The Reno Gang and the First Train Robbery in the United States

Not many people are aware the first moving train robbery in the United States occurred in the town of Seymour, Indiana in 1866.

The Reno gang, led by Frank Reno, didn’t start out as train robbers. During the Civil War, Frank and his brothers were “bounty jumpers”. The draft allowed men to pay someone else a bounty to fight in their place. The Reno brothers would take the bounty, but instead of fighting in the war they would desert their unit and move on to another location to do it again.

Then, on October 6, 1866, two masked men from the Reno gang jumped aboard the Ohio and Mississippi train in Seymour. They beat a guard and stole $10,000 in gold coins from an Adams Express train car. They pushed another safe off the train, but weren’t able to open it.

After the success of the October 6 robbery, the gang continued to their spree throughout Indiana and even as far west as Missouri. During this time the Pinkerton detectives were actively trying to capture the gang.

Many residents of Seymour were fed up with the gang, and they had formed the Scarlett Mask Society. Basically, they went by the old west code: Shoot first. Ask questions later.

On May 22, 1868 twelve members of the Reno gang pulled off their largest robbery, stealing nearly $96,000 after boarding the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad at the Scott County train depot in Marshfield.

Eventually the Pinkerton detectives caught up to the Reno brothers. William and Simeon were arrested in Indianapolis, and Frank was found in Canada. They moved all the brothers to a jail in New Albany, Indiana.

On December 11, 1868 more than 65 members of the Scarlett Mask Society took a train to New Albany. They marched to the jail, over took the sheriff, and pulled the Reno brothers one by one from their cells and hanged them.

The three Reno brothers were buried in the Seymour City Cemetery, their graves enclosed with a simple fence, and a plaque that reads “Frank, William and Simeon Reno, leaders of the infamous Reno gang that committed the world’s first train robbery, at Seymour, October 6, 1866, and interred here December 15, 1868.”

Source(s): IndyStar, History.com