City, state and federal law enforcement and private detective agencies searched for Charley Ross. The most legitimate lead in attempting to find Charley Ross’ kidnappers involved two burglars, William Mosher and Joseph Douglass. In 1875, while attempting to rob the home of a local judge in New York, both men were shot. Mosher was killed instantly. While dying, Douglass confessed they had kidnapped Charley Ross. Both of them had been under investigation for the kidnapping. The brother-in-law of Mosher, William Westervelt, was later convicted of complicity in the kidnapping. The police pursued numerous leads and suspects over the years but the child was never found. Christian Ross spent the rest of his life looking for his son until he died in 1879.
Sixty-five years later, and after over 5,000 claims to be the kidnapped child, one man came forward in 1939 and asserted in a court of law he was Charley Ross. There was considerable doubt and suspicion of his claim and despite a jury’s declaration he was Charley Ross, we have proven he was not. Here’s who he was:
Nelson Miller, alias C.R. Brooks, Chas Bradley, Gustave Blair, Charley Ross (7/13/1874 – 12/13/1943) was one of eleven boys born to Rinear and Ann Miller in the small village of Melugin Grove near the Lee County city of Dixon, Illinois, in 1874. Sometime between 1918 and 1920 he changed his name to Gustave Blair and in 1939 he convinced a jury in Maricopa County, Arizona, he was Charley Ross, the child taken in the first kidnapping for ransom in America. The kidnapping in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, happened in 1874, the year Nelson Miller was born. Charley Ross was never found. The brother who was kidnapped with him, Walter Ross, dismissed Gustave Blair’s claim as another attempt to extort money from the family and did not attend the trial or challenge the claim. When he died in 1943, Nelson was buried in Phoenix, Arizona under the headstone “Charles B Ross.” In 2011, descendants of Rinear and Ann Miller commissioned a Y-DNA study and determined a 99.99903% probability Nelson Miller was in fact a Miller. He could not have been Charley Ross.