Corporal Heiden Wins the Day

In September, Corporal Heiden, who had been on both Brookfield and Cleave's scouting trips, led a party of 3 enlisted men and 10 pack animals through Keystone Canyon in search of the pass to interior Alaska.

At first, heavy rains confined them to the west side of Keystone Canyon where they cut brush and graded trail. Heiden apparently did not go high on the ridge like Cleave, but looked for a lower route. However, finding a route suitable for horses through the canyon proved so difficult, they had to make 3 camps in 2-1/2 miles.

Once on the other side, they found traveling across the four miles of flats relatively easy. Heiden named this area "Dutch Flats" in honor of the three Dutchman who had helped them earlier in the summer.


 Heiden then split his men into two groups: a scouting party went ahead to determine if the northward tending pass was suitable for horses and led to the Tsaina River, while another party brushed trail.
As the rain turned to snow, the advance party returned with welcome news: the pass was suitable for horses and led to the Tsaina River.

Capt. Abercrombie, who was an excellent fund raiser, promptly named the pass for Senator Frank Thomson of Pennsylvania who supported the military's efforts to find an ice-free trail from coastal to interior Alaska. However, Schrader misspelled Thomson's name on his 1898 map inserting a "p", so the pass has been known as Thompson Pass ever since.

Thus, by the end of the summer of 1898, Capt. Abercrombie was able to report that the Copper River Exploring Expedition had found an ice-free route across the coastal mountains and a probable trail to Copper Center. Mission accomplished.

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