October 6, 2011

Bad hats

Frank Reno

If it’s true that there is a new housing development outside of Seymour, Indiana, called ‘ The Crossing,’ is anyone going to tell the new residents that they’re living on the site of the lynching of six notorious sociopaths?

Okay, that was a ridiculously long question and the short answer is, they probably wouldn’t care.

The lynching took place more than a century ago and the victims were the notorious Reno Gang, whose list of transgressions was so long it’s hardly worth mentioning that they pulled off the first American train robbery on this date in 1866.

They also pulled off the second and third. By then, various characters had joined the gang, but the founders of the most notorious band of outlaws in the midwest were the Reno brothers.

There were five of them – William, Frank, John, Simeon and Clint – though Clint was always called ‘Honest’ Reno.  They grew up on a farm near Rockford in Indiana, supposedly in a god-fearing home where they were required to read the Bible all day on Sunday. Their reaction to the practice was early and continuing experiments in arson, card-sharking and horse-stealing.

Things got so tense that they and their father fled to St.Louis for a while, but came back to town when the Civil War started.  William seems to have signed up with the Union Army and served his enlistment, but Frank, John and Sim had a better idea – they enlisted repeatedly under different names, collected their sign-up bounty and then deserted.

After the war they came home to add Grant Wilson to the gang, then rob a post office and store in the next town over – they were captured and Wilson agreed to testify against the brothers.  He was mysteriously murdered and they went free.

Allan Pinkerton

The Reno brothers held up a train at the rail hub at Seymour IN and got away with some cash and a strong box they couldn’t open,  A passenger who agreed to testify was  murdered and there were no other volunteers.

Pretty clear pattern we must admit, so it’s not a surprise that one day folks would want to take matters into their own hands.

But before that happened, the Reno gang was doomed anyhow, because the strong box they couldn’t open belonged to the Adams Express Company and Adams employed the Pinkertons.

After the next robberies, the Pinkertons succeeded in ambushing the gang and their friends – six men were kidnapped on the way to jail (on two separate occasions) and hanged at what came to be called Hangman’s Crossing.

A few months later, Frank, William and Simeon Reno were caught by the Pinkertons, but they too were kidnapped and lynched in New Albany, Indiana.  John wound up in Missouri, where he was caught robbing the town hall in Gallatin.  He actually made it safely to the penitentiary, served ten years, got out long enough to write his autobiography and then return to familiar habits – he was re-arrested and sentenced for counterfeiting.

Over a two-year period, by a rough count, the Reno brothers  robbed numerous businesses, killed and robbed an unknown number of travelers, murdered (or ordered the murder of) at least three witnesses, committed four train robberies and attempted another.

Elvis Presley, btw, played Clint ‘Honest’ Reno in Love Me Tender.



  1. …and my favorite bad guy is from – Madeline and the Bad Hat!


    Comment by Carol — October 6, 2011 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  2. Wow that’s crazy! Good story =)


    Comment by Nina — October 6, 2011 @ 11:20 pm | Reply

  3. A real rough riding story thanks enjoyed it much.


    Comment by avery — October 8, 2011 @ 9:38 am | Reply

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