Principles of Posse Management tells the stories of the lawmen and leaders of the Old West who organized citizens in the pursuit of law and order. This collection of tales reveals what Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and other legends of the old west knew about leadership with a clever twist on the classic shoot-em-up, black-hats-vs-white-hats tale.
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About the Author
Chris Enss is an award-winning screen writer who has written for television, short subject films, live performances, and for the movies. She is also the author and/or co-author of several Western titles with Globe Pequot/TwoDot Press.She lives in Grass Valley, California.
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You Haven't Failed until You Quit Trying: The Posse after the Reno Gang
Newspaper readers from Hartford, Connecticut, to Portland, Oregon, were shocked to read about the bold and daring robbery of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad on October 6, 1866. It was the first robbery of its kind. Banks and stage lines had been robbed before, but no one had perpetrated such a crime on a railroad. According to the October 20, 1866, edition of the Altoona Tribune, three masked bandits entered the car stopped at a station near Seymour, Indiana, with the idea of taking money from the Adams Express safe. They entered the car from the front platform, leveled their revolvers at the head of the guard on duty, and demanded he hand over the keys to the safe. He did so with no argument.
While one of the bandits stood guard, the others opened and removed the contents of one of the three safes which included more than $20,000 in cash. When the job was done, the desperadoes moved one of the safes to the door of the car, opened it, and tossed the box out. The heavy safe hit the ground hard, rolled, and came to a stop. One of the masked men pulled on the bell cord, and, as the engineer replied with the signal to apply the brakes, the robbers jumped out of the train and made their escape.
The engineer saw the bandits leap off the train and speculated they were headed in the direction of Seymour. The train slowed to a stop and one of the agents for the Adams Express Company who was on the train hopped off and ran back to the station with the news of the robbery. He commandeered a handcar and recruited a few men to help him collect any evidence left behind by the thieves. On the agent's way back to the train, he found the safe tossed from the car. The $15,000 inside had not been touched.
The Adams Express Company offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the robbers. A witness aboard the train the evening it was robbed told authorities he recognized the desperadoes who stole the money as the Reno brothers, John and Simeon, and one of their friends, Frank Sparks. Citizens and detectives alike began a vigorous search, but the brothers proved impossible to locate.
Unbeknownst to the Reno boys and the gang of outlaws with whom they associated, the Pinkerton Detective Agency had been hired to protect all Adams Express Company shipments. Armed with the descriptions provided by the witness, Allan Pinkerton, head of the investigation firm, set out to find the culprits. Pinkerton traced the Renos to Seymour, a lawless community where rustlers, bandits, and cutthroats from all over the area gathered.
The history of the Renos in Seymour, Indiana, dates back to 1813. Prior to living in Indiana, the Reno clan had settled in Kentucky. Five boys and one girl were born to William and Julia Ann. William was a farmer and tried to teach his sons about how to work the land. The boys preferred gambling and stealing horses over honest labor. No amount of discipline could keep the boys focused. A news report in the July 20, 1868, edition of the Vermont Daily Transcript noted that the Reno boys' bad behavior drove William to insanity. Julia Ann filed for divorce shortly after local authorities deemed it necessary for a guardian to watch over William on a continual basis to keep him from harming himself.
In 1861, Frank Reno and his friend Frank Sparks both fought in the Civil War as Union soldiers. John Reno enlisted in the Indianapolis Grays, but deserted before the end of his term. With the exception of the youngest Reno boy, Clinton, all made a substantial amount of money as bounty jumpers. Wealthy men who were drafted to fight in the war against the state would hire someone to take their place for a fee. The Reno boys would accept the bounty and enlist using another's name, desert, and repeat the process.
In addition to being bounty jumpers, the boys broke into homes and stores and stole money and merchandise. By early 1866, the Renos had made a name for themselves as thieves and cheats. They inducted a number of other dishonest individuals into their fold, including counterfeiters and safe burglars. Their influence extended to politicians and prominent citizens, too. Making charges stick after they were arrested for their crimes was impossible. The Renos had become such a powerful force, no one dared go against them for fear of reprisal.
The Reno brothers became bored with the customary acts of violence and local thievery. Their desire to steal on a grand scale led them to consider robbing trains. Allan Pinkerton recruited a posse of operatives who could pass themselves off as bandits looking to join the Reno gang. One of Pinkerton's operatives, Dick Winscott, infiltrated a saloon in Seymour pretending to be the new owner of the establishment. Winscott and the other agents then waited for the boys to come around. In a short time, the agents knew the exact location of the key members of the group, and authorities moved in to arrest the bandits and hold them over for trial for train robbery. On October 11, 1866, the Renos made bail and were released. The one witness who had identified the boys at the train holdup was found dead from a gunshot wound. The law maintained that without a witness there was no case against the Renos. The charges against them were dismissed.
Other train robberies followed in quick succession, the same methods used in each one, with the same immunity from capture. People in the region were saying to one another, quite as a matter of course: "The Reno brothers got away with another train robbery yesterday."
The Renos' ability to intimidate the area in and around Seymour gave them the idea they were untouchable. Feeling invincible, they pushed their raids beyond Indiana into Illinois and Missouri. They galloped across the country leaving a trail of busted safes and murdered men behind them. The gang of highwaymen and murderers were territorial as well. Any lawbreakers outside their group were harshly dealt with. More than a year after the first train robbery was perpetrated, two men named Walker Hammond and Michael Colleran robbed an Ohio and Mississippi train outside Seymour, escaping with $8,000. The robbery was so similar in time and location to the first time the Ohio and Mississippi was robbed that the crime was blamed on the Renos. Furious that they were being targeted for a robbery they had no part in, the Reno gang set out to clear their names. The Reno brothers tracked Hammond and Colleran down, gave them severe beatings, and turned them over to the authorities. The two men were quickly indicted for robbery and later sentenced to a combined eleven years in prison.
While Hammond and Colleran were paying their debt to society for robbing the Ohio and Mississippi, John Reno was leading his brothers and other members of his gang on a raid of the Davies County Treasury in Gallatin, Missouri. The robbery occurred on November 17, 1867. The outlaws stole more than $22,000. The county treasury was not protected by the Pinkerton Agency, but that didn't stop the general manager of the Adams Express Company from contacting Allan Pinkerton to investigate the matter.
Sixteen years prior to the Renos robbing the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, Pinkerton had opened the world's first private detective agency in Chicago. Police forces were often poorly staffed in the mid-1860s in the West, and sometimes there were no police at all. Allan Pinkerton's agency was called upon for a great variety of police tasks. His operatives chased and captured bandits, bank robbers, and train robbers all over the country. Pinkerton knew the Reno brothers were responsible for the train robbery in October 1866. Witnesses or no, he was going to pursue the Renos, arrest them for their actions, and recover the money stolen from the Adams Express Company. He was grateful that company executives were giving him a second chance to apprehend the outlaws.
Pinkerton agents in Missouri gathered enough evidence to prove the Renos stole the money from the treasury in Gallatin. Pinkerton sent word to Dick Winscott and the other operatives in Seymour to ask about the outlaws' activities and to discuss what action should be taken.
All agreed that any attempt by the Pinkertons to ride into Seymour to take John Reno and his brother would most assuredly result in a gun battle, with innocent lives endangered.
Pinkerton discussed the situation with his staff in Chicago. It was decided the only way to get the Renos to face justice was by kidnapping their leader, John Reno. Pinkerton and the others agreed that the end justified the means.
Allan Pinkerton sent a wire to the sheriff of Davies County to meet him in Cincinnati with a writ for the Indiana outlaw. Pinkerton then traveled from Chicago to Cincinnati and boarded a special train he had hired. Six additional Pinkerton operatives accompanied him. Pinkerton sent word to Winscott to somehow get John Reno to the depot platform at a specific time. Two days after the plan was conceived, Winscott sent a wire to Pinkerton to let him know he would have John on the platform at the designated hour. The outlaw suspected nothing. He thought he was going to meet a friend. As the train pulled into Seymour, Pinkerton spotted Winscott laughing and talking with John Reno. Pinkerton and his men exited the train with the other passengers and casually surrounded the outlaw on all sides. Their movements were so fluid John wasn't aware of what was going on. He tried to escape, but he was quickly overpowered and his arms pulled behind him. John was forced onto the train and into a private car where he was handcuffed and tied with rope. Pinkerton then signaled to the engineer to start the train moving on its way.
As soon as the other members of the Reno gang learned what had happened, they gathered in force to stop the train. Try as they might, they couldn't catch up with the vehicle, and the chase was abandoned.
John Reno was brought before a judge in Gallatin the following day. The judge was stern and informed the bandit that if he didn't return the money he had stolen from the county treasurer's office, he would be hanged. John was placed in a jail cell, and several guards kept watch over him twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Word of Reno's arrest spread throughout the countryside, and armed victims of the Reno gang's crimes made their ways to the jail to deal with the outlaw personally. On January 18, 1868, John was escorted to the Indiana Penitentiary in Michigan City where he would be better protected from vigilantes.
While John was safely locked in prison, his brothers and other Reno gang members robbed the county treasurer's office at Magnolia in Harrison County, Iowa, of $14,000. Pinkerton was again called in to investigate in early March 1868. He arrived at the scene of the crime with his son William and two other operatives, just the right number of people needed to track down and capture the Renos.
The Pinkerton agents determined that the Renos had fled Harrison County with the money on a railroad handcar and that they had gone in the direction of Council Bluffs. One of the saloons in Council Bluffs was operated by a man who had lived in Seymour, Indiana, and knew the Reno brothers personally. Pinkerton and his cohorts figured that the outlaws would end up there. He and his men hurried to Council Bluffs to survey the town and wait for the Renos.
After two days spent watching, the detectives observed a large man of dark complexion enter the saloon and engage in close conversation with the proprietor. Further investigation revealed the man to be Michael Rogers, a prominent and wealthy citizen of Council Bluffs and the owner of extensive property in the adjoining counties. Puzzled but still persuaded he had found a clue, Pinkerton put a "shadow" on Rogers and hurried back to Magnolia, where Rogers paid his taxes and hung around the treasurer's office for most of the day. The Pinkerton operatives thought Rogers's behavior was suspicious, but all the background investigation on Rogers showed he was a respectable businessman. Pinkerton wasn't convinced that Rogers was as upstanding as initial reports noted. He conferred with Rogers's shadow, who informed him that several strange men had been seen entering Rogers's house, but had not been seen coming out again.
Pinkerton now joined the shadow watching Rogers. After four days of patiently waiting, Rogers, accompanied by three strangers, was seen leaving the house and heading to the depot. They then took a westbound train on the Pacific Railroad. Pinkerton shrewdly suspected that one of the men, a brawny, athletic fellow nearly six feet tall and about twenty-eight years of age, was Frank Reno. Feeling sure that if his suspicions were correct, the men would ultimately return to Rogers's house, Pinkerton did not follow them on the train but contented himself with keeping the strictest watch for their return. The very next morning, the same four men were discovered coming back to Rogers's house from the direction of the railroad. There were no trains due at that time of day, which was a little curious; another curious point was that they were all covered with mud and bore marks of having been engaged in some severe, rough labor.
Close to noon, Council Bluffs was abuzz with the news that the safe of the county treasurer at Glenwood in Mills County, about thirty miles away, had been robbed the previous night. There were no traces of the thieves, but everything indicated they were the same men who had robbed the safe at Magnolia. One remarkable point of similarity in the two cases was the means employed by the robbers in escaping: A handcar was also used by the Glenwood thieves to get away. They, too, were believed to have fled in the direction of Council Bluffs. Investigation soon made this absolutely certain, for the missing handcar was found lying beside the railroad a short distance from the Council Bluffs station.
Putting these new disclosures beside his previous suspicions and discoveries, Pinkerton was further strengthened in his distrust of the man Rogers. He resolved to attempt an arrest, although the local authorities, to whom he revealed his suspicions, laughed at him and declared that Rogers was one of the most respectable citizens of the state. According to an account of the incident found in the Pinkerton archives, Pinkerton proceeded to Rogers's house with all the force he could command; he placed a guard at the front and rear, and then, with a few attendants, made his way inside.
The first person he met was Rogers himself, indignant at the intrusion.
"Who have you in this house?" Pinkerton asked.
"Nobody but my family," answered Rogers.
"We'll see about that," retorted Pinkerton. Then, turning to his men, he ordered them to search the premises.
They did so, and soon came upon the three strangers, who were so completely taken by surprise that they made no attempt to flee. They were about to sit down to breakfast, laid out for them in the kitchen. One of the men was Frank Reno. A second, a man of dark complexion, tall, and well built, proved to be Albert Perkins, a well-known member of the Reno gang. The third was none other than the notorious Miles Ogle, the youngest member of the band, who afterwards came to be known as the most expert counterfeiter in the United States.
While they were securing the four men, the detectives noticed that smoke was curling out of the kitchen stove, accompanied by a sudden blaze. Pinkerton pulled off a lid and found on the coals several packages of banknotes already on fire. Fortunately, the notes had been so tightly wrapped together that only a few of them were destroyed before the fire was put out. Those that remained were afterwards identified as of the money that had been stolen from the Glenwood safe. There was then no question that these were the long-sought robbers. A further search of the house brought to light two sets of burglars' tools, which served as cumulative evidence.
The men were taken to Glenwood on the next train. They were met by a great and excited crowd, and for a time were in danger of being lynched. Better counsel prevailed, however, and they were placed in the jail to await trial. The Reno gang could not be contained, and on April 1, 1868, the outlaws escaped from jail. A rudimentary saw had been used to cut out a giant hole in the wall where the criminals made their getaway. The words "April Fool" had been scrawled in chalk on the floors and walls of the jail.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Principles of Posse Management"
Copyright © 2018 Chris Enss.
Excerpted by permission of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 You Haven't Failed until You Quit Trying: The Posse after the Reno Gang 1
Chapter 2 Surround Yourself with the Best: The Posses after Tom Bell 19
Chapter 3 Be Steadfast and Relentless: The Posse after the Doolin-Dalton Gang 35
Chapter 4 Create a Strategic Road Map: The Posse after James Kenedy 55
Chapter 5 Always Plan for Setbacks: The Posse after Tiburcio Vasquez 77
Chapter 6 It's Okay to Regroup and Reflect: The Posse after Sam Bass 97
Chapter 7 Do What Has to Be Done: The Posse after Bronco Bill Walters 121
Chapter 8 Accept Success with Humility and Gratitude: The Posse after Juan Soto 137
About the Author 180
What People are Saying About This
Chris Enss’s engaging new book, The Principles of Posse Management, takes you back in time to the Old West, where with incredible detail and fun anecdotes, she reveals many universal leadership tools that were surprisingly effective in keeping order at such a lawless time. Subsequently, many of these same tools are needed today within our own corporate climate.Read this fascinating book and re-connect to these powerful principles from the past.
Sean Covey, Executive Vice President, Global Solutions and Partnerships, FranklinCovey
Chris Enss successfully weaves together a most interesting series of Western tales based on the clever premise of posse management principles. With historically accurate accounts of some of the American West’s most infamous manhunts, and the posses and lawmen organized to track them, the read is enjoyable, educational and pure old west action and intrigue.
Ken Amorosano, Publisher, True West Magazine & Cowgirl Magazine
Posses were created very strategically to catch the outlaws that sure had a “Never Give Up” way of life. I was fascinated by the stories of bravery that built our western lifestyle.
Lisa Bollin, CEO, Director of Design, Cowgirl Tuff Company