Bill Miner © wood engraving (ed. 40) image: 7 x 5 in. $100.00 (go to "Hi There" for purchase information)

Bill Miner, who was sometimes called "the Gentleman Bandit" and who is rumoured to be the originator of the term "Hands up!" was born in 1847. His story begs the question, "Why are we so soon old and so late smart?". Bill was 19 when he first went to prison for robbery and he was in and out of prisons from one end of the United States to the other during the next thirty-four years, after robbing banks, stagecoaches and trains. One of the notable characteristics of his robberies was his polite nature and concern for his victims. The main character in the movie The Grey Fox was based on Bill Miner.

In 1904, he showed up in British Columbia, Canada where Bill, his brother and a friend robbed a train (the first train robbery conducted in Canada). For the next couple of years Bill used Canada as his base. He robbed a train in Washington State then ran back into Canada and robbed another train in British Columbia. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police picked up his trail and at age 62 Bill was again a prisoner, having received a life sentence. After a year, he saw an opportunity to escape and took it, leaving Canada permanently.

Bill's last train robbery was in Georgia and this got him a conviction in 1911. After serving 17 days he escaped with a colleague, but was captured and returned to the Georgia State Prison. Now, you'd think that after all these captures, escapes and recaptures and his advancing age, he would have learned to settle down and take it easy, but no, not Bill. A year later he escaped once more and spent a day floundering around a swamp before he was captured a final time. The exertion in the swamp was too much for his 66 year old body and shortly after this last recapture, he died.

No friends or relatives were around to claim his body and he was about to be given to the medical school, but a local Sunday school teacher intervened and paid for his burial nearby.

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