Gustave Blair’s Claim to be Charley Ross

On February 4, 1939, Blair sued the Ross family in Phoenix, AZ, to be recognized as their brother.  The Ross family ignored the suit and did not attend the trial.  Walter Ross, Charley’s brother, reported it was just another example of thousands of false claims that had been made over the decades.  He said, “We have heard of this man before and have determined to our own satisfaction there is nothing to his story.”   Gustave Blair’s civil suit was heard before a jury on May 9, 1939.  His testimony, and that of his only witness, Lincoln (L.C.) Miller, is recorded by the transcript of the trial.   In addition to his deathbed “Confession”, Lincoln Miller also allegedly signed a statement in 1934 outlining his testimony for the trial.  In that statement, he swore, in sum and substance, to the following which is consistent with the testimony he gave at the civil trial:

One of the kidnappers, John Hawk, was a farm laborer in Lee County and stayed at times in the Miller home.  In the summer and fall of 1874, he made several trips to Philadelphia to care for his ailing sister.  When the sister died, Hawk convinced Lincoln’s father to let Lincoln accompany him to Pennsylvania to retrieve his sister’s child and provide company during the return trip.  When they arrived at a cave outside of Philadelphia where the child was being kept, the child said his name was Charley Ross.  Hawk told Lincoln to ignore him.  His name was Charley Hawk.  They brought Charley to the home of Rinear Miller by horse and buggy dressed as a girl.  He was raised as Nelson Miller, named after the Millers’ recently deceased child.  When Hawk later returned to take the child, the Millers objected.  They had become attached to him as their own child. They argued until John Hawk blasted out “This boy is a stolen boy and you’d better get rid of him, for if the law would find him here it would go bad with all of us, especially Link [Lincoln] as he helped me bring the stolen boy . . . he is Charlie Ross . . .”  To stop Hawk from taking the child, Rinear Miller killed him with a shot gun and later buried him in the back yard.

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According to court transcripts, Gustave, Lincoln, and Rinear Miller gave various timelines and circumstances regarding the reported murder.   Rinear allegedly signed a confession of the killing on March 8, 1904.  Nelson later stated that he was told at the time he could not reveal the truth about the murder until after his father’s death.  Rinear Miller died February 6, 1920, but Nelson waited 14 years to begin his campaign to prove he was Charley Ross.  Gustave claimed that although he learned his true identity in1908, he concealed it fearing if he told the truth about  Hawk’s murder, the Millers would seek to silence him.  

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On May 9, 1939, the jury deliberated only eight minutes and found in favor of Gustave Blair.  A judgement was entered: “. . .Gustave Blair, one time known as Nelson Miller, is Charles Brewster Ross, son of Christian K Ross and the same person who was kidnapped from the home of Christian K. Ross July 1, 1874.”   Ten days later, the newly declared Charley Ross said he would to go Philadelphia and sue his brother and two sisters to claim one-fourth of the purported $460,000 family trust fund. (In today’s dollars, approximately $10,000,000. His share would have been about $2,500,000.)  When asked about it, Walter Ross responded there wasn’t any such fund.  Repeatedly during his campaign to be recognized as Charley Ross and immediately after the trial, Blair affirmed he had no interest in the Ross family’s money.  As Charley Ross, he later wrote a short story and tried to sell it as a screen play entitled “My Return from the Dead.  The Thrilling True Life Story of Charley Ross the ‘Kidnapped Boy.”