoe their horses and mules;
and hire young men to herd their animals, freight supplies, and work as
helpers during the survey.
THOMPSON, ELLEN P W/O A H
Photos By M. R. Patterson, 22 April 2004