The Reno Gang of Seymour, Indiana began with brothers John, Frank, William, and Simeon Reno. When Seymour founder Meedy Shields authored a legislative bill ensuring that all trains using the Ohio and Mississippi Railway should stop in Seymour for safety reasons, the Renos and their gang saw an opportunity to rob train passengers who stopped to have a drink, play a game of cards, or stay overnight at the Rader Hotel. The robbery of individual passengers wasn’t lucrative enough though. The Gang decided to rob the train itself, committing the first documented robbery on a moving train in the U.S. On October 6, 1866, they boarded a train as it left the Seymour depot and robbed its occupants. They fled the train $16,000 richer, the equivalent of about a half of a million dollars in 2020.
Arrested for robbery after repeatedly committing the same crime, suspected members of the Reno Gang were transported to Brownstown for trial. The Jackson County Vigilance Committee composed of a group of townspeople intent on ensuring the robberies ended stopped the transport on the way out of town. There at a place that would earn the name Hangman’s Crossing, the Jackson County the Committee lynched the accused robbers by hanging.
In spite of these hangings, robberies continued until the Pinkerton detectives were hired to hunt down the remaining members of the gang. John Reno was in prison in Missouri. Other members of the gang, led by Frank Reno, worked their way across Iowa, robbing courthouses. After a jailbreak in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Frank Reno and Charlie Anderson escaped to Canada where Jackson County petitioned for them to be extradited back to the U.S. to stand trial for the train robbery. The request was originally refused by Canadian authorities because their safety couldn’t be guaranteed. Eventually the pair was returned and jailed in New Albany. It was further out of reach of the Jackson County Vigilance Committee and could ensure the safety of the prisoners.
On the evening of December 11, 1868, a train filled with members of the Vigilance Committee left Seymour headed for New Albany to demand the return of the Reno gang robbers. The men on board went to the jail and demanded the Reno Brothers. When the Sheriff refused, they pistol-whipped him; his wife gave the vigilantes the keys to the cell when they threatened his life. Frank, William, and Simeon Reno along with Charlie Anderson, were lynched by hanging in the New Albany jail. The Vigilance Committee caused an international incident as Frank Reno and Charlie Anderson were still technically Federal prisoners.
The brothers’ gravesites can be found in the Old City Cemetery in Seymour, and have been surrounded by a fence to keep tourists a respectful distance away.