Ask the Marshall
- Written by Marshall Trimble
- Published June 01, 2009
What Western features an outlaw gang in Seymour, Indiana, and what do you know about the gang?
Helen and Dick Mullis
True West’s Features Editor Mark Boardman tells me the movie in question is 1955’s Rage at Dawn, starring Randolph Scott and Hoosier native Forrest Tucker.
The Reno Gang operated mostly in the 1860s. “Unlike the movie,” says Boardman, “the Renos didn’t rob banks. They specialized in train holdups, burglaries of county treasuries and numerous other criminal activities. They pulled one of the first peacetime train robberies in U.S. history in 1866; that’s probably what they’re best known for.
“But their biggest job came on May 22, 1868, when they hit the northbound Jefferson, Madison and Indianapolis train at Marshfield, south of Seymour. They broke into the Adams Express safes and grabbed approximately $96,000 in government bonds.
“That was just about the end of the gang. Within eight months, vigilantes lynched 10 of the outlaws, including three Reno brothers.
“The Renos were a remarkable outfit, far more sophisticated than most of their Wild West counterparts—and likely very influential. They received a lot of media attention at the time. Sam Bass was growing up only about 20 miles away; Billy the Kid was in Indianapolis at the time, and he must have been aware of what was happening 50 miles away. And it’s likely that the James-Younger Gang knew of the Renos’ exploits (Jesse and the boys hit the bank at Gallatin, Missouri, in 1869—the same town where John Reno robbed the county treasury in 1867). They may well have gotten the train robbery idea from the Renos.”