Scottsburg to celebrate
launch of new movie about
the Reno Brothers
The gang of outlaws made
Scott County famous in early days
SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (September 2013) – Jesse James. Billy the Kid. In the days of the Wild West, the names struck terror in the hearts of those riding on or shipping treasure by train.
Who inspired these notorious villains? The Reno Brothers of Seymour, Ind. The first weekend of September, Scott County Heritage Museum will play host to the premiere of the movie, “The Legend of the Reno Brothers,” which brings the story of the brothers and their impact on national history to the big screen.
After the Civil War, Frank, John and Simeon Reno returned to Seymour, an area devastated by the economic downturn that crippled the nation following the war. Using skills honed during the war, the Renos began a reign of terror as they took over Seymour. Eventually, their gang numbered more than 100 men.
Anthony Susnick, director of the movie, notes, “They were the early organized crime. They had a network of criminals that spread to several other states.” The brothers focused primarily on train robbery. “They are best-known as the gang that committed the first peace-time train robbery.”
Photo courtesy of Tony Susnick
Actors portray the Reno
Brothers for a family portrait
as part of a new movie
about the outlaws.
Susnick notes the brothers rarely robbed passengers. “They went for the big stuff – the safes.”
In Marshfield, Ind., they boarded a train that had stopped to take on wood and water and stole a safe containing more than $98,000. That got the attention of the nation – and the Pinkerton agency.
Pinkerton agents came to Seymour where the brothers also fed their coffers by robbing rail passengers who stopped to eat or spend the night. “Newspapers reported people being robbed and killed every week. One guy was beheaded and thrown into the river,” says Susnick. Whenever the Pinkerton agents arrested one of the gang, the witness would be killed or the prosecutor would refuse to bring charges. “Local officials were all under the control of the Renos. They couldn’t get a prosecution to stick.”
Eventually, vigilantes took matters into their own hands. Wearing red bandannas to hide their identities, a group of more than 100 men began capturing members of the gang who had been arrested and lynching them. When Frank and Will (a fourth brother) and another gang member were jailed in Scottsburg, the vigilantes invaded the jail and lynched them, breaking the gang. “They faded into history,” says Susnick. “But Billy the Kid was growing up in Indianapolis while all this was making weekly news. John Reno was jailed in Missouri for a train robbery near where Jesse James was living. The Renos inspired these legends.”
During the weekend of Sept. 6-8, Scottsburg will welcome film-goers and history buffs alike to the premiere of “The Legend of the Reno Brothers.”
Photos courtesy of Tony Susnick
Jones and Mark
Raque shoot a death scene. Below is
the movie poster.
On Friday from 6-8 p.m., visitors are invited to meet the cast and crew of the movie at the Scott County Heritage Museum, 1050 S. Main St. The cost is $5 to attend. Saturday features a full day of historic demonstrations, food and craft booths as well as speakers offering insights on life just after the Civil War.
At 7 p.m. ticket-holders will enjoy a catered dinner and then the premiere of the movie at the Mid-America Science Park. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance through the Heritage Museum. Sunday concludes the weekend’s festivities with a matinee showing of the film for $10 per person at 3 p.m. at the Science Park. All proceeds of the weekend go to support the Heritage Museum.
The Heritage Museum collects memorabilia, pictures and books from people living in the area to bring the county’s story to life. Jeanne Abbott, director of the museum, notes that the museum features a photo exhibit “Faces of the Civil War” portraying the range of people involved in that conflict.
“The museum is located in the building that formerly housed the poor farm. Built in 1892, it has an interesting history of its own,” says Abbott. When the building was scheduled for demolition, the historical society opted to remodel and turn it into a county museum. The high financial burden of remodeling necessitated creative fundraising. “Tony is from Scott County and has close ties to the museum. When we heard he was making this movie, we asked him to do the premiere here. We couldn’t be more thrilled that he agreed.”
Susnick grew up in Scottsburg, hearing tales of the Reno Brothers from his mother, the former historian for Scott County. “My parents would sit around the table and talk about the impact of the gang on the history of the area,” says Susnick.
Susnick, whose primary job involves making Internet videos for a variety of companies under the name Min Pilots Media, always wanted to do a documentary. He spent the last 10 years researching and writing this film. “It was really hard to bring together all the elements. Then I met Morgan Raque. He had the actors, the costumes and the resources. I had the writing. Once we got together, the film took off.”
Susnick eagerly anticipates sharing the story with others. Yet, he cautions, “This is not a film for younger audiences. It’s pretty violent and there is a lot of (graphic) language. The story requires that, but it’s not for kids.”
• For more information about the movie, visit: www.LengendOfTheRenoBrothers.com or the Facebook page by the same name to see trailers, bios of the actors and interviews with historians for the movie.
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