Rufus A. Minor (1838 – 1911?) – Bank Thief
aka Rufe Pine, Little Rufe, Charles Rogers
From Byrnes’ text:
DESCRIPTION. Forty-eight years old in 1886. Born in United States. Married. No trade. Stout build. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Brown hair, gray eyes, round face, dark complexion. Very bald. Has a clerical appearance at times. Can grow a heavy beard (dark brown) in a short time ; generally wears it when committing crime, and removes it shortly after. Has a dot of India ink on the back of left hand.
RECORD. Rufe Minor, alias Pine, is no doubt one of the smartest bank sneaks in America. His associates are Georgie Carson (3), Horace Hovan (25), Johnny Jourdan (83), Billy Burke, alias ” Billy The Kid” (162), Johnny Carroll, alias “The Kid” (192), Emanuel Marks, alias Minnie Marks (187), Big Rice (12), Mollie Matches (11), Billy Flynn, Big Jim Burns (165), Charley Cummisky, George Howard, alias Killoran and other clever men. He is a very gentlemanly and intelligent man, and is known in a number of the principal cities. He is no doubt one of the best generals in his line; he comes of a good family, and it is a pity he is a thief. Minor was arrested on March 23, 1878, at Petersburg, Va., in company of George Carson, Horace Hovan, and Charlotte Dougherty (Horace’s wife), charged with the larceny of $200,000, in bonds and securities, from the office of James H. Young, No. 49 Nassau Street, New York City, on January 2, 1878. They were all brought north, on a requisition, but no case was made out against them, and they were discharged. He was arrested again in New York City on November 14, 1880, with Johnny Jourdan and Georgie Carson, charged with the larceny of a tin box containing $8,500 in money and $56,000 in bonds from the vault of the Middletown Savings Bank, at Middle- town, Conn., on July 27, 1880. Horace Hovan, who was previously arrested in this case, was taken to Connecticut. Minor, who was not identified, was held in New York City, charged with being the party who stole $28,000 in bonds from a safe in the office of Merritt Trimbal, in the Coal and Iron Exchange Building on Courtlandt Street, New York, on October 15, 1879. The bonds were found in possession of the Third National Bank of New York City, having been hypothecated by a noto- rious bond negotiator and insurance agent. No case was made out against Minor, and he was discharged. Rufe Minor and Billy Burke are credited with obtaining $17,000 from the Commercial National Bank of Cleveland, O., in the fall of 1881. Burke was arrested in this case in Buffalo, N. Y., but Minor escaped. Minor was no doubt the principal man in the following robberies : the First National Bank, of De- troit, Mich., $3,200; the Middletown National Bank of Connecticut, $73,500; Bank of Cohoes, N. Y. (attempt), $100,000; Brooklyn (N. Y.) Post-office robbery, $3,000; Providence (R. I.) Gas Company robbery, $4,000 ; Guarantee Trust and Safe Deposit Company’s vaults, at Philadelphia, Pa., $71,000; Rufus Rose Insurance Agent’s safe, at Albany, N. Y., $3,800; the Safe Deposit vaults on State Street, Boston, Mass, $25,000; the Bank of Baltimore, Md. (bonds), $12,000. Minor was also credited with sneaking $114,000 in bonds from the Erie County (N. Y.) Savings Bank, on April 30, 1882. The bonds were returned to the bank by a well known Baltimore lawyer, who received $25,000 for them. He was arrested again in New York City on June 25, 1883, and delivered to Marshal Frey, of Baltimore, for the larceny of $12,000 in bonds from the Bank of Baltimore, on September 25, 1882. For this he was tried and acquitted by a jury on November i, 1883. Minor and Johnny Price were arrested in Boston, Mass., on February i, 1884, and given one hour to leave the city. He was arrested again in New York City on June 28, 1884, for the authorities of Augusta, Ga. Minor, Price and Billy Coleman sneaked a package containing $2,700 in money from a bank safe in Augusta, Ga. Billy Coleman and Price were arrested two days afterward, tried, convicted, and sentenced to seven years each in State prison, on May 7, 1884. Minor was taken to Augusta and discharged, as he could not be identified as the third party in the robbery. He was arrested again in New York City on January 12, 1886, charged with the larceny of $130 from the pocket of one Samuel Henze, in the office of the “Evening Journal,” in Jersey City, N. J. He gave the name of William Jackson, and was taken to New Jersey by requisition on January 17, 1886. In this case he was tried in the Hudson County (N. J.) Court, and acquitted on April 21 1886. Minor’s defense was an alibi. See records of Nos. 9, 25, and 83. Rufe Minor’s picture is an excellent one.
Rufus A. Minor was born in New York in 1838 to Noble Green Minor (1796-1859) and Hannah Johnson. When Rufus was 8, his father married a second time to Harriet Johnson in 1846. Harriet filed for divorce in 1847, but apparently later reconciled. The Minor family was an old, established family of Massachusetts and Connecticut (Woodbury), arriving in the early 1600s. Noble Green Minor inherited wealth, and had several properties in New York City.
In the late 1850s, Noble Minor suffered from fits of insanity, and in 1859 committed suicide with a razor at his home–in front of his daughter. This left Rufus A. Minor, at age 21, in a home led by a step-mother and cohabited by younger step-siblings. He soon struck struck out on his own, though what skills he possessed are unknown.
Rufus started traveling soon after his father’s death–a suspicious indicator that his criminal career was already in swing. In February 1860, he registered at a Philadelphia hotel under his own name; in 1865, a hotel in Boston; in September 1871, a hotel in Cleveland. No records indicating service during the Civil War have surfaced. The 1870 census listed him living in New York with wife Mary, occupation: clerk. It was the last census he would appear on; and the last documentation of his spouse, though Byrnes indicated that Minor was still married in 1886.
Chief Byrnes begins his list of Minor’s crimes with the January 1878 theft of $500,000 in bonds from a Wall Street banker, James Young. However, even by 1871, Minor was well-known to authorities as a bank thief, or, more, accurately, a bank “sneak thief.” This type of thievery did not include the use of r threat of violence (armed robbery); nor did it involve illegal entry and breaking into a safe or vault. Instead, bank sneak thieves took advantage of the fact that all financial transactions took place with paper–paper which had to be physically carried from one place to another. These thieves used distraction, misdirection, and agility to purloin bank notes, packets of bonds and securities, etc. off of desks, out of tills, out of pockets, etc. They were a more refined type of pickpocket.
In December 1871, Minor and another criminal and gang leader, Dutch Heinrichs (real name Henry D. Neuman) were told by police to leave a Wall Street bank. They had been recognized as “notorious sneak thieves.” Minor was described as Heinrich’s “patron,” meaning that Minor was directing their attempted operations.
One unconfirmed account indicated that Minor was arrested and convicted of a robbery in Toronto in 1875, and spent two years in a Canadian prison.
No other extended prison sentences for Minor have ever been confirmed. He was often arrested, but inevitably was soon released for lack of evidence or acquitted based on weak eyewitness testimony. Minor used his bland, forgettable facial features and ability to grow a heavy beard or mustache to his advantage–committing crimes while hirsute, then immediately shaving.
Sometimes, his involvement in a crime was merely a rumor, such as his role in the September 1877 robbery of $200,000 from the First National Bank of Cortland, New York. The thieves, in this case, negotiated with an officer of the bank the return of the majority of the funds (bank notes and bonds), minus a percentage they kept for themselves.
At any rate, nothing firm is known about Minor’s activities until the January 1878 Young robbery referred to by Chief Byrnes. Minor, George Carson, Horace Hovan, and Hovan’s wife, Charlotte Dougherty, were arrested in Petersburg, Virginia and sent to New York to face charges. Minor was being led to the city detention center, the Tombs, and requested one last drink in a bar. He ditched his guard and escaped; it hardly mattered, for charges were dropped against the others for lack of evidence.
On January 2, 1879, the Government Printing Office was robbed of $10,000 by James Burns and George Carson, with Minor suspected of having played a part. Immediately after the crime, Minor, Carson, Burns, and Horace Hovan went to Charleston, South Carolina, where Hovan was caught stealing $20,000 from the First National Bank. The other three escaped and went to New York, but Carson and Burns were arrested in June for the GPO robbery.
On October 15, 1879, $28,000 was stolen from Merritt Trimbal’s office in New York City’s Coal and Iron Exchange Building. Minor was suspected; Trimbal saw Minor in a courtroom a year later, but could not positively identify him as the thief who was in his office.
Though some described Minor’s techniques as scientific, he was known to consult with fortune-tellers before embarking on any jobs.
Minor, Carson, Hovan, and Johnny Joudan stole a tin box containing over $60,000 from a Middletown, Connecticut bank on July 27, 1880. All were arrested by November, but tellers could only identify Jourdan. Minor was discharged.
Byrnes profile runs through a litany of other robberies between 1881 and 1886, none resulting in any jail time for Minor.
After Byrnes book was published, in December, 1886, a New York storekeeper was looking through his copy and saw Rufus Minor walk into his store. He was caught shoplisting a $25 overcoat and identified by Chief Byrnes himself.
In late 1887, Carson and Minor were arrested in Chicago and sent to Boston to answer for the robbery of the till at to Roxbury Gaslight Company. One mention suggests that Sophie Lyons, an infamous female gangster, helped distract the office clerks. Carson and Minor were released on bail and never appeared for their trial. Minor was said to have gone to Europe for a few months.
Minor was caught again in Milwaukee in July 1888, stealing money from a desk in the offices of the Northwestern National Insuance Company. Working with him were two other men, but this time it was Minor who was the only man captured. His bail was set at a low $500, and he disappeared.
Minor’s career after 1888 is only a subject of rumor, with sometimes conflicting claims. An 1895 New York Sun article, responding to a supposed sighting of Minor in New York, said that he was currently in jail in “an inland city in Europe.” In 1903, Joseph Killoran, another bank thief, was arrested in New York, and while chatting with detectives, volunteered the information that Minor had died in Paris while Killoran was recently visiting there.
However, in 1907, William “Billy the Kid” Burke, a bank robber who was then husband to Sophie Lyons, was arrested in Philadelphia after returning from England. Burke and Lyons were said to have made plans to steal from a bank runner at the United States Sub Treasury in Philadelphia; but the Philadelphia Inquirer claimed that the plan had been hatched at Minor’s house in England.
By 1913, other criminals spoke of Minor in the past tense. It is likely he died in England sometime between 1907 and 1912.