Who Really was Gustave Blair?
Gustave Blair was born as Nelson Miller in Lee County, IL, in 1874. Nelson was the seventh of eleven boys born to Rinear and Ann Miller. His father was a bee keeper and well known in the area. Little is known of Nelson’s childhood except for an incident in which he was shot in the eye and suffered vision loss.
Nelson described his childhood and young adulthood during testimony in a criminal trial in Fresno, CA, in 1910 (see Criminal History). From this testimony we learn that in 1910 he was arrested using the alias of C.R. Brooks and Chas Bradley but identified himself as Nelson Miller, 36 years old, born in Lee County, IL with a “not very good” education and he did not finish “common school.” He attended school until age 12 or 13. His father was a nurseryman and “book-keeper [bee keeper].” He said he left home when he was 13 or 14 to be a farm worker, hired by the month until he turned 21. He then built wire fences for about 3 years until he started “ditching,” laying drain tiles as a laborer and then a contractor. He followed this line of work for 10 years until his conviction. He never did office or clerical work. He reports he had never been convicted of a felony. In his testimony, he makes no mention of being married or having any children, though other reports reveal that, at the time of his arrest, he was married and had six children.