Friday, October 3, 2008

The Reno Gang of Indiana

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??


sara said...

i just wanted to let you know that your info is a little bit off.

Frank, Simon, and William Reno were hung from the Floyd County Jail ceiling by the Jackson County Vigilance Committee.

i just found out that Simon Reno, right after the Jackson County Vigilance Committee left, was revived and struggled for a half hour as the prisnors called for help.

also, i think it was Frank that said that the men in the group would pay. that one day, they would come back and well, you know the rest. same old story.

just thought i would let you know.


Alec said...

Thank you Sara. I got my information from two separate sources but neither mentioned the information you had. It just goes to show how important research is.


Anarchy in the Heartland said...

Thought you may want to view a video, Anarchy in the Heartland is my new book about the Reno Gang.

Anthony Susnick said...

Although it might not help you find any Reno treasure, I would like to introduce a 3 minute preview of my film The Legend of the Reno Brothers and The First Train Robbery. You can view it on my site at
or directly on you tube at:
By the way, If you find any gold, be sure to save a share for me!
Tony Susnick

Christopher said...

I am a Seymour native. Thousands of people have searched for the Reno gold/cash, and not a trace has ever been found. The old town that they used as a hideout (Rockford) is no longer there, being burned down, by local legend, the Reno brothers themselves. As far as the JCVC... no one will talk, since most of the descendants, if not all, still live in the area, me being one. Also, no mention of the Reno Gang can be found throughout town, and what little there is is too vague. The only really detailed book is "The Masked Halters" but it is very difficult to find.

Anonymous said...

I also am a seymour Native, and as for the Rockford, well the old town might not be there but I grew up in the rockford area, on my way to school everyday I would pass the sign that says rockford about a half mile from my house..Me and my mother have been studing The reno brothers off and on, and it was not till today that I have really thought about reading more on the history.. The reno brothers gravsites are located at the cemetery on eleven.. And one of the trains that they robbed actually went right by my stepdads house... yeah no one has found the reno treasure and thousands of ppl have looked, but if had ancestors that lived in seymour/rockford, who kept all their "history" like my family has then maybe one day we can get lucky enough to find the lost treasure!!!!!

kyle said...

i live in seymour also. rockford is not an actual town anymore but it does exsist. it is on 11, basically after the new seymour cemetary and stretches a bit passed the last light on your way to columbus. and if you do your research there is a lot of information in seymour. first stop being the visitor center which used to be the train station. i even did not know this until entering then its obvious. also if you ask whoever is there, they have a key to one of the jail cells from where one of the outlaws that was part of the gang were hung. they took it from the jail house and put it on for display. even the nice gentelman that showed me this said hardly anyone knew about it. its sitting right beside the visitor center by behind family video. he took me and my family inside of it and although it didnt really tell you anything it was still interesting. also our local historian wrote a book about the reno gang which i am currently reading. it is $5 at the visitor center.

Anonymous said...

People thank I'm crazy butt I'm learning a lot about the reno brothers. Even if its not around I will have had one good good time looking for it.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Seymour and I knew Edwin Boley, the author of the Masked Halters. The legend around town was that the committee members - some of them - took the money. The town is dominated by one group - always has been - and members of that society became very wealthy. One of them started the largest factory in town that operated for about fifty years. they sold buggies.

Mary Jo Byrne said...

Im a desendant of The Reno Gang and I have alot of info on them and a few Books. If your interested Im on facebook.

Daniel Kannady said...

Mary Jo Byrne I would be interested in contacting you as well as any other people that know anything interesting of the Reno Brothers.

CathieReno said...

I am a Reno and would love to know if I am related I would love to see a family tree if there is one

Unknown said...

I am a Seymour resident my family has been in the area for many years. The tree has Been gone for a long time but I remember seeing the tree as a kid and was told it was the hanging tree. Was dead trunk with barely any limbs except one larger and one smaller on oppose side.Then just the larger. then it was all gone. Is an image I will not forget