FORGOTTEN TRAILS: Railroad Bill had tricks to avoid betrayal

Published 9:44 pm Wednesday, June 13, 2007

By Staff
I want to continue with the story of Railroad Bill. I hope you are enjoying this version which was published in The Brewton Standard in 1950.
As I have been told, Sheriff McMillan was not the kind of man to give up what he started out to do nor the kind to be bluffed. Railroad Bill knew it, too.
And so, that night in Bluff Springs, silhouetted against the dim blinking light from a lone switchlight, Railroad Bill pressed the trigger of his Winchester, fulfilling his promise to the most popular and best-liked sheriff Escambia County ever had.
Up until the killing of Sheriff McMillan, the search for Railroad Bill had been widespread, but now it turned into a manhunt that was to last for many months to come - the most famous this section of Alabama and Florida has ever witnessed.
The L&N Railroad was offering a lifetime pass on the railroad and $1,250 reward for Railroad Bill. They hired more detectives with orders to get Railroad Bill. They gave everyone a pass on the railroad as long as they had a gun and claimed they were looking for Railroad Bill. Many of them were looking for him all right, but enjoying the free rides better and hoping to hell they never came face to face with Bill.
The lawmen kept Bill on the move from place to place. He was seen or reported seen at one place today. Tomorrow he was seen miles away in some other vicinity. Bloodhounds were used to try to trail him, but he had a habit of getting away from them by wading up or down creeks and swimming the river. He always went heavily armed, sometimes wearing two six-shooters on its cartridge belt and carrying his Whinchester.
Bill had friends who fed him and kept him posted on the whereabouts of the law. He was smart, cautious and cunning. Many people claimed he bore a charmed life.
To scare them and keep them from betraying him, he had many believing he could turn into a sheep, dog or some other kind of an animal and get away from a sheriff's posse.
He had them even believing he could only be killed with a silver bullet. To prove this, he would hand his gun to some scared man and have him get off a sort distance and shoot at him. At the report of the gun, he would reach out and catch the bullet. The trick was: Bill had removed the bullet from the cartridge and used a packing of some kind to hold the powder in and form a pressure to make a natural report. The bullet had been concealed in his hand at the time he pretended to catch it.
Stories of Railroad Bill were written, told and re-told until he was a man to be feared and dreaded by everyone.
Mothers quieted their crying children by telling them Railroad Bill would get them. In places where he was seen, or even reported seen, doors were bolted tight and people were afraid to go to sleep at night for fear Bill would break in and kill them.
However, there is no record or story that I have heard of where Railroad Bill ever harmed anyone who was not out to harm him. Neither have I ever heard of his being caught in the act of robbing a freight car. There are people who really believe he never pulled these robberies, but someone else, and he got all the blame. Others claim he could not possibly have pulled all the robberies by himself - that there were other parties involved in some of them.
For some reason, it seemed, Railroad Bill was a little proud of his Railroad Bill title. When he approached or was approached by some person in an out-of-the-way place, the first thing he told them was - if they had seen anyone else around. He would then ask the person if they knew he was. If they did not he would tell them he was Railroad Bill, and then warn them not to tell anybody they had seen him.”
Please stay with me and read the whole story. It is one of the most interesting versions I have seen.

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