In September 1897, five men were lynched in Versailles and hung from an elm tree, which became known as The Hanging Tree.
Delbert Abplanalp, Napoleon, shared his knowledge of this event with Batesville Area Historical Society members and guests Oct. 15.
“Back in the early days, it was common for people to break the commandment, thou shall not steal. The Reno Gang around Seymour was cheating at card games and robbing people.” He said they would also threaten people they had stolen from, saying, “‘If you cause us trouble, we’ll burn your house or hurt you in other ways.’”
In the mid-1850s, the railroad came through. “It went from Cincinnati to St. Louis and crossed through Seymour. The trains would slow up or stop, and members of the Reno Gang would get in the baggage car. They knew there were safes in there. On one haul, they got $8,000, and on another one, they got more than that.
“The gang’s downfall was someone was hired to apprehend them. They went out West as far as Missouri and Iowa and robbed courthouses .... Then they came back, and they got meaner and ornerier. A vigilante group was organized and caught up with them,” and eventually hung them.
“One of the gang members, Lyle Levi, didn’t get caught. He started up a group of his own in Osgood. They ended up doing about the same things as the Reno Gang did.
“The main businesses in Osgood were hotels and livery stables .... There was always money around. People usually carried some on them or kept it at home. At that time, they weren’t much for banks.”
Gang members would go out at night to steal money from citizens, threatening to beat them up if they didn’t turn it over, the 85-year-old said. One night, they broke into the home of farmer John Bultman. The bandits thought he had money, but he didn’t, so they beat him and “took his wife and built a fire and put her feet on the stove .... and took some valuables, including a 12-gauge shotgun.