Ezra Allen Miner (circa 1847 – September 2, 1913), more popularly known as Bill Miner, was a noted American criminal, originally from Bowling Green, Kentucky, 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!"
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 at Silverdale about 35 km 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 botched 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.
Miner was eventually caught after an aborted payroll train robbery near Kamloops at Monte Creek (then known as "Ducks"). He and his two accomplices, Shorty Dunn and Louis Colquhoun, were located near Douglas Lake, British Columbia after an extensive manhunt. When found, Miner apparently surrendered to the arresting officers with his customary courteousness, but Dunn attempted to fire at police and was shot in the foot. Miner's arrest and subsequent trial in Kamloops caused a media spectacle. 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.
After serving time in the B.C. Penitentiary Miner escaped and was never recaptured in Canada. He moved back to the United States, becoming once again involved in robberies in the South. There, he served more prison time, and escaped again.
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 famous Billy Miner Pie after the train robber. Their early decor also showed many photos of Miner.
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.
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.
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.
Miner escaped in death as well. It was discovered several years ago his headstone was in the wrong location and name spelled wrong. A new headstone was put in the correct spot and spelled correctly. The old one was kept where it was.
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. 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 Duck's.
In Popular Culture
In The Elder Scrolls series of videogames, The Grey Fox is the guildmaster of the Thieves Guild in Cyrodiil and may be inspired by Miner, noted by his criminal profession and his magical ability to escape the law.
- "Story of Bill Miner". Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2009-04-01.
- BCGNIS entry "Miner, Mount"
- Similkameen, Rev. Goodfellow (Coalmont History site republication)