Bill Miner – The Gentleman Outlaw

Described as “the master outlaw of the American west,”16-year-old Bill Miner was leading his own gang when he robbed a Wells Fargo stage in California in 1863. This was just the beginning of a long career that would lead Bill all over Canada and the United States. He received a three-year sentence in San Quentin for the Wells Fargo holdup, and upon his release in 1866, continued doing what he knew best.

He managed to evade capture until June 1871, when once again, he was taken to San Quentin, this time for 12 years. It must have seemed a long time for him because he escaped but was recaptured a short time later and returned to finish his sentence.

Upon release, Miner headed for Colorado and teamed up with Billy Leroy. Together they held up the Del Norte stage in Dec. of 1880, just five months after his release. Miner used the money to settle in Michigan but after a time, the money was all used up and he returned to Colorado where he again robbed the Del Norte, this time in the company of Stanton Jones. They were captured, but soon escaped into Arizona.

On Nov. 7, 1881, Miner returned to California to rob the Sonora-Milton stage. Tired of being outwitted by the quiet polite bandit, Wells Fargo and the Pinkerton agency left no rock upturned and were successful in once again capturing Bill Miner. On Dec. 15, 1881, Miner was sentenced to serve 25 years in San Quentin.

Miner was released on June 17, 1901 and took a brief time out before once again returning to his old ways. On Sept. 23, 1903, together with his new gang of four, Miner made a bungled and fool-hardy attempt to rob the Oregon Railroad’s crack express.

Miner now ran once again, this time into Canada where a man answering his description turned up calling himself George Edwards. Here he teamed up with “Shorty” Dunn and a third unknown man. Not a man to repeat mistakes, Miner was prepared this time as he and his gang carried off the first train robbery in Canadian history, near Mission, B.C. on Sept. 10, 1904.

Unfortunately for Bill and the gang, the $60,000 shipment that they were looking for had been delayed and they went away with just $7,000 in gold and currency.

Over the next two years no new information was forthcoming, although during that time there was a robbery of the Great Northern train in Washington that had all the earmarks of a Bill Miner robbery.

During this two-year period, George Edwards lived in a mountain home just outside of Princeton, B.C. and then early in 1906, he turned up near Ducks, east of Kamloops and on May 8, 1906, together with Shorty Dunn and Louis Colquhoun, attempted to hold up the Imperial Limited, No. 97. This turned out to be a disaster and after leading the posse a merry chase they were captured at Douglas Lake.

On May 30, 1906, Miner was sentenced to life while Dunn and Colquhoun were each given 25 years. Just a little more than a year into the life sentence, Bill Miner burrowed under the fence of New Westminster penitentiary on August 9, 1907, and escaped into the night.

For the next four years little is known of the whereabouts of Bill Miner and for the most part that’s quite understandable as Miner was a sort of Robin Hood, always generous and kind, so most people would not have turned him in. It was January 25, 1908, when “The Golden Times,”, one of the newspapers of the day, reported that Bill Miner was in the Donald area. Over the next two years, these articles appear from time to time and then nothing.

On Feb. 11, 1911 Miner, with two others, robbed a train in Georgia, getting away with just $1,000. The lawmen picked up anyone fitting Miner’s description and two days later were preparing to release a man named George Anderson when one of the Pinkerton men noticed a tattoo on his forearm of a dancing girl. This tattoo belonged to Bill Miner. Just seven months into his new sentence, on October 18, 1911, Miner and another man overpowered the guard and escaped. They were soon hunted down and eventually Miner surrendered.

This time, the authorities took him to be a serous criminal and shackled him with a ball and chain. During a thunderstorm, Bill and two other prisoners sawed through the shackles and bars and escaped into the Ononee Swamp. Miner, now approximately 67 years old, stumbled from the swamp into the waiting arms of the law.

After months of illness, Bill Miner died in the prison hospital on Sept. 12, 1913, his final escape.