First Train Robbery in U.S. History

On May 5, 1865, the first U.S. train robbery took place in North Bend.

About a dozen men tore up tracks to derail an Ohio & Mississippi train that had departed from Cincinnati. (Some reports identify the train as belonging to the Union Pacific Railroad)

More than 100 passengers were robbed at gunpoint of cash and jewelry. The robbers then blew open safes of the Adams Express Co. that were said to contain thousands of dollars in U.S. bonds.

The robbers fled across the Ohio River into Kentucky. Lawrenceburg, Indiana officials were notified by telegraph of the robbery and in turn notified military authorities. Troops were sent to hunt down the robbers. The outlaws were traced through Verona, Ky., but were never captured.

Another account of the robbery says that although the identity of the robbers was never discovered, Frank and Jesse James were suspected.

Of interest is another train robbery sometimes considered the first in U.S. history but occurred well over a year after the heist in North Bend. On October 6, 1866, thieves boarded an Ohio & Mississippi passenger train near Seymour, Indiana and entered an Adam Express Co. car. The robbers, identified as the infamous Reno brothers, made an easy get away. This robbery is sometimes said to be the first organized transcontinental train robbery.

There also is mention of a robbery nine months before the Seymour robbery. Bandits entered an Adams Express car en route to Boston from New York and stole over half a million dollars from safes on the unoccupied car.

Also, sometimes called the worlds first train robbery but occurring 8 years after the North Bend incident was a robbery in Iowa credited to Jesse James, July 21, 1873. This robbery was probably the first in the American West.

Most history time lines credit the first train robbery in U.S. history to the North Bend robbery.

Submitted by Terry Simpson


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