| ||Notes for JOHN "JACK" RENO:|
One of the Reno Gang brothers, he was in the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1868 when his brothers were hanged in a New Albany, Indiana, jail. He wrote a book in 1879 entitled "The life of John Reno, the world's first train robber." In his autobiography, John Reno tells of running away from home at the age of 16 on a stolen horse, making his way to Louisville, and then boarding the "Fannie Ballet" riverboat to get to Mobile, Alabama where his cousin Hiram Smith lived. Upon finding hard times in Alabama and Mississippi, he eventually returned back upriver to Louisville and to the family farm near Seymour, Indiana.
John Reno joined Captain Cockefair's company in the Civil War and fought in Maryland and Virginia for a total of 2 years and eight months. His enlistment record reads "Private, Co. H, 6th regiment, enlisted for three months. Enrolled April 22, 1861; mustered Nov. 24, 1861. Enrolled at Seymour by Fielder A. Jones. Mustered at Indianapolis by T. J. Wood. Age 24. Mustered out at Indianapolis, Aug. 2, 1861." He also enlisted as a corporal in Company A, 13th regiment. Mustered in June 19, 1861, at Indianapolis; deserted July 20, 1863, Norfolk, Virginia. In September 1866, John Reno, his brother Simon and Frank Sparks robbed their first train of $16,000. The well-told story about how Allen Pinkerton tricked him at the train depot in Seymour and kidnapped him is false. He was arrested for the Gallatin, MO robbery by Sheriff John Ballinger and Mr. Woodruff, in Indianapolis at 3 a.m., not by Allen Pinkerton. In January 1868, John pleaded guilty to robbing the treasury office in Gallatin, MO because he thought he would be lynched by an angry mob if he didn't. He was held in the Missouri State Prison for 10 years and 1 month before his sentence was commuted. As soon as he was released from prison, he was re-arrested for his first train robbery in Seymour. At his trial in February 1879, he was acquitted. After leaving prison, he lived in Chicao for awhile with his niece Appelena Reno and her husband. On February 6, 1879, the Prosecuting Attorney for Jackson County dismissed the remaining charges against John Reno, and said "It is therefore considered by the Court that the defendent go hence fully discharged." John Reno was a free man. On August 5, 1880, he married Sarah Ford Reno, widow of his brother Frank. Sarah divorced him on April 19, 1887, and took her maiden name of Ford back, although she used the name Sarah Reno until her death. A few years after he wrote his book, John Reno was arrested by federal agents at a saloon he owned in Seymour, and was found in the possession of a large amount of counterfeit notes that he had made and circulated. He was sent to the Michigan City Prison. He died of paralysis at his home(corner of 5th Street and Indianapolis Avenue) in Seymour on January 31, 1895 at the age of 56 (Jackson County Death Records, Vol. 1, p. 60). The story by Volland (1948) that he was losing badly in a card game, and after telling his opponent "I will beat you, damn it, or die doing it!", fell backwards to the floor, stricken unconscious and paralyzed, was fabricated, as were many other stories related to the Reno Gang.
Loren Noblitt, the historian for Jackson County, claims that John Reno had an illegitimate son named John by Mollie Nagle of Rockford, whom he was seeing just before he enlisted in the Civil War. John and Mollie went to Clay Co., Indiana, and rented some farmland from a Dr. Leabolt, 2 miles west of Brazil, but they "sold out" and she returned to Rockford and John enlisted in the military.
The following appeared under Daviess County in the MoSGA Journal, Spring 1997, pp. 91-92:
"18/23: 1867 Dec. 10: John Ballinger, Daviess County Sheriff, Gallatin; Re: Arrest and incarceration of John Reno and Frank Sparks, Ref: Reno's robbery of the Daviess County Collector's office, confession to the crime. Vows to return the money if the Sheriff will "keep the people from hanging him, which we will do without any doubt." Request that if requested to extradite Reno to Indiana that Governor Fletcher refuse, "The feeling in reference to these men through out North West Missouri is intense & they desire that Missourians should try the cases."
"18/23: 1868 Jun 17: Petition Re: Request for a pardon of John Reno, Gallatin, Ref: Burglary of the Daviess County Collector's office. John Reno and Franklin Sparks, accused, captured in Jackson Co., Ind. Mob threatened to remove Reno and Sparks from the official's custody. Sparks released; intimidation led Reno to plead guilty, refuse counsel, by sentenced to 25 years. Grand Jury failed to hand down indictment of Daniel Smith, Silas Smith, and Clifford on the same charge.
"18/23: 1868 Dec. 26: Laura Reno, Jefferson City to Mr. Ballinger, Daviess County Sheriff; Re: Requesting help from Ballinger for her brother John Reno, "The money you offered to take is all ready whenever John is pardoned we want to keep every thing quiet as possible."
"Note: There was also much correspondence from Cincinnati, Oh., and St. Louis, opposing any early release of John Reno."