A short-lived, but very active gang of the 1860s was the Reno gang. They were the first gang to rob a train. They also engaged in crimes of all kinds, including counterfeiting.

With the Pinkertons dogging their trail, key members of the gang were arrested, and placed in the Council Bluffs, Indiana jail. But, they escaped a short time later.
 Following another dramatic train robbery two of the gang members were arrested and put in jail. To make sure they didn’t escape again, the local citizens hanged them. Shortly afterward, three more members of the gang were arrested. This time, as the Pinkertons were taking them to jail, a vigilante gang overcame the Pinkertons, escorted the members of the gang to a nearby tree, and hanged them.

Seeing the writing on the wall, five members of the gang, including Frank Reno escaped to Canada.

But, the Pinkertons also crossed over the border, and arrested them. After an extradition battle that even included the involvement of President Andrew Johnson, these members of the gang were returned to the States and secured in the New Albany jail.

Everyone knew that these men wouldn’t stand trial…even the remaining free gang members. The free gang members declared open warfare on the members of the Indiana Vigilantes by shooting, and beating them. They even threw rocks through their windows with notes tied to them saying: “If the Renos are lynched you die.”
 

But it did no good. On the evening of December 11, a group of men wearing scarlet masks rushed the jail, wounded the sheriff,

 

and secured the keys. One at a time, the Indiana Vigilantes hanged the jailed members of the Reno gang.

Filed under: Old West History

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