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April 10, 2013

NEW ALBANY BICENTENNIAL: The Reno brothers’ demise



Other close calls with the law followed. Some of the gang traveled to Iowa and executed robberies there. Frank Reno and a couple of the other men were arrested but managed to escape from the rickety jail through a hole in the wall. In April 1868, members of the gang were once again taken prisoner in Iowa after stealing from some local cities’ treasuries. Once more, they managed to escape. 

On May 22, 1868, the guys carried out their fourth train robbery in Marshfield, Ind. Extracting an estimated $96,000 from an onboard safe, this was to be their biggest heist yet. Of course, the gang also violently removed express manager Thomas Harkins off the moving train, too. He died from injuries caused by the fall.

Town folk in Seymour were fed up with the lawlessness. In March 1868, a group was formed called the Jackson County Vigilance Committee — its main purpose being to stop the outlaws any way it could, including lynching. Before long, six gang members captured by law enforcement had been hanged from an old tree close to town. 

Fond of gambling, William and Simeon Reno opted to hide out for a while in Indianapolis. On July 27, 1868, Pinkerton Government Services discovered their retreat and captured the brothers. After a trial found them guilty of their crimes in Lexington, Ind., the sheriff decided to send the guys to a more secure jail in Floyd County due to the vigilante threat. 

“When they captured them, they said, ‘Let’s take them to New Albany,’ because we had the only stone jail in Indiana,” Seidl said. “This was the biggest and most powerful city in the state.”

In later October, two more members of the gang, Frank Reno and Charlie Anderson, joined William and Simeon in New Albany after being extradited from Canada. 

Now don’t think the New Albanians were necessarily keen on having these men kept in their local prison. Remaining gang members had in the past threatened Seymour that if any of the convicted men were executed by a mob, the town would be burned to the ground. Likewise, the vigilante group didn’t make things much easier. In the turmoil, Floyd County Sheriff Thomas J. Fullenlove issued a public statement. 

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