The Name Change

Name Change to Gustave Blair

Nelson gave many explanations as to when and why he changed his name to Gustave Blair.  Once he said it was as early as age 13, though no documentation exists to substantiate this claim. Using public records and available documents, it appears Nelson changed his name some time after he was paroled from Folsom State Prison, CA, in 1915 (see Criminal History).  He was arrested as Nelson Miller in 1916 in Blue Earth, MN (See Criminal History).  He registered for the draft as Nelson Miller in Algona, IA, on September 12, 1918, at which time his wife Ida Miller is listed as his nearest relative.  The first public record of the name change appeared two years later in June, 1920, when Nelson – going by Gustave Blair – was arrested in Aberdeen, SD, and sent to State Prison, Sioux Falls, SD (see Criminal History).  It is possible Nelson changed his name arguably in an effort to conceal two felony convictions and imprisonment in California in 1910 and his arrest for sodomizing a 15-year-old boy in Blue Earth, MN, in September, 1916.  He was paroled from the South Dakota State Prison on January 19, 1922, after serving 15 months of his three-year sentence.  He reappeared in 1924 as Nelson Miller when he and his wife transacted several property transfers in Rockford, IL.   One of the transfers was to their son, Ralph Miller (not Ralph Blair).

The names Nelson Miller, Gustave Blair, and Charley Ross appeared together for the first time in public records in 1932.  Nelson’s thirty-five year old son, Ralph (Miller) Blair, announced they were the same person while attempting to re-enter the United States from Canada.  After over-staying his visa, Ralph and his family were stopped at the border unable to prove his citizenship.  He insisted he was the son of the real Charley Ross and his father, whom he referred to as Gustave Blair, could prove it.  The Chicago Tribune reported  “Another claimant to the name of Charlie Ross . . . appeared yesterday . . . Gustave Blair.”  Gustave’s attorney in Chicago said  “. . . the claim was advanced as part of a campaign to have the immigration authorities permit the gardener’s son to cross the American border from Canada at Seattle.”  He could give no definitive evidence other than Blair having a physical characteristic common in the Ross family, one ear thicker and set lower on the head than the other.  (In another interview Gustave Blair asserted he was examined by a Chicago psychiatrist and a police identification expert who said his facial characteristics “checked perfectly with those of the Charlie Ross pictures.”).  The lawyer convinced U.S. immigration services Gustave Blair was Ralph’s father and was in fact the stolen child, Charles Brewster Ross.  Ralph was allowed entry into the United States.

Gustave Blair declared he was Charley Ross in the media three years later on May 11, 1935.  He asserted he was raised by the Miller family but “In 1908 [Rinear] Miller in order to prevent me from testifying in a lawsuit in which he was involved in . . .” told him the truth.

Four years later in 1939 during his civil suit against the Ross family to be legally recognized as Charley Ross,  he swore his Miller father told him in 1908 he was not a Miller.  Instead, Rinear Miller told him he was Charley Ross, a 4 year old child brought to the Miller home by one of the kidnappers, John Hawk, under the guise he was Hawk’s deceased sister’s son.  Rinear told him he took the place of a child they named Nelson who had recently died.  Everyone accepted him as Nelson Miller.  He changed his name later because it was distasteful to live with the name of a dead child.  He also asserted he changed his name to hide from the Millers who threatened him if he told anyone of what had happened.

Additional evidence of Nelson’s name change appeared in Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1940.   As the newly adjudicated Charles Brewster Ross, Gustave filed an affidavit verifying the birth records of his son, Ralph Blair.  The affidavit swears Ralph Miller changed his name to Ralph Blair in 1910 or 1911. He would have been 13 or 14 years old.  However, the 1910 Census Record shows he was living with his mother as Ralph Miller.  In the affidavit, Gustave identifies his birthdate as the date on record for Charley Ross and again states in 1908 he learned “. . . what his right name was and changed his name from Nelson Miller to Gustave Blair.”  Ralph said he changed his name to Blair when he joined up with his father around 1917.   It is possible Ralph changed his name much later to conceal his criminal past as Ralph Miller.  It is also possible that Ralph changed his name to identify with Gustave Blair / Charley Ross because, if Gustave Blair was in fact the son of Charley Ross, Ralph could be a legitimate heir to the Ross family fortune.