David Higgins was a journalist in Fort Yale at the height of the Fraser River gold rush. While working as an agent for Billy Ballou’s Express Co., Higgins submitted news reports to a San Francisco newspaper.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Higgins’ family moved to New York when he was young. He became an apprentice in the printing trades at age 13 and subsequently was a journeyman printer. In 1856, Higgins moved to California and when gold was discovered in the Fraser River, Higgins moved to Fort Yale.
He reported on the troubles of Ned McGowan and was probably not unsympathetic to his disputes with Fort Yale’s Justice of the Peace P.B. Whannell.
Higgins wrote two books, The Mystic Spring, and The Passing of a Race. His short fictional story, A Fugitive From Justice takes place in Fort Yale in 1858 and gives an excellent account of life during the gold rush. Here is an excerpt:
“Who’s there?” I demanded.
The deep voice of Lawyer Kelly responded in a hoarse whisper, “Let me come in, quick, by the back door.”
I didn’t like the proposition a bit. There had been several murderous assaults and robberies in town quite recently. I wasn’t afraid of Kelly, of course; but suppose the person now seeking admittance should prove not to be Kelly? What if one of the many desperadoes with whom Yale was infested at that time had assumed his voice and under that guise should gain admittance, and finding me unarmed and off my guard should slay and rob me? I lighted a match and searched till I found a “black-jack,” with which a New Zealand miner had presented me a while before, and then groped my way to the back door and opened it.