Friday, December 12, 2014

December 12, 1868: Simeon, Frank and William Reno and Charles Anderson

Join me in learning about a lynching that occurred slightly before the end of reconstruction in the south to 1868 Indiana. We first learn about this lynching from The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, Texas) dated December 13, 1868:

LYNCH LAW—THREE MEN HUNG.

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 12.—Seymour's vigilance committee in this State visited New Albany jail this morning at three o'clock, and hung the Reno brothers and Charles Anderson, and escaped before the alarm was given.


Our next jaunt gives us information from an eyewitness and is found in the Wilmington Journal (Wilmington, N. C.) dated December 25, 1868:

The Lynching in Indiana—Statement of an Eye Witness—Particulars of the Horrible Tragedy.

The Cincinnati Gazette contains the following dispatch:

Louisville, Dec., 13.—Between three and four o'clock yesterday morning about seventy-five armed men, wearing scarlet masks, visited the jail in New Albany and overpowered the guard, shot sheriff Fullinlove in the arm, and took possession of the jail. The sheriff refused to deliver the keys, which were finally found by the maskers, and Simeon, Frank and William Reno, brothers, and Wm Anderson, the notorious Seymour express robbers, were taken from their cells and hung. 

Henry Clarke, a prisoner in the jail for killing George Telle, at Selma, Indiana, was an eye witness and makes the following statement:

The first persons I saw in jail were two men who had on masks of red flannel, or something of the kind—perhaps red handkerchiefs. Heard the men talking to Matthews the guard, apparently endeavoring to force him to point out the cells. Matthews refused to tell them anything.—Then a voice said something about putting a robe [sic] around his neck, and the order was given to pull him up. Then heard Nos. 24, 11 and 7 distinctly uttered, and they seemed to have released Matthews. No. 11 was Charles Anderson's, and Simeon and William Reno were in No. 7. Then heard some one say, "Bring a rope," and they went to Frank Reno's cell first. Frank said nothing, and heard the words, "Frank Reno, No. 23;" and then "Pull him out," He resisted some, and cried, "For God's sake, gentlemen what are you going to do?" They told him to "dry up,"and then tied his hands, and a couple of them grabbed him by the throat, pushing him along.—As they got to the top of the stairs he clutched at the banisters, but made no noise. He died very hard.

After hanging Frank, they went to No. 7, where Simeon and Wm. Reno were.—As they opened the door, someone spoke up and said, "What do you want here?" Then I heard something fall, and afterward heard that one of them had been knocked down by Simeon, who had seized the sink lid to defend himself. I then heard the fall of another body as they rushed into the cell. Simeon had been knocked down. Heard him groan. They then took him out, carried him around and hung. I heard him make no noise.

They then brought out William; I saw them put a rope around his neck. An order was given for Nos. 3 and 5 (every man seemed to be called by a number instead of by name) to go up and catch the rope. William said, "I am innocent, gentlemen; never done the robbing. Oh Lord, protect my father and sister." Two men pulled him up. William struggled very hard.

When Anderson was taken out of his cell he asked for time to pray, but was told to shut his mouth, and that they did not want anything out of him. They strung him up, but the rope broke. It was tied again and he was again pulled up.

The lynchers arrived by the Jefferson railroad and departed the same way. They are generally supposed to be the Jackson county vigilance committee. It is understood that Reno and Anderson intended to apply before Judge Bicknell for writs of habeas corpus, saying that they could show that they were not concerned in the Marsefield robbery. The so-called vigilants probably got wind of this and hence the terrible tragedy. These four make ten men  who have been lynched in Indiana for the robbery of the Adams Express Company. Vol. Elliott, Charles Rosebery and Phillip Clifton having been hanged near Seymour, on the 20th of July last, and a short time after Frank Sparks.—John Moore and Henry Jerrell were captured and hanged near the same place.

Captain C. J. Sewell, the notorious Federal guerrilla, died in the city Hospital to day, of wounds received in his celebrated raid on Shelbyville, in May, 1866.


We flesh out the tale a bit more with the help of The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Virginia) dated December 18, 1868:

The Seymour Express Robbers—Their Former Character—Touching Scene.

A telegram from New Albany to the Chicago Tribune says:

Frank Reno and Charles Anderson were married men. Their wives were notified of their terrible fate by telegraph, and arrived here early this morning. The scene that ensued when they were admitted to the jail to see the dead bodies of their husbands was beyond all description. The poor bereaved creatures were frantic with grief. They embraced the dead bodies, kissing the bloated and swollen faces, and uttering the most heart-rending lamentations. The scene was one that touched every heart, and brought tears to many eyes. The sister of the Reno brothers, who had stuck to them with all the devotion of a true and loving heart, was inconsolable in her grief.

The Reno family has long been notorious for its bad name and deeds. For years they were a terror to the people of Jackson county. They have been engaged in many daring robberies, and it is believed, murders. Nearly all the burglaries, robberies and murders in and about Seymour, Rockford and Brownstown, of late years, are charged upon the Renos. One of the brothers is now confined in the Missouri penitentiary, serving out a fifteen year-term for a most daring robbery and attempt to murder. There is no doubt but that they were engaged in all the express robberies that have of late years been committed on the Jeffersonville and Ohio and Mississippi railroads. Anderson was equally noted as a daring and successful thief and burglar. He was a tall, well developed man, with an intelligent and prepossessing face and fine head, with a high and benevolent looking forhead [sic]. The Reno brothers were short, heavy set and rather dull and brutish looking men, the animal predominating in their physiognomy. They were men of limited education and intelligence. They were, however,adepts in crime, and up to the time when they were recently arrested, have managed from the rules of criminal practice in our courts, to escape conviction.


The Reno brothers are considered to have committed the first train robbery in 1866. Newspapers had articles, that I could find,  on the brothers as late as the 1970's. Thank you for joining me and always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.  

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