Any good cowboy movie features a dramatic train robbery scene, but how did all that really start? History points to the Reno Gang, three brothers and many of their friends who terrorized Indiana and the Midwest in the 1860’s.
The brothers were committing crimes their whole life, but eventually committed the first ever peacetime train robbery. One heist yielded a whopping $96,000, and sparked national outrage. Train robberies became their specialty, and they are credited with opening the era of copycats, including Jesse James and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Stories of the Reno Gang even featured two movies. One of these was Elvis’s first movie role, when he played a fourth brother, “Honest” Clint, who did not partake in the life of crime.
The brothers and other members of the gang were arrested and in and out of jail during their active period, including one daring escape from jail on April Fool’s Day. In the end, the gang was slowly rounded up by police and the Pinkerton’s. The public by this time was so angry that most of the members were kidnapped from police custody, and hung in lynch mobs. Two of the men were killed while in federal custody before their trials, the first time this has occurred.
The crimes committed by the Reno brothers are too numerous to mention, and their impact on history is legendary.