This story has an odd twist to in that all of the members of this gang, ten in total, were hanged by vigilantes within one week of each other. All of the members of the gang were hanged to death from the same tree and they were hanged three and four at a time. Of course the tree is no longer there but the area where the tree used to be was called “Hangman’s Cross Roads” just for the tree and it’s history.
The Reno Gang, so named for the brothers who started it, Frank and Simon Reno, operated out of Seymour, Indiana murdering and robbing people from Omaha to Cincinnati during the 1860s. It was a short career for the brothers and their cohorts but when you murder your victims for their money it tends to upset the locals. The Reno Gang had been making a habit of robbing and killing several people in the Seymour area for small amounts of money until they decided to graduate to something bigger, a train robbery.
One night in the fall of 1867 the gang boarded the Ohio & Mississippi Express in Seymour and road it out of town. About five miles outside of Seymour they held up the train and at least two newspaper accounts of the time say the gang got away with “at least four hundred thousand dollars”. Other accounts published later put the amount at $12,000 which seems a little more reasonable. Wanted posters were put out for the gang members and just a few months later all ten of them had been captured and were in two separate jails.
Once the good town folk of Seymour found out the gang had been captured they formed a “vigilance committee”, put on their masks and broke three of the group out of jail. They were immediately taken to the tree just outside of Seymour and hanged. A few days later the vigilance committee struck again and took three more members of the gang out of jail and directly to the tree where the first three met their death and hanged them also. The other four members of the gang and the last left alive, were broken out of the New Albany jail and dragged to the tree where all three were hanged like the others.
The old birch tree that helped dispatch the ten members of this gang soon met it’s own demise from relic hunters wanting a piece of the tree.
I thought this was an interesting story because of the ten hangings, all at the same tree and all within a week of each other. I searched for more information about the $400,000 taken from the train but I couldn’t find anything that said the money was recovered. I would think part of this could have been spent since the gang was free for a while after the robbery but I doubt they could have spent very much of it.
If you are in the area of Seymour Indiana you may want to check into this a little more. Just knowing the location of the tree would be interesting. Maybe the robbers had some change in their pockets that fell out when they were hanged??