History of Indiana - Post-Civil War Era - High Profile Crime

High Profile Crime

Several major crimes occurred in Indiana during the post-war era. A group of brothers from Seymour, who had served in the Civil War, formed the Reno Gang, the first outlaw gang in the United States. The Reno Gang, named for the brothers, terrorized Indiana and the Midwest for several years. They were responsible for the first train robbery in the United States which occurred near Seymour on October 6, 1866. Their actions inspired a host of other outlaw gangs who copied their work, beginning several decades of high-profile train robberies. Pursued by detectives from the Pinkerton Detective Agency, most of the gang was captured in 1868 and lynched by vigilantes. Other notorious Hoosiers also flourished in the post-war years, including Belle Gunness, an infamous "black widow" serial killer. She is believed to have killed more than twenty people, most of them men, between 1881 and her own suspected murder in 1908.

In response to the Reno Gang and other criminals, several white cap groups began operating in the state, primarily in the southern counties. They began carrying out lynchings against suspected criminals, leading the state to attempt to crack down on their practices. By the turn of the 20th century, they had become so notorious that anti-lynching laws were passed and in one incident the governor called out the militia to protect a prisoner. When the white caps showed up to lynch him, the militia opened fire, killing one and wounding eleven. White cap activity decreased following the incident, and remained low until the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

Indianapolis was the childhood home of John Dillinger, one of the most successful and infamous outlaws of the Depression Era.

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