Scott County and the Infamous Reno Gang

One of the most notable events in Scott County history was that Marshfield, Scott County was the location of one the world’s first train robberies in history.  Marshfield was located about half way between Scottsburg and Austin.  This train robbery was committed by the infamous Reno Gang.

The outlaw Reno Gang was led by John Reno and consisted of his brothers, Frank and Simeon.  It is in question whether brother William was actually a member or not.  Also in the inner circle were Frank Sparks and John Moore.  Frank Elliott, Freiling Clifton and Charles Roseberry were small town thieves before joining the gang.  

The Reno brothers grew up near Seymour on the Reno Farm.  The gang’s acts of violence radiated outward from Seymour and the reign of terror stretched across the Midwest.  The Reno Gang went on a rampage which terrorized the residents of five states and their crimes included murder, safe-cracking and bank robberies.

The gang would do their misdeeds throughout the Midwest and then head for shelter in Seymour which had become a haven for outlaws.

The first train robbery was in Seymour in Oct 1866.  Allen Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Detective Agency was already in search of the Reno Gang by this time and was able to capture John Reno in Seymour shortly after this train robbery and took him to Missouri to stand trial.  John was sentenced to twenty-five years in the penitentiary at Jefferson City.  By early Spring of 1868 and the Marshfield train robbery, brother Frank was leading the gang and the Pinkertons were in an all out hunt for the remainder of the gang.

The Marshfield Train Robbery was the largest hijack ever and brought national attention.  The Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis train was stopped at Marshfield and twelve men overpowered the crew, uncoupled the cars and drove the engine and express car on down the track.  The outlaws broke into the express car, threw the injured Tom Harkins off before stopping the train.  They made off with nearly $100,000 of the Adams Express Company money.

In late Fall Simeon and William Reno were captured in Indianapolis.  The Pinkertons took them to the Scott County Jail in Lexington where they were held for the Marshfield train robbery.  For safety, they were removed to the stronger Floyd County jail at New Albany.  Meanwhile, Frank Reno and Charles Anderson were arrested in Windsor, Canada.  Extradition was granted and the two criminals were returned to the United States and joined the other two Reno brothers in the Floyd County jail.

On December 11, 1868, seventy-five hooded men journeyed from Seymour to Jeffersonville, then to New Albany.  They broke into the stone jail and dragged the three Reno brothers and Anderson from their cells.  One by one in the early morning each was strung up at the top of the staircase and left dangling in the night air.

The vigilantes boarded the same trains back and were in Seymour by dawn and most in their homes in time for breakfast.  None were ever brought to justice for their actions.

 

Wanda S., our Library Genealogist invites you to send her questions you have about Scott County history or genealogy to her email at wandas@scott.lib.in.us

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