this day in crime history: october 6, 1866

On this date in 1866, the Reno brothers committed the first peacetime train robbery. The Renos, a family of ne’er do wells, started their criminal careers as bounty jumpers (Army enlistees who collected the sign on bonus, then took off, only to enlist again elsewhere under another name and repeat the process) during the Civil War.

After the war, they searched for new ways to make money. On October 6, 1866, brothers John and Simeon Reno, and associate Frank Sparkes, boarded the east-bound Ohio & Mississippi train at the Seymour, IN depot. While the train was in motion, they stormed the express car and held the messenger at gunpoint. They broke open one of the safes and stole a large sum of cash from it. They pushed a larger safe off the moving train for other gang members to retrieve. Then they pulled the emergency stop cord and fled the train. The gang wound up abandoning the second safe when they were unable to get it open.

The Renos went on to commit several more robberies before most were captured by the law (and the Pinkerton Detective Agency). Most of the gang, including Simeon Reno and Frank Sparkes, died at the hands of vigilantes in three separate lynchings in Indiana. John Reno was tried and convicted. He was sent to prison in 1868, and was paroled in 1878.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Reno Gang

Legends of America – The Notorious Reno Gang

6 thoughts on “this day in crime history: october 6, 1866

  1. On an episode of The Untouchables some gangsters are planning to ambush a train carrying Al Capone to Alcatraz. One of them jokes about being like Jesse James and an old timer says that Jesse James never robbed a train and he must be thinking of the Reno brothers. Of course Jesse James did rob trains, but the Renos lead the way; though they seem to be mostly forgotten today.


  2. I think Elvis’s movie Love me Tender was supposed to originally be called The Reno Brothers. If memory serves, I think his brothers or at least one of them was a train robber, or bandit of some sort. Wonder if it was originally supposed to be based on the real Renos until they needed a vehicle for Elvis and threw some songs in.


  3. John D.:
    What I like about this is that it seemed easy enough to stop a train and ROB it in INDIANA…
    (ground-breaking crime that it was after the Civil War)

    On the flip side, you always had to watch out for the VIGILANTES who were ALL TOO WILLING to hunt down your train-robbing ass (also in INDIANA)…LOL.

    Talk about a CONTRAST.

    Good call.

    Stay safe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s