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"Old Bili" Miner Had Been Bandit For
Nuirly Forty Years,
Escapes From a life Sentence and
at Sixty-five Years of Age Holds,
Up a Railroad Train au Fearlessly
as in His Earlier Days He Robbed
Stages in the Lonely Mountain.
Old Bill Miner, the notorious train
robber, is again in prison. In all
probability he will spend the rest of
his life there, but he has shown him
self so nimble in escaping that it
would be f.nwise to make any confi
dent predictions. Once before he re
ceived a i&fe sentence, but he was
soon free. However, he is now six
ty-five ye?.rs old and cannot be so
adroit as 'ie was when he began his
career of crime fortv-two vears aco,
although what he has lost in agility
he has mad* up in the cunning that
comes of experience.
Miner's most recent. crime, for
which he f:s now in iail at GainsvUJe.
Ga., was the bold-un of train No. 36
on the Southern Railroad near White
Sulphur, Hall County. Ga.. earlv on
February 18. It is forty-two years
since Miner's first nrison exnerienee.
which "was la the San Ouentin Jali
in California, and tbat. like all those
that followed, was for the same of
fense. He beean with stace coaches,
he endB with railway trains.
Just when "Old Bill" Miner herrno
to break the law no on" but he him
self knows. Far back in the 6u b
?drivers of stag* coaches making trips
back and forth across the State of
California beean to come in from
their lonely mountain journeys with
cash boxes rifled of their contents,
sometimes a horse short, and In ev
ery case with the same story.
A loneiy soot on the road, some
times in the day time, sometimes at
night, a sinele highwayman and tho
magic words. "Hands up!" The tale
never varied. For want of a better
name the lone highwayman came to
be known far and wide as California
The exploits of "California Hilly
continued for several years. All ef
forts at his capture were in vam.
Many posses hunted the lone outlaw,
tempted by offers of generous re
wards. But he seemed to bear a
It was not until 1869 that he was
caught. The driver of a stage that
ran in from the hills b?ck of Sacra
mento jumped from his seat in front
of the office early one morning in
the spring of that year and breath
lessly told hom he had been held up
but a few hours before. The strong
box of the stage had been heavy with
gold dust sent in by miners. Never
before had "California Bill" dared
to attack a coach so close to a town.
Always before he had chosen a stage
further up in the mountains, where
many hours must elapse before a
posse could even start after him.
In tw-anty minutes from the time
the driver told his story a heavny
armed posse was riding hard back
over the trail, -ft was not dirficuu
to pick up traces of the bandit; be
fore nightfall his hunters were close
upon him, and as the sun sank be
hind the hills they surrounded him.
The posse expected a fight, lo
their surprise the outlaw offered no
resistance, but surrendered at their
command. Miner could fight when a
fight wculd do any good, but like a
good poker player who knows when
to lay clown his cards, he knew when
fighting would be folly. The same
craft he showed in picking out the
time and place to hold up a stage he
displayed in picking out the time and
place to fight. This was neither.
In triumph the posse took their
captive into Sacramento. His trial
was speedy and less than a week
after his capture he began serving a
term In San Quentin prison. While
Miner, or "California Billy" as he
was still called, was in prison not a
single 3tage coach was held up in
that part of California.
When Miner was released he left
California as rapidly as possible. He
had become too well known in that
State. The wider country of Colora
do offered greater attractions. In
this new field of operations his meth
ods were the same as in the old.
Time after time did a lone bandit,
masked and heavily armed, stop the
stage coaches that ran through the
mountains. For more than ten years
Miner had been pursuing his profes
sion asi highwayman, and only once
In all those years had be been caught.
In 1S78 Miner, single-handed, held
up the Del Norte coach and compell
ed the driver and several passengers
to stand to one side while he rifW
the money box of $3,000 in currency.
It was such a haul as Miner had be?n
coveting for some time. Ah hough
almost a thousand men sought him,
he esicaped with his booty and got
quickly out of the State. He had
long cherished a desire to see some
thing of the country, so he went
straight to Chicago, where he bought
himself several suits of clothes, a
handsome gold watch and chain and
several other articles of jewelry. The
smaller towns of Michigan attracted
him and for several months he posed
as a wealthy California mining man.
He spent money lavishly, and where
ever he stayed he made himself one
of the best known and most popu
lar men in town. His popularity with
women amounted to triumph. But
at last his money gave out and Min
er was face to face with the choice
of working or returning to the West
and resuming his life as a bandit.
He chose the latter.
The short time he s.rent in Michi
gan, however, wrought a great
charjge in Miner's methods. He no
longer went about his work single
handed and he became more willing
to take a chance. Miner had never
organized a band. Now, however, he
sought out one or two companions
and became the leader of a little
band of skillful outlaws.
' Of all the men he met in Michigan
Miner found only one whose spirit |
matched his own. This was a farm
hand named Stanton T. Jones. When
Miner returned to the West Jones
?went with him.
I Early in the spring of 1881 Miner
and Jones again stopped the Del
Norte stage and cleaned out the
money chest and ?:ot away to the
fastnesses of the mountains. Al
though he was masked, the driver of
the stage was positive in his indenti
fication of Miner. Posses immedi
ately started after the two bandits,
but Miner's cunning was greater than
that of the officers and the chase was
Soon after the second Del Norte
stage hold-up a third desperado join
ed 'Miner and Jone;.'. His name was
James East and his career was as
short as it was violent.
Having eluded the deputy sheriffs
who were seeking them Miner and
his two companions started on horse
back for California. They had stol
en their horses. For their living:
they depended upon the farmers. Up
through Marshall's Pass toward Sag
uche the three bandits made their
way, stealing fresh horses whenever
the ones they were riding became
worn out and robbing systmatically
as they rode, and Isaving a wake of
furious farmers, stockmen and min
So bold was their trip and so wide
spread their depredations that the
entire country was aroused. A posse
of determined men was organized
and in the hills n^ar Villa Grove a
pitched battle was fought, which re
sulted in the capture of all three out
Life imprisonment stared the cap
tives in the face. Vheir captors were
determined that they shouldl be
brought to justice. The nearest pris
on stout enough to hold them secure
ly was back at Del Norte, and for
there they started. To make escape
impossible the thr?e men were tied
together with balirg wire and thrown
into a buckboard wa^on. All' day
long the crdvacade marched back
through the country over which the
outlaws had previously ridden rougu
shod. Th.- Urst n ght's camp was to
be at Wagon Wheel Gap.
It was a little after 1 o'clock in
the morning. The outlaws, still
bound together with the heavy wire,
were supposed to be asleep. Their
guards, heavy-e ed, sat surrounding
them, rifles within reach. So far
as the members of the posse knew
the captives had not an opportunity
to exchange a single word beyond
the hearing of at least one of the
guards. Suddenly the quiet of the
camp was broken. The three hud
dled figures of the stage robbers
sprang to their feet. Silently and
unnoticed they hed broken the wire
that bound them, secured a single
revolver and were prepared to fight
for their freedom or die in the at
The fight was sharp and brief.
Completely thrown off their guard,
the members of t' e posse were slow
to realize what was taking place.
Before they quite regained their fac
ulties two of their number lay
wounded on the ground and the out
laws were disappearing in the dark
Miner and Jones escaped. East
was recaptured, 'taken to Del Norte
and sent to jail f? r a long term.
Having lost one of his gang, Miner
added another to his party and on
November 7, 1881, reappeared in
California after an absence of twehe
years, held up the stage that inn
from Sonora, Tuolumne County, to
Milton, and secured $32,000 in cash
and gold dust.
Two o?' the gang were quickly
caught; Miner rr <naged to elude the
officers for seve?- l weeks, but was
finally run to ea. a. ^he trial was
brief and justice severe. The three
robbers were sent to San Quentin
prison for twenty-five years.
Out of jail no more desperate char
acter lived than "Old Bill" Miner.
In prison he wac a model. It was
through no fault of his that, he
aroused the enmity of another con
vict. Bill Hicks, who almost killed
It was 1901, twenty years later,
before "Old Bill" Miner could again
breathe the air a free man. By
good behavior lie cut his sentence
five years, and the authorities be
lieved that when he walked out of
San Quentin his days as an outlaw
It was a different world which
Miner fouud when he left prison.
The stage coach had given way to
the railroad. Wrhere there had been
wilderness in the days when the name
"California Billy" brought terror to
the hearts of stage drivers and trav
ellers, there war. now thickly settled
country. The authorities believed
that time, if nothing else, had
brought to a close the days of the
bandit. For a year or two it seem
ed that such was the case.
But "Old Bill" Miner was merely
adopting himself to the new circum
stances. There were no more stage
coaches to be robbed, it was true,
but the same gun that had sent cola
chills up the bnck of the stage drlv
ed would bring the grip of terror to
the heart of the engineer, once he
was brought to gaze down its threat
ening barrel. Thus reasoned "Old
Bill" Miner, erstwhile stage robber,
as he thought out his plans to be
come a train robber.
Toward the close of 1903 the au
thorities of Oregon were startled by
the hold-up of an express train on
the Oregon Railway and Navigation
Company's line at Milepost No. 21,
near Corbett, Ore. The hold-up was
masked, of slight build, gray-haired
and evidently and old-timer.
Rewards amounting to $1,300
offered, but the train robber was not
A year later the Canadian Pacifie s
transcontinental express was stop
ped at Mission Junction, British Co
lumbia, by a lone bandit, who with i
cold and deliberate nerve compelled 1
thev express messenger to open the
safe, which contained close to $10,
000. This he took and got away
So daring has been the robbery
that the authorities recognized the
imperative necessity of capturing its
perpetrator. The Dominion Govern
ment offered a reward of 85,000 for
him. This was increased to $12,
800 by the railroad and provinica'
authorities. There was no doubt as
to the Identity of the masked bandit.
His methods and his cool daring
identified him as non other than.
"Old Bill" Miner.
With a small fortune offered as a
price on his head, Miner vanished.
Plentifully supplied with money as
a result of his two train robberies,
it was not difficult for him to live.
Less than two years later, on May
10,1906, at 11 o'clock in the night,
as the transcontinental express of
the Canadian Pacific Railroad was
pulling up the heavy grade just ease
of Durrer, British Columbia, the en
gineer was startled by tne command i
"Hands up!" Looking around he
saw a small masked man climbing
over the tender, keeping him covered
in the mean time with a revolver.
The engineer did not parley.
Obeying the command, be uncoup
led the express car and took it a mile
up the road. The masked robbjr,
who was none other than "Old Bill" j
Miner, kept him, the fireman and the
express messenger covered with two
revolvers, while two pals broke open
the car and rifled it of its contents.
A posse organized to pursue the
bandits soon found Miner's compan-j
ions near the scene of the robbery.
Miner himself escaped to the islands
of the coast, but was hunted down.
They found him well entrenched. He
fought as long as there was a chance
for escape, then, finding himself sur
rounded, he surendered.
The trial was a memoraHe one in
British Columbia. The evidence was I
conclusive. Although Miner claimed
his name* was Edwards, the Pinker
tons quickly established his identity,
and upon his conviction he was sen
tenced to life imprisonment.
"Old Bill" Miner was sixty when
he became No. 980 and was enrolled
as a lifer on the books of the peui-j
tentiary at New -Westminster. LiTe
apparently held little more in store
for him. The authorities believea
that at last he had run his race.
Little did they reckon on Miner's
K^stuteness. Wtfth two companions
who with him were employed in the
brickyard of the prison he began to J
plan for escape almost on the first
day of his incarcertion. Patiently
and persistently the three worked,
and on August 8, 1907, the three es
caped through a tunnel they had dug
beneath the wall surrounding tht.J
Rewards were offered for Mlnar.
His description was sent .broadcast.!
His photograph adorned the walls of
every police station and detective of-j
fice in the country. Neither pains
nor expense were spared In the J
search for him, but all efforts were
"Old Bill" Miner disappee.red for
more than three years. How he em
ployed these years is not known. He
was heard from first last February. J
It was but a poor description the
engineer and conductor of the South
ern railroad train that was held up I
in Georgia could give of the men who
had participated in the hold-up. All I
but one of the men, the trian men
declared, were obviously young, but
this one seemed to .be older. He be
haved as if he was the head of the
gang. He was about ? feet 8 inches
in height, weight about 135 pounds,
had gray hair and a perceptible
The warning to look out for such
a man went into the police head
quarters of many cities. When it
reached the offices of the Pinker
tons the same words were uttered
without a moment:;' hesitation.
"It's 'Old Bill' Miner."
And it was. Three days after the
hold-up a posse ol police came upon
three of the bandits camped in the!
woods near Gainesville. The arrival!
of the police took the outlaws cum
pletely by surprise, and before they
could offer any resistance they were!
British Columbia has asked Geor
gia to give up Miner in order that
he may be taken back to Canada to I
serve out his life sentence. Georgia,
however, is more likely to hold its
prisoner. Justice there will be the I
same as in British Columbia. "Old
Bill" Miner is doomed to .be sentenc
ed to spend the rest of his days in J
jail. To keep him there till the end
o1' his days will be a more difficult
Now that his career is about to
close, many stories of the methods I
Miner employed during all the years!
he was an outlaw are being told. J
Daring as he was, utterly devoid of
nerves as he seemed to he, desperate
In a pinch, ready to fight whenever
there was a chance and equally ready
to surrender if there seemed no
chance, Miner never posed as a "bad
man." Much of his success in elud
ing arrest .between hold-ups was due
to the quiet way in which he lived.
And though he was quick and un
erring with rifle and revolver he nev
er shot to kill. To wound a pur
suer was all he ever sought to do.
His determination that murder
should never be charged to his ac-j
count was his principal reason when
E. young man for always working
Jfoung Physician Drawn Into Mystery.
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Warfield in "The Music Master."
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