Genealogy Trails

Ripley County, Indiana
News Article


LYNCHED FIVE
Vengeance in Ripley County on Gang Of Osgood Robbers
Three of the Victims Murdered in the Jail and All Five Dragged Naked through the Streets

OLD ELM TREE FOR A GALLOWS
Bodies Left For Versailles Citizens To Cut Down
While the Mob of 250 Horsemen, who Did their Work at Midnight Quietly Dispersed

LYLE LEVI THE FIRST VICTIM
Once A Member Of Rittenhouse Gang Of Counterfeiters
Had Surrounded Himself With Desperate Young Men, who Terrorized the Community


VERSAILLES, Ind., Sept. 15.—Five notorious character in this county were taken from the jail and lynched by a most determined mob of probably 250 men at 12:43o'clock this morning. Three of the men were murdered in their cells for refusing to surrender arid their bodies were dragged to an old elm tree along with the other two and strung up. The mob's terrible vengeance was executed because the men belonged to a gang of robbers and had kept the community in terror.
The victims are:

LYLE LEVI, ex-counterfeiter aged fifty-seven, an ex-soldier, shot through the breast then dragged to the tree and hanged.

WILLIAM JENKINS, twenty-seven years old, skull crushed in with a stool, noose put around neck,
body dragged  to the tree and suspended.


HENRY SCHITETER, twenty-four years old, skull crushed, body dragged to the tree and suspended.

CLIFFORD GORDON, burglar, twenty-two years old, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged.

ALBERT ANDREWS, burglar, thirty years old, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged.

Lyle Levi, the first victim, shot in his cell, belonged to the old Levi Rittenhouse gang of counterfeiters who had given the authorities trouble ever since the war. He had been out of the penitentiary only a few years. He was a widower and was an associate of the younger members of the gang at their balls and sporting events.  His rig was used by the robbers Saturday night when they went from Osgood to Correct to rob the Woolley store.

Henry Schuster whose head was crushed with a club in his cell, had been in jail for burglarizing a barber shop about ten days ago. He had been in, many difficulties and was a typical terror, having a mean, cruel disposition, and a man always feared.

Clifford Gordon, the youngest of the gang, was a daring, dangerous youth, who gloried in being a tool of the older and more desperate members of the gang. He had already escaped several close calls, and was suffering from wounds received during the Saturday night affair.

William Jenkinsy who was also beaten to death in his cell for showing resistance, had married one of the Levi girls several years ago and had been training with the gang for some time. Before the Levi girls were married their home was headquarters for sporting men. and the beauty and accomplishments of the family fascinated men of that class. The Levis were natural-born musicians.

Albert Andrews came of a good family. His father, Isaac Andrews, had a fine war record. He was shot five times through the face, so that his features were much disfigured, and he lived on his pension. Young Andrews had been suspected of working with the gang, but never arrested until Saturday night, when he was wounded with Clifford Gordon in the Correct burglary. His waywardness was the result of association with the gang, and his parents have the sympathy of the community. All the victims were from Osgood, and all were confined in the jail for burglary. No murders have been openly charged against them.

A TERRORIZED COMMUNITY

The sensational tragedy of last night is the worst of several which nave occurred in southern Indiana in recent years. Nothing has ever attracted such crowds as poured into Versailles today. All the victims were supposed to belong to an organized band of thieves arid highwaymen who have been robbing and terrorizing the citizens of Ripley county for a number or years, and whose headquarters were located in the town of Osgood.

For years southern Indiana has been afflicted with lawless gangs. The railways and express companies broke up the depredations of these gangs along their lines, and latterly they have preyed on the citizens The citizens have taken the law into their own hands in this locality before, but never to such an extent as today. The Reno brothers were lynched together at Seymour. Ind, twenty years ago, and the Archer gang, three in number, were strung up together at Shoals Ind., twelve years ago. There have been numerous lynchings of one and two at a time, but the "job lot" of five today breaks the record. That an unusual state of feeling existed is shown by the determination of the mob which led it to the ferocity cf first killing three of the men in the jail and then dragging the living and dead together and hanging them to the same tree. In many cases members of this gang had tortured and maimed their victims in their efforts to make them reveal the hiding  place of treasure. Most of them were In the county jail awaiting trial for having attempted to burglarize the general store of Woolley Bros., at Correct P. O. on last Saturday night, two of whom, Gordon and Andrews, were captured at the time, after running fight and after each had been severely wounded. The other prisoners were detained on the charge of having assisted and aided in the attempted burglary, and whose guilt seemed evident. So strong had the public feeling been aroused against the prisoners, and so often had they escaped the penalties of the law. It seemed now that the time had come for action.

This morning, about 12:43 a. m.. Jailer Kenan was awakened by the ringing of the bell at the jail residence. On opening the door he was met by three masked men, who shoved pistols near his face and demanded office keys of the cells and ordered him to accompany them to where they could be found. At this moment Deputy Jailer Black appeared on the scene and he also was held in restraint till the keys were secured.

MOB ENTERS THE JAIL

The jailer and his deputy were then locked In a cell of the woman's department, the outer doors of the Jail unlocked and thrown open and the organized mob of 250 men on horseback had complete control. The work was done with courage and determination. There was no noise or confusion and only a few people in this town knew what was going, on. In the lower cell rooms were confined Levi, Schuster and Jenkins and there the visitors proceeded first. Levi's cell was first reached. He was awake, and was ordered to throw up his hands, he refused and at the command of the leader of the mob two bullets were fired into his body and he fell to the floor pierced to the heart.

In the next cell was Schuster, lying on his cot. He was ordered to get up and dress, but he refused and begged  for his life. A blow on the head from a heavy stick, crushing his skull, silenced him and he rolled to the floor a corpse.

The taste of blood increased the fury of the mob. William Jenkins was in the next cell, only a few feet from his wife. In another part of the jail,The committee rushed In his cell, overpowered him and beat him over the head until his cries ceased and his body lay limp on the floor. The three corpses were then thrown out In the corridor together.

The committee then went upstairs, where the wounded burglars, Clifford Gordon and Bert Andrews, were confined. Gordon had a bullet in each shoulder, twenty-seven buckshot in one leg and fifteen In the other. Neither he nor Andrews were able to make much resistance. Their hands were tied behind them, ropes placed around their necks and they were dragged headlong down the stairway, where their companions lay. Ropes being placed around the necks of all the order was given: "Pull on the ropes, boys, and hurry up."

The command was obeyed and the bleeding bodies were dragged out and.along the streets with a shout. Each man holding a rope mounted a horse and moved at a fast pace. The path is marked with blood and bandages from the wounded burglars were picked up today along the way.

DRAGGED TO THE OLD ELM.

Two blocks north of the jail on the bluff near the famous "Gordon's leap" was found an old elm tree. The ropes were thrown over its toughened limbs and the five men were quickly strung up. During the work the mob guarded every street leading to the jail and none was permitted to approach. The mob then retreated in the same orderly manner in which it had assembled and soon disappeared from the town. From the old elm hung the lifeless forms of the five men. naked and ghastly, until morning. The scene was appalling. The bodies were cut down before sunrise and covered under the shade of the tree. Later a coroner's inquest was held and the corpses turned over to relatives who had arrived to take them to Osgood for burial.

Excitement is at a high pitch here. The lynching will be generally approved by the better class of people if it will result In the breaking up of the Osgood sang. The talk of further lynching seems to be the result of the excitement as there are no signs of the returning mob to-night. Thousands have visited, the scene today and hardly a twig of the old elm remains, the branches having been carried away by the curious throng.

Sheriff Busching, who is still suffering from the wound received in the fight at the store on Saturday night, has received a message from the Governor to use all means in his power to apprehend the men composing the mob. However, it seems the sheriff is powerless, as no means of identification of a single man has been obtained.

Versailles is a town of some eight hundred people. It is one of the oldest tn the State, and although it is five miles from a railroad station and has no telegraphic communication with the outside world, as have more pretentious towns of the county, it Is still the county seat. Judge New, of North Vernon, is now holding court here, but it is not known what action will he taken toward bringing to justice the members of the mob. The men are supposed to have come from several towns, including Osgood, Milan, Correct and some may have been from this place.

WORK OF THE ROBBERS.

For years farmers would come to town with cattle or loads of farming products and next morning they would be found along the roadside suffering from a wound and minus the proceeds of their sale. Old German farmers have been visited and both men and women have been subjected to all the tortures that a hardened mind could stand. Aged German women have been forced to stand upon a red-hot stove in an effort 10 compel them to disclose the hiding place of some treasure in the house.These depredations have continued unceasingly. Arrests have been made, but the guilty parties had covered up their lawlessness, and it was seldom that convictions followed. During the past week robberies had increased alarmingly. On last Saturday word was received by the sheriff that the store of Woolley Bros., at Correct, Ind., ten miles from here, was to be entered. Information was given by Pete Hostutler, a supposed member of the gang, who had been hired to get in with them. Sheriff Henry Bushing arranged that this informant should accompany them, and, securing five deputies, including County Treasurer Johnson, they went to the place Sheriff Bushing concealed himself in the cellar, while his deputies were stationed at a convenient distance outside. Shortly after midnight the gang reached Woolley's store. Clifford Gordon and Hostutler were designated to break into tho building. Gordon himself effected an entrance and just as he stepped Inside the sheriff grabbed him. Both pulled pistols at the same time and began firing. Bert Andrews was with the robbers outside and he. too, joined In the fight, while the deputies came to the assistance of the sheriff. Some thirty shots were fired. The sheriff was shot through the hand and Gordon was shot several times. Gordon and Andrews succeeded In escaping and returned to Osgood, where they were arrested. The robbers had driven out to the place in a buggy belonging to Lyle Levi and from information subsequently gathered It was learned that the robbery had been planned at the home of William Jenkins. While the citizens have not been able to fix the various robberies upon these men they were thought to be part of a gang that has committed most of them. When it became known that they were in jail, it was quietly suggested by the victims and sympathizers that "justice" be summarily dealt the prisoners.

VERSAILLES UNDER GUARD

Two men were left in jail, Charles Kelly, aged fourteen, for burglary. and Arthur McMillen, for carrying concealed weapons. The latter was let out tonight on bond. McMillen says three of the prisoners were killed in the jail and one of the others almost killed there. The mob came very neat taking McMillen out.

Tonight the jail is as quiet as the humblest residence. Besides the one lone prisoner. Kelly, the only occupants are Deputy Jailer William K. Kenan and his guard, William Black. But while the jail Is so lightly guarded it does not follow that the excited little town is asleep without patrol. Marshal John E. Tyler, with twenty-five deputies, is alert against any possible surprise and every road running Into town is picketed. This precaution is not taken In anticipation of a second visit by the regulators. The danger apprehended Is from another quarter, the friends of the lynched men. No private citizen of Versailles probably has reason to fear personal violence the danger dreaded is arson, there being rumors of threats on the part of the friends of the men who were mobbed to even up matters by applying the torch to the jail and courthouse. The public officers are also threatened. That is why this little city is disturbed tonight and under the closest guard. If trouble comes it is expected from Osgood. The feeling between the two places is of the bitterest and the opinion expressed here tonight is that there are plenty of others in Osgood who deserve the same, fate of the five found dangling to limbs this morning.

The coroner's verdict will be that the five men came to their death at the bands of a mob, the members of which are unknown,

ANOTHER STORY

An Associated Press dispatch says: At 1 a. m. a skyrocket went up south of town. That was the first signal. Then there was a skyrocket went up north of town, followed by others from the other two sides, and the march to the jail proceeded as orderly as a regular army, till the men met from all parts of the county at the jail. The distance had been carefully arranged on each side of town so that they were about equal, and the mobilization caused no delay. The program had been so carefully prepared and carried out that there was no delay at the jail or anywhere.

William Lockhardt lives near the elm tree where the men were hung. He saw the crowd, heard all they said as he stood by his window. He saw the skyrockets and then heard the marching. He heard the shooting at the jail and  describes the cries of the prisoners as heartrending as they were dragged along. When the crowd came out of the jail he recognized the voice of a prominent citizen give the command: "Ready, forward, march."

Then the crowd rounded up around the tree in perfect order without any disturbance. The same voice asked: "Are you ready." The answer was: "All ready."

Then the leader yelled: "One, two. three, up" and the only other words heard were the shrieks of the victims, especially of one of them who was strangled slowly, and cried: "Oh, God, have pity.     Can't I be saved?"

In less than fifteen minutes after reaching the tree the men dispersed to their horses and vehicles, which had been left in the bottoms outside of town.

At a late hour tonight Kelly was taken from the Jail and lodged at the hotel under guard. After McMillen had been released Kelly was the sole occupant of the cell part of the Jail. He is only fourteen years old, and the horrors of last night so preyed on his mind that he was overcome by nervous fright, and, calling Deputy Jailer Kenan, begged piteously to be taken out for the night. The matter was referred to Circuit Judge New. who gave the desired order.

The Levi's May Seek Revenue.

RUSHVILLE, Ind.. Sept. 15.-The lynching at Versailles is tire sole theme here tonight. It has greatly excited the Osgood colony In this city, which numbers about one hundred, nearly all named Levi and closely related to Lyle Levi, the old soldier who was strung up by the mob. Friends here blame Pete Hostutler, the alleged detective, and believe he planned the robbery at Correct and induced the two young men who were lynched with several others to accompany him. This led first to the arrest of Andrews and Gordon and the subsequent wholesale lynching. The Levi family is 200 or 300 strong around Osgood. In its ranks are said to be many desperate men, who will cause blood to be spilled in revenge for the deaths of their kinsmen.

Lyle Levi was a member of the Eighty-third Indiana Regiment Several of his old comrades live In this county and know him as a brave soldier. He has been a widower for years and has followed various occupations.  He was in fair circumstances.

CAUSE OF THE LYNCHING.
Some of the Outrages the Gang Has Been Connected With

OSGOOD, Ind., Sept. 15.-An unusual number of robberies during the last few months is responsible for the lynching last night. The gang has terrorized this community with waylayings and burglaries until people in Osgood were actually afraid to be on the streets at night. Strangers who came to Osgood were sure to be marked and if they did not get out of town before night they would be knocked down and robbed. There have been several of such cases and in one instance recently one of the victims was shot.

About six weeks ago four masked men entered Herman Cammon's home near Milan, beat Cammon insensible and robbed the house while Mrs. Cammon and their daughter, Mrs. Butts, of Osgood, stood by in terror. Schurer was supposed to be in the gang and Dr. Alexander Joseph and his son, Peter Joseph, of Osgood, were arrested and discharged on the preliminary hearing. Mrs. Butts claimed she knew Dr. Joseph by his voice. He was her physician in Osgood and had learned that Mr. Cammon had come to town to get $500 from her divorced husband. Andrews and Schuter, two of the lynched men, gave evidence for Dr. Joseph's alibi In his case. Bert Andrews and Clifford Gordon, who were wounded in the fight with the sheriff Saturday night at Correct, and who then escaped to their homes here, called Dr. Joseph to dress their wounds and his order that they were unable to be removed to
jail was overruled by the officers on Sunday.

Today Dr. Joseph accosted Pete Hostutler, the detective who trapped the gang, and Hostutler knocked Joseph flying. Later John Johnson, a witness for the lynched men on their preliminary hearing yesterday and a friend of the gang, also accosted Hostutler and was knocked down and had Hostutler and was knocked down and had three ribs broken on the street here. Hostutler has been in this vicinity for a year, coming here from Tipton county. He is a pugilist and whipped "Bunk" Levi, a son of Tom Levi, a few months ago. Hostutler easily worked himself into the confidence of the gang and went with them to rob the store of Correct Saturday night. He first notified the sheriff and yesterday gave his evidence without fear. His life was said not to be worth anything after that and merchants who had employed him to get in with the gang made up a purse to get him safely away.

Hostutler had also whipped the McMillin boys, who live in the country and have been in several scrapes. Charles McMillin was in the cell with Bert Andrews when the mob visited the jail last night.

The people have been waiting for months for an opportunity to clean out the entire gang. It had been generally talked that when they get them all in jail the lynching would happen. The mob is said to have been made up of citizens from Milan, Elrod, Correct, Versailles and Osgood. Although, Lyle Levi had not been connected with any recent cases except the Saturday night affair at Correct, his general reputation and his association at dances and sporting events with the gang of young toughs, made him practically one of them and there was no surprise that he was strung up with the others. Mrs. Jenkins, whose husband was lynched, is In jail at Versailles. She is a niece of Lyle Levi

HISTORY  OF THE GANG.
Counterfeiters and Highwaymen Who Had Terrorized the County.
OSGOOD, Ind., Sept. 15.

When Lyle Levi, one of the gang lynched today at Versailles, came out of the army, where his comrades had known him as a fearless soldier against the rebels, as well as a card sharper in camp, he returned to Ripley county and joined his brother Isaac on the old farm, which had been cleared off by the elder Levi in the pioneer days of the State. There was a large family of boys and one girl, who afterwards became the famous Missouri Rittenhouse, queen of the counterfeiters and horse thieves, but Is now a devout Methodist, living at Osgood, where she and her brother Lyle took the pledge at a joint meeting conducted by William Murphy and Frances Guthan, now the M E pastor at Fairland. Ike Levi had become acquainted with a counterfeiter in the days before the war, and to his brother he imparted the secrets of the craft which he had been taught. The federal government in those days had not the close supervision over this lawbreaking,and the Levis soon found their new business a profitable one. The old homestead, in a remote part of the county, furnished them the necessary seclusion in their work. Trading up and down the Ohio river and in counties adjacent to Ripley they disposed of great quantities of spurious coin. Federal officers appeared in Ripley county late In the sixties. There was a brush of some sort with the Levis, but old residents fail to recall the exact nature of it. However, the officers disappeared, and when they returned to their headquarters without accomplishing their purpose or whether they were made away with is a point of mystery.

In the earlier seventies the Levi buys had gathered a formidable gang about them, and, branching out into the horse stealing line, raids were made into neighboring counties and even as far away as Ohio and Kentucky. After a while operations were carried on in the home county, and this led to a vigilante organization of farmers that quickly stopped the stealing in Ripley county. Shortly after the war James Rittenhouse came out from the East and located on forty acres near Osgood. He courted Missouri Levi and married her. His marriage brought him in the gang, and soon he was the leader of it. He had been a skillful mechanic, and under the tutelage of the Levis he became far more crafty in making coin than his teachers. Ho discovered a method of Imitating gold that has been a marvel to secret-service officers The famous "Webster-head plates, for making the most dangerous counterfeit bill ever known by the government, seemed to have been in use about this time, and the Levis aided in flooding the country with the $10 counterfeits. The gang got In touch with the famous Driggs gang at Dayton (O.) and the Pete McCartney crowd. It was suspected for a long time that the Webster plates supposed to have been buried In a Mississippi River Island, had been dug: up and conveyed to Ripley county, but the Treasury Department claims now to have different Information, although tho government has never located the plates.

In the latter part of the seventies Rittenhouse was captured, having passed some spurious sold coins that led to his arrest, and officers also found his outfit. His wife Missouri Rittenhouse, a handsome woman, with dramatic ways, was also apprehended. She was sentenced to the Female Reformatory at Indianapolis, and he was started on a fourteen-year term at the Jeffersonville prison, During her trial she almost won the sympathy of the jury by her little theatrical plays. Once she fainted in court. After her imprisonment she persuaded the matron to bring her, before Walter Q. Gresham. who was then on the Federal Circuit bench, and there she pleaded for the release of her husband whom, she claimed, was dying in prison.. The husband was in the consumptive ward of the prison hospital. Judge Gresham was somewhat affected by the cunning woman's tears. And he took the matter under advisement. The next day the dying consumptive escaped from prison, where, he was serving a seven-year term, and is still at large. He reached Mexico safely. A recent attempt of the federal authorities to lure him into Texas failed. While Mrs. Rittenhouse was in prison her home was leased to a stranger, who on turning over hay in the barn one day three years ago. discovered $900 In bogus gold coins. These were exhibited in a store window at Osgood and then sent to the United States treasury, where they were ranked as some of the best imitations ever sent in.  Upon her release Mrs. Rittenhouse returned to Osgood. Her brothers Ike and Lyle had both been convicted again for counterfeiting, the government holding the family under close surveillance after its operations became so well known. These two men both served two terms. Lyle has been out five years and Ike. now an old man. has been out only two years.

Six years ago William Murphy, a son of Francis Murphy, temperance evangelist, visited Osgood and held a revival. Rev. Francis A. Guthrie, a Methodist preacher who had but recently moved to the town, persuaded Lyle Levi to attend the revival, Lyle was converted and signed the pledge besides. The preacher called on Missouri Rittenhouse introduced his wife to her and in a short time had the queen of the counterfeiters In the bosom of the church. There she has remained till this day. and Mr. Guthrie, in speaking of her today said she is thoroughly reformed and is a genuinely pious woman. Lyle Levi, who was lynched today, was admitted to the church on probation, but was soon a backslider.

The Rittenhouse home, now remodeled, ceased to be the haunts of counterfeiters and horse thieves. In the old days it was a famous rendezvous and at night the farmers hesitated to pass the place. The old house was a log cabin, weather boarded, and with additions shooting out in various directions. It set back about two hundred yards from the road, with a creek on one side and wild shrubbery on the other.

Isaac Levi, the oldest of the boys, is now about eighty years old. About three years ago he was before Judge Salter in Indianapolis for counterfeiting, his old offense, but on account of his age he was merely given a year's sentence. Lyle Levi was fifty-seven years old the day he was hanged by the mob. "Bunk" Levi, another brother, now In Ripley county, is a prize fighter of some local prominence and only a week ago engaged in contest with Pete Hostutler, the man who has been playing detective and who trapped the gang Saturday night. Tom Levi, the fourth brother, lives at Noblesville. He was once arrested for counterfeiting, but was shown to be innocent. Mrs. Rittenhouse, the sister, is about sixty years old. and still retains some of her beauty.

In recent years Lyle Levi has kept a saloon in that part of Osgood known as "Texas." There have been dark rumors of affairs in that saloon, but none of these have ever resulted in arrests.

Bert Andrews, one of the men lynched, came from a good family. After his wife left him he began to associate with the Levi gang. His father, Ike Andrews, was shot five times through the back during the war and now lives on a pension.

Heine Shuter has always been known as a reckless young German and was in jail at Versailles for burglarizing a barbershop ten days ago.

Clifford Gordon was a teamster at Osgood and a tough member of the gang, under suspicion in several "hold-ups" recently.

OLD GANGS OF COUNTERFEITER
David  Powell Captured Lyle Levi In the Seventies

In 1863 David Powell, father of ex-superintendent of Police George Powell, was chief of the Indianapolis police, and after being succeeded In this office was for ten years, off and on, a deputy United States Marshal, and during this time he had many and varied experiences with counterfeiters operating in the southern part of the State. Capt. David Powell, so called during his career as police chief and deputy marshal, arrested many members of the Reno and Johnson gangs of counterfeiters, and in the seventies brought to justice Lyle Levi, counterfeiter, one of the five men lynched in the Versailles jail.

During Mr. Powell's time the hunting down of counterfeiters was one of the chief duties of a government officer, and owing to his ability in this sort of work, he was especially assigned to hunting down such criminals. In speaking Of the various gangs of counterfeiters, Mr. Powell said last night:

"The Levi gang, and, in fact, all of the gangs operating in that section of late years might be termed offspring of the old Reno gang, for the Reno gang was the parent of them all The Reno gang began its operations about the time of the breaking out of the civil war, and at that time it was in the heyday of its existence and was noted for the desperate acts of its members. The operations of the gang educated the younger gangs of later years. They were all desperate men, and would stoop to any crime to gain their point or to avoid arrest. Peter McCartney, whose criminal career Is known to every police officer or detective In the United States, was the engraver and plate maker for the Reno gang. He was the acknowledged leader, and in 1863 lived on Noble street, in this city. He was suspected by the government officers, but it was difficult to entrap him and effect his capture. I finally entrapped him by means of a decoy letter, and placed him under arrest as he was leaving the post office In this city. At the time of his arrest McCartney had upon his person a steel plate used for printing 50-cent pieces (paper), known in those days as shin plasters. McCartney was an artist in his line, and made plates that produced bills almost Impossible to distinguish from the genuine. All told, he served thirty-one years In prison, and died there while serving his last term.

"In 1870 I had a warrant for Simeon Reno and one for the purpose of searching his father's house, located about four miles south of Seymour. John Browning, who is now a conductor on the Monon Railroad, accompanied me, and his prompt action on this expedition saved my life. As we approached the Reno homestead we saw Simeon and his father at work in a field. As we entered the field and approached the men the father, surmising who we were.pointed to the house and said, 'Go, Simeon." Simeon started to leave the field, and his father leveled a shotgun at my head, but while he was taking deliberate aim Browning sprang upon him and dashed the barrel of the gun into the air as it was discharged. But for this prompt action I am certain I would have been a dead man. "We made a thorough search of the house and found In counterfeit bills under a large hearthstone. The entire Reno family was composed of desperate characters, and they did not hesitate to commit any crime. Two of tho Reno boys were lynched at Seymour several years ago, and another met death at the hands of a mob in Kansas City.

MISS BURNS THEIR FENCE.

"In 1865 the operations of these counterfeiters extended as far at Frankfort, and John Kimble, of that place, assisted them by bringing the "queer" money to this city. Miss Molly Burns, a daughter of old John Bums, who at that time ???? on St. Mary street, was the confederate who received the money and distributed it here, I arrested Kimble during one of his trips here In '63. Miss Bums was also arrested and a search made of the house, but the counterfeit bills Kimble had brought were found sewed in the hem of Molly Burns's skirt. Kimble died in jail, while awaiting trial. John Bums, the father of Molly, was afterwards arrested and sent up for five years for passing a $20 counterfeit bill on a farmer living near the city.

"The Johnsons were another gang of counterfeiters who were but a ramification of the Reno gang. The Johnson family lived on a farm owned by John Stumph about three miles from this city on the Three-notch road. When I was ordered to arrest Johnson and his two sons and to search the house for bad money. I left the city in a government wagon, accompanied by two soldiers and two of my own trusted men. I had been informed by a government detective that a $20 plate was in possession of the Johnson family which was so good that the government had offered a reward of $5,000 for its capture. We arrived at the house* at 3 o'clock in the morning and after stationing my men, I broke open the front door with a fence rail. As the various members of the family began to get up and show their faces. I told them that we had them covered with our guns and that they should not say a word but should dress and come down stairs. We found $200 worth of raised bills in the house but the plate we could not locate, so I made Johnson and his wife, two sons, and two daughters get into the wagon and I brought them to the city and lodged them In separate rooms at a hotel on Illinois street. I kept them there two days before one of the women agreed to show us where the plate was hidden,on condition that we release the female portion of the family. I went back with one of them and found that the $20 plate had been hidden under an ash-hopper. I captured another Johnson who lived on North Illinois street. A man giving his name as Carter approached me one day and said that he would lead me to Johnson, provided I would let him see him first and get $300 with which to go South. He led me to the house and I remained outside while he entered and transacted his business. As he left the building he took out his handkerchief, which was the sign that Johnson was inside, so I entered and began my search. I failed to find my man until I kicked over a barrel In the cellar, under which he was hiding.

CAPTURE OF LYLE LEVI

" It was In the seventies that I was sent to capture Lyle Levi, who was at that time living at Osgood, about six miles from Versailles, where he was lynched. Major Gordon, hearing that I had been commissioned to arrest Levi, came to me and warned me of the desperate character of the man. He had at one time defended him. He said I would never be able to arrest him at his own home and said it meant death for me to make the attempt. When he saw that I did not intend to back down, he gave me all the information about the man and the place that he could. He described the man's  appearance, especially about the high cheek bones arid the scar upon his face. Colonel Scott, he informed me, kept the hotel at Osgood. I started with a double team and was accompanied by a man named Mason and Samuel Lamb. At that time there was a quarterly meeting being held at Versailles. We arrived In front of Scott's Hotel just as It was getting dark, and Scott came out as we stopped. "How do you do, Brother Scott," I said, "put my team away and give the horses feed, for I have to preach at Versailles tonight." This speech reassured Scott, who started to take the horses to the barn.

"At that moment Lyle Levi came out of the front door of the hotel and I approached him with outstretched hand. As I shook his hand I said: 'How are you this evening, Brother Levi? Will you accompany us to the conference?' As I held both his hands Mason quickly slipped the handcuffs upon his wrists. I then told Scott he need not mind about the team, but to bring It again to the road. We chained Levi in the wagon and left Mason to guard him, while Mr. Lamb and I went to his home to arrest Mrs. Missouri Rittenhouse. We entered the cabin and told Mrs. Rittenhouse who was carrying a small baby, that she must go with us. Her mother began cursing us and took down a gun that was hanging upon the wall but she was disarmed and contented herself with hurling vile epithets at our heads. We discovered $300 in bad money in the loft of the cabin. We immediately started back toward Greensburg, at which place we arrived at 3 o'clock next morning. Fearing an attempt at rescue by some of Levi's friends, I walked ahead of the team with a gun in my hand for over three miles. but no molestation was offered. Lyle Levi was sentenced to seven years In prison by Judge Gresham."

GOVERNOR'S PROMPT ACTION.
Deputy Attorney General Moore Sent to Scene of Lynching

Governor Mount not only took prompt steps to Investigate the Ripley county lynching, but late In the evening he commissioned Deputy Attorney General Moores to visit the scene of the mob violence and invoke, n the name of the State of Indiana, any power or force necessary to prevent further trouble. The reports late in the afternoon had It that a mob would probably swing up a few more members of the gang that has been terrorizing Ripley county for so long a time, and If Mr. Moores gets there on the eve of another affair similar to that of early yesterday morning he may find himself In an Interesting situation. But he has in his breast pocket the commission issued by the Governor and bearing the seal of Indiana stamped on a big red disk. This commission not only authorizes him to thoroughly Investigate the troubles, but to take such steps as he may deem necessary to prevent any recurrences of mob violence, drawing on any force that the Governor himself might call out to maintain law and order.

Mr. Moores left at 6:15 last night over the Big Four and expected to reach Osgood by 3 o'clock in the evening. Orders have been issued to railroad employees to hold trains necessary for him to make this connection.

The Governor was much shocked upon receipt of the news from Ripley county in the morning and expressed his indignation that the fair name of the State had been sullied by such lawlessness. He at once sent the following message to the sheriff:

"Wire me at once particulars of lynching reported to have occurred in your county. I further direct that you proceed immediately, with all the power you can command, to bring to justice ail parties guilty of participation in the murder of the five men alleged to have been lynched. Such lawlessness is intolerable, and all the power of the State, if necessary, will be vigorously employed for the arrest and punishment of all parties implicated."

At a late hour last night no reply was received from the sheriff. After the message was sent to the sheriff the Governor exhausted every effort to reach the official by telephone. It is believed the Governor's message will be ignored. A private dispatch, received in the city in the afternoon, says the Governor's message was read with indignation by the people, who insisted that no help was needed to capture the lynchers, and added that three more would probably swing before morning.

Governor Mount spent most of last evening waiting in his office for some news from Ripley county, but In this he was disappointed. His telegram to the sheriff could go by wire only as far as Osgood and would have to go from there to Versailles by stage, so it is doubtful If the sheriff got it before evening. A prominent citizen of Decatur county dropped Into the office to ask if anything further had been heard.

"While there is no excuse for the lynching," said he, "the people of Ripley and adjoining counties have been long suffering with a bad gang of thieves and I am not so much surprised at the action as I would be if I did not know the state of affairs that has existed there for years. There has been a more or less loosely organized gang extending from the southern edge of Decatur and Franklin counties, down through the hills of Ripley. into Ohio and Switzerland counties. They have an "underground railroad" and stock stolen around there, and a great deal of it is stolen, Is never heard of again. Country merchant have their stores sacked and the goods are never found. There even have been not few instance's of old men and women being visited in the night and tortured into telling where their money was. So thoroughly have the people of the rural districts been terrorized that they were afraid to appear in court against these thieves lest they be visited at night and made to suffer."

GOVERNOR TELLS A STORY

This recital brought a story from Governor Mount. A number of years ago the Farmers' Detective Company, of Montgomery county, traced a team stolen In the county to Ripley, where it had been hidden by a family named White. The father and his two sons were doctors and the family was accounted eminently respectable, but investigation showed that they made a regular business of taking care of stolen stock.One of them left the State, another was sent to prison and the third committed suicide before the trial.

During the evening the Governor answered a number of inquiries from Eastern papers on the subject.  The following, sent to Philadelphia, is a sample of his replies:

"The place when lynching took place, being remote from railroad or telegraph station, I have been unable to secure particulars of the lamentable occurrence beyond the information conveyed by press dispatches. The outbreak was wholly unexpected and I had not the slightest intimation of the impending lawlessness. As soon as I learned of the occurrence's I immediately wired the authorities of Ripley county to proceed at once and vigorously to bring the offenders to justice. I intend to reinforce this demand by every means possible and with all the power at the command of the executive "authority of the Stale. I have sent a. representative to the scene of the tragedy and Intend to employ every proper effort to the end that no guilty man may escape. The people of Indiana are law abiding and I am confident that I shall be cordially sustained in my earnest purpose to make an example of evil-doers in this instance that will long remain as a warning to other would-be transgressors."

THE GOVERNOR'S TWO LETTERS.

Sent to Ripley County Official- Moore's Report.

Deputy Attorney General Moores filed a report with the Governor yesterday of his investigation of the Versailles lynching. The report was as follows;

As directed by your order, I proceeded on Wednesday afternoon to Osgood, in Ripley county where I found no indications of disturbance and consequently went at once to Versailles. There had been no outbreaks since sunrise, and were absolutely no signs of further trouble in that vicinity."As the Ripley Circuit Court was in session, I called on Judge Willard New and assured him of your hearty co-operation in every effort to enforce the law. Judge New stated that unfortunately Prosecutor Connelly had been absent from Versailles on Wednesday, but, having returned, he would instruct the grand jury at once."As soon as court met the grand jury were called in, and Judge New clearly and forcibly charged them as to their duty to bring to justice the murderers of the men in the charge of the court, assuring them that this was their immediate duty, and that all other business must yield to it.

"Upon the withdrawal or the grand jury" I had a consultation with the prosecutor, Marcus R.Connelly, who manifests a proper spirit of determina- tion to bring the guilty to justice, and Is proceeding with the grand jury as he assures me, to give the matter the most thorough investigation. Mr. Connelly, unfortunately, has no deputy in Ripley county. He does not live in Versailles, but at Batesville, some distance away. His circuit is large, and his duties onerous. His duties as prosecutor require his presence in Vernon Oct, 4, and in Scottsburg Oct. 18, in attendance upon the courts in his circuit. Counsel resident in Versailles or Osgood should be immediately appointed to assist him. He cannot at the same time procure evidence and advise with the grand jury, and evidence in cases of this sort must be sought. It does not volunteer itself. If Mr. Connelly has Immediate and competent assistance the grand jury should get the names of the murderers and evidence of their guilt before the adjournment of the court.

"There is absolutely no danger of further outbreak In Ripley county, nor is there any good reason why those engaged in the crime of last Wednesday morning should not be discovered, indicted, apprehended, prosecuted and convicted."

Attorney General Ketcham was called into a conference with the Governor and Mr. Moores and the Governor afterwards announced that every effort would be made to secure the indictment of the lynchers. He sent the following letter to Judge Willard New at Versailles:

" I am glad to learn from the Hon. Merrill Moores. deputy attorney general, of your prompt action in calling together the grand jury and giving to them vigorous instructions to probe to the bottom the recent diabolical crime that has tarnished the fair name of our beloved State. It was not for lack of implicit confidence that you would act promptly and with becoming energy that I sent Mr. Moores to Versailles, but because I could get no information from the sheriff, and because of rumors of further outbreaks. I desire to congratulate you upon your promptness, and to assure you that the executive authority of the State will sustain you and aid you in any lawful way that may be deemed by you necessary In uncovering and bringing to justice the perpetrators of this horrible crime."

The letter sent to Prosecutor Connelly read as follows:
"I am pleased to learn from Mr. Merrill Moores, deputy attorney, general of the State, whom I sent to Versailles to Investigate and report upon the recent lynching, that there is no further cause for alarm. I am glad to know prompt action has been taken by Judge New in calling the grand jury and giving to that body a vigorous charge to probe to the bottom this outbreak of lawlessness and the unjustifiable murder of prisoners awaiting due process of law.

"I hope the judge will furnish you able local counsel to aid you in your arduous and responsible duties during the investigations and prosecutions that must follow the indictments found.

" I wish to assure you that the executive authority of the State will support you in your efforts to expunge from the good name of Ripley county and of our honored State this stigma that has been brought through the recent acts of mob violence, and that the perpetrator? of this diabolical crime shall be brought to justice."

(News Article) Date: 1897-09-22; Paper: Indiana State Journal


Return To The Main Index Page