He wasn’t the first or the last to commit a train robbery, but Bill Miner is the one — the major one in Canada, at least, who is associated with this crime. And the story which began in 1904 has become a legend.
Born as Ezra Allen Miner in 1847, he lost no time in assuming a career that became his life. After the third term in jail for stagecoach robberies in the United States, he came to British Columbia in 1901. Here he also went by the name of Geroge Edwards while working on a farm. His first mark as a train robber was on September l0th, 1904. It was at Silverdale, just 35 kilometers East of Vancouver, however that could never be proved.
But Miner was not alone; his friends Dunn and Colquhoun had come to Kamloops under the guise of prospectors. The three held up a West-bound Trans-Continental train 13 miles East of Kamloops in May of 1906. For that, he was sentenced to the British Columbia Penitentiary in New Westminster. He escaped from in 1907 and was never recaptured in Canada. He returned to the United States where his robberies continued. He escaped twice from prison after that, but died in the Prison Farm at Milledgeville Georgia, of gastritis on September 2, 1913. It seems he ingested swamp water the year before while hiding out.
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Bill Miner was glorified in movies, including the “Grey Fox.” In 1983 Canadian Film Director Philip Borsos released his film The Grey Fox which became one of the most acclaimed movies in the history of Canadian film making. It won seven Canadian Film Awards including Best Film Best Director and Best Screenplay. It is considered to be one of the ten best Canadian films of all time.
While Miner is reported to be the first railroad robber in Canada, there is a verified report that the first holdup of a train in Canada occurred fifty years earlier in Port Credit Ontario. However, the time has erased the crime.
*Credit for The Grey Fox winning seven Canadian Film Awards is credited to Wikipedia
There were many colorful figures along the railway routes of the l930s. Some of them were men, hired by the railways themselves, to keep the Bums and Hobos out of the rail yards. One of these was a man known as
The Ballad “Capreol Red”
He was six foot plus, and heavy,
And topped with bright red hair…
A railway cop of the thirties,
With an “I’m gonna get you” air.
He worked out of Capreol
During the Great Depression.
But even East and West of Ontario
He had a reputation.
In boxcars, filled with hungry men
You’d hear a lot of tales…
See…there was a lot of time to spare
When you “rode the rods and rails”.
But even in Northern Lumber camps
Talk filled your heart with dread…
Invariably that talk would turn
To Mean old Capreol Red.
Now you may ask “What of it?”
“Surely the man is dead.”
Well so little has been written down
When all is done and said.
Here’s a Canadian Legend
Who lived, and worked and died…
A “rough and tumble” rounder
With a heart of gold, inside.
See, Red would take you off the train,
And cart you off to jail…
But I’ve been told the next morning
He’d come round and pay yer bail.
Rev. C.J .Barry Kentner…