| The positive identification of the first white men to discover gold on the Fraser and Thompson rivers is lost to antiquity. The first vanguard of prospectors into the New Caledonia posts tramped along the Okanagan fur brigade trails to Fort Kamloops. Among these men were Ferdinand Boulanger and James Houston.
Boulanger had left Alsace-Lorraine, France, in 1849, to join the California gold rush by hiring on as a deck hand on a sailing vessel destined for the Atlantic Coast of the United States. When the ship reached the Panama, he deserted, changing his name to Peter Baker to avoid detection, and began walking across the isthmus, where he contracted and nearly died from scarlet fever. After a prolonged recovery, he took passage on a ship up the Pacific coast to the diggings in California, only to realize that he had arrived too late; the good ground had already been staked. About this time, he learned that gold had been discovered at Fort Corville on the Columbia River. Undaunted, he made his way there, only to decide to strike out for Fort Kamloops, hoping to find the source of the gold the Indians were selling to the Hudson's Bay Company.
Houston, the white man often credited with making the first gold discoveries around Fort Kamloops, was originally from Dunfermline, the ancient capital of Scotland, where his parents were wealthy ship manufacturers, owners of the White Star Line. As a youth, he ran away from home with school chum Andrew Carnegie, who headed for the United States. Carnegie, upon his arrival in America, apprenticed to a Pennsylvania blacksmith before going into business himself, eventually creating a steel empire which brought him wealth and fame.
Young Houston was diverted from his original destination when the ship he was on wrecked off the coast of New Zealand and the survivors were taken prisoner by Maori warriors. During an escape bid, Houston was speared in the groin. When his wound healed, he made a second attempt at freedom and this time succeeded by swimming out to sea to a passing ship. He persuaded the ship's crew to rescue his fellow passengers. From New Zealand, Houston sailed for South America where he had many adventures in Latin-American ports, participating in political wars and battles with sea pirates and slavers. He was aboard one ship when it floundered off the coast Mexico.