William Miner, Bill, outlaw, first train robber in Canada (b at Bowling Green, KY circa 1847; d at Covington, GA 2 Sept 1913). Known as the "Gentleman Bandit" because of his good manners during holdups, Bill Miner achieved notoriety for numerous stagecoach and train robberies in the American West. In 1904 after his release from San Quentin Prison, Bill Miner moved to British Columbia where on September 10, with 2 accomplices, he successfully robbed a Canadian Pacific Railway train near Mission by emulating the modus operandi of desperado John T. Chapman.
Gold was always carried in express car safes, and express cars and baggage cars were always hooked on the train behind the engine and wood tender. Chapman and his accomplices would board a train at an isolated place when it stopped or slowed, then climb over the wood tender and force the engineer at gunpoint to stop the train. Then he would unhook the baggage and express cars and force the engineer to take the train a few kilometres down the track. He used dynamite, or its threat, to blast open the locked doors of the express cars. Bill Miner had attempted to use this method in a robbery in Oregon in 1903, with 2 accomplices. They made a mess of the job, blowing up the baggage car instead of the express car. Miner escaped, but his accomplices were arrested and one of them was injured.
After the 1904 CPR robbery, Bill Miner moved to Princeton, BC, and resided on a farm with a man from Texas. He managed to live quietly for nearly 2 years. On 8 May 1906, Miner struck the CPR again, near Kamloops, but bungled the robbery. Miner again attacked the baggage car instead of the express car, which was still connected to the train he'd sent down the track, searched the baggage car but overlooked several packets of bank notes, and got away with $15 in cash and a handful of liver pills. Miner and his 2 accomplices were captured by the Royal North-West Mounted Police, and the aging robber was sentenced to 25 years in the New Westminster Penitentiary. On 8 Aug 1907, he escaped and fled to the United States, where he continued to rob banks and trains.
He eventually ended up in Georgia, where he robbed a train in February 1911. He was hunted down, arrested, tried and sentenced to 20 years. He escaped twice, in October 1911 and June 1912. He hid in a swamp and became ill from the dirty water. He never recuperated and died the following September in a Georgia prison. Bill Miner's bold attacks on the unpopular CPR made him a folk hero to many western Canadians. An award-winning but historically loose Canadian film, The Grey Fox, is based on his career in Canada.