Bill Miner

Ezra Allen Miner (c.1847 – September 2, 1913), more popularly known as Bill Miner, was an American bandit, originally from Bowling Green, Kentucky,[2] who served several prison terms for stagecoach robbery. Known for his unusual politeness while committing robberies, he was widely nicknamed the Grey Fox, Gentleman Robber or the Gentleman Bandit. He is reputed to have been the originator of the phrase "Hands up!"[3] Legend has it that Bill Miner admonished his cohorts to fire their guns when in danger of capture but "do not kill a man".

Bill Miner
Bill Miner.jpg
Bill Miner in 1906 photographed by Mary Spencer
George Anderson[1]

DiedSeptember 2, 1913(1913-09-02) (aged 65–66)
Other namesW. A. Morgan, George W. Edwards, Ezra Allen Miner, Grey Fox, Gentleman Robber, Gentleman Bandit
Occupationstagecoach robber, train robber
Known forreputed to have been the originator of the phrase "Hands up!"


Miner was born Ezra Allen Miner in Vevay Township, near Onondaga, Ingham County, Michigan on December 27, 1846. He never legally changed his first name (which he evidently didn't like), but regarded William Allen Miner as his true name throughout most of his life. He was arrested for the first time in 1866 in San Joaquin County, California and served time there. He was shortly released but served more time at Placer County, California and later at Calaveras County, California. He was discharged in 1880. He then formed a partnership with Bill Leroy (as W. A. Morgan) to rob a stagecoach. Leroy was caught and lynched, but Miner escaped. He was later caught for another robbery in Tuolumne County, California and was released from San Quentin in 1901.[1]

After his third prison term, Miner moved to the province of British Columbia in Canada, where he adopted the pseudonym George Edwards and is believed to have staged British Columbia's first-ever train robbery on September 10, 1904[4] at Silverdale about 35 kilometres (22 mi) east of Vancouver, just west of Mission City. It is often claimed that Miner was the robber, but neither he nor his accomplices were ever tied conclusively to the Silverdale heist. It is also widely reported that Silverdale's train robbery was the first in Canada, but Peter Grauer's definitive study ("Interred With Their Bones", 2005) cites a train robbery in Port Credit, Ontario 30 years prior as the first.[5]

Miner was eventually caught after a botched payroll train robbery near Kamloops at Monte Creek (then known as "Ducks"). Choosing the wrong car, they managed only to rob $15 plus a bottle of kidney pills that Miner picked up off of a shelf. Miner and his two accomplices, Tom "Shorty" Dunn and Louis Colquhoun, were located near Douglas Lake, British Columbia after an extensive manhunt. A posse surrounded them while they were lunching in the woods. Miner presented himself as George Edwards and claimed that he and his cohorts were prospectors. The officer in charge of the posse suspected he had encountered the nefarious train-robbing gang and challenged the claim, putting them under arrest.[6]

Dunn attempted to fire at the police and was shot in the leg. He gave up quickly after being wounded. Colquhoun was disarmed by an officer standing nearby and Miner never drew his weapon.[6][7] Miner's arrest and subsequent trial in Kamloops caused a media spectacle. Apparently the most damning evidence against him was the bottle of kidney pills that Miner had picked up during the Ducks robbery. Upon his conviction, he, Dunn and Colquhoun were transported by train to the provincial penitentiary in New Westminster. By that time, Miner's celebrity status had risen to the point that the tracks were reputedly lined with throngs of supporters, many of whom expressed satisfaction with the fact that someone had taken the very unpopular CPR to task.[citation needed]

While serving time in the B.C. Penitentiary, Miner escaped in 1907 and was never recaptured in Canada. He moved back to the United States, becoming once again involved in robberies in the South at Gainesville in 1909. There, he served more prison time, and escaped twice.[1][6]

He died in the prison farm at Milledgeville, Georgia, of gastritis,[1] contracted from drinking brackish water during his previous escape attempt.[6][8]


Miner's time in British Columbia propelled his celebrity there in many ways since. British Columbia restaurant chain, the Keg Steakhouse & Bar, have named drinks and their Billy Miner Pie after the train robber. Their early decor also showed many photos of Miner.[citation needed]

A mural depicting Miner's robbery near Monte Creek has been painted on the exterior south wall of Cactus Jacks Saloon & Dance Hall located in the building at the corner of 5th Avenue & Lansdowne Street in Kamloops, British Columbia.[9]

Maple Ridge, British Columbia features the Billy Miner Pub which is located in historic Port Haney on the bank of the Fraser River. The pub is located in the original Bank Of Montreal building built in the early 1900s.[10][11][12]

It has been speculated that Miner left a hidden cache of loot in the forests south of Silverdale after the first robbery and local historians believe he used these monies to fund his escape, while others surmise that today there is still hidden loot to be found there.[13]

An original song titled "The Ballad of Bill Miner" was written by singer/songwriter Phillip Mills (Eugene Quinn) and recorded by the San Francisco bay area band "The Blackout Cowboys".

Miner was the subject of the 1982 Canadian film The Grey Fox, in which he was played by Richard Farnsworth.

Miner is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia. It was discovered that his headstone was in the wrong location, name spelled wrong, and with the wrong year of his death. A new headstone was put in the correct spot and spelled correctly. The old one was kept where it was.[14]

Mount Miner near Princeton, formerly Bald Mountain or Baldy, was renamed in Bill Miner's honor in response to a motion by the Princeton Board of Trade in 1952.[15] Miner had lived on the ranch owned by Jack Budd, which was on the other side of this mountain from Princeton, while planning the robbery at Ducks.[16]

Tin Whistle Brewing Co. a microbrewery from Penticton B.C. launched a Red Ale titled "Hands Up!" as a commemoration to Miner.

His principal biography is The Grey Fox: The True Story of Bill Miner, Last of the Old Time Bandits, by Mark Dugan and John Boessenecker (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992).


  1. ^ a b c d ""Old Bill" Miner Dead". The Manning Times. Manning, South Carolina. 10 September 1913. p. 9. Retrieved 3 February 2016 – via
  2. ^ "Story of Bill Miner". Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2009-04-01.[failed verification]
  3. ^ "TRAIN ROBBERY IN CANADA". Sacramento Daily Union. 48 (7379). 27 November 1874 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
  4. ^ "Daily News, 13 Sep 1904". p. 2.
  5. ^ Grauer, Peter (2006). Interred with their bones : Bill Miner in Canada, 1903-1907. Kamloops, B.C.: Partners in Pub. ISBN 0973998016.
  6. ^ a b c d Dave Stockand (19 July 1971). "When the Mounties Got Bill Miner". Winnipeg Free Press. p. 44. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Train Robbers Captured After Sharp Encounter With Police". Vancouver Daily World. 15 May 1906. pp. 1-2. Retrieved 5 February 2016 – via
  8. ^ "Bill Miner Crosses The Great Divide". The Atlanta Constitution. 4 September 1913. p. 5. Retrieved 5 February 2016 – via
  9. ^ Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association. "Alley Art Gallery". Downtown Kamloops Website.
  10. ^ "Attractions - Museum and Surrounding Areas". City of Maple Ridge. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Maple Ridge Community Heritage Commission Inventory, Bank of Montreal Entry, page 19". City of Maple Ridge Website. Archived from the original on 20 July 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Canadian Historic Place Register, Entry for Bank of Montreal/Billy Miner Pub". Historic Places. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  13. ^ Mary Trainer; Brian Antonson; Rick Antonson (23 October 2015). Whistle Posts West: Railway Tales from British Columbia, Alberta, and Yukon. Heritage House. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-77203-044-0. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  14. ^ "Bill Miner: More Information".
  15. ^ "Miner, Mount". BC Geographical Names. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  16. ^ Rev. John Goodfellow (1958). "Chapter 1". The story of Similkameen – via

External linksEdit