From a Rescued Genealogy to a Movie Premier this Saturday

Follow this local man’s journey from author to movie maker

In the process of sorting through the remnants of a loved one’s life possessions, you come across an extensive collection of a handwritten genealogy that has been destined for the trash bin. As you hold this piece of history, decades older than you are, and search through its pages, you begin to feel a part of the past. The old photos and descriptions of life from ‘back in the day’ are revived and you realize, just in time, that you have come across a treasure. This may be the only vestige of this woman’s life and the contribution it has made to your own life, through your wife, who is the grand daughter of this woman who has recently passed on. Unbeknownst to you at the time, it will become the beginning of your pursuits to discover your own roots and to reunite an extended family whose ties had been lost for 152 years.

Dave DistlerThis is the story of Dave Distler, local Geauga County resident and author of numerous historical writings, the first of which was published in 1995 titled Ohio River Valley Families. “In 1997, I created a website by the same name,” says Dave. “After that, I wrote several histories, published exclusively for individuals, but Ohio River Valley Families was published for the general public. It is now out of print.”

Dave’s own roots begin in Indiana, but since 2003, he has been a Geauga resident. The discovery of this genealogy led Dave to look into his own family’s past. After much research, a reunion was held in 1997 in the small German village of Hinterweidenthal, 152 years after his family ties had been lost. “Thirty family members, including my parents, were in attendance,” says Dave, who had never been there prior to the reunion.”[I] have been back several times, the last in 2007. I have seen all of the Distler properties in town. The homes remain after all these years.

Needless to say, that first reunion was pretty significant. What stands out most to Dave? “The quick bonding of the families across time and distance surprised me most. There were family stories about the Distler who had left for America and had never been heard of again. He was the 3rd eldest male child, not in line for an inheritance, and probably felt he would have better opportunity in the USA.”

Dave has written many other historical works since Ohio River Valley Families. In the 1990s while researching some his own Indiana history, he stumbled across the story of the Reno Gang of Jackson County. “Surprised I had never heard or read about the world’s first train robbery…in Indiana in 1866, I began to research the Reno Brothers and was shocked to read about their violent demise at the hands of respectable townspeople which include three of the five Reno brothers.”

Legend of the Reno Bros

A book followed, titled Anarchy in the Heartland which Dave wrote in 2008 after moving to Geauga County. Shortly after, he had contact with Tony Susnick, a silent film enthusiast and historian from Louisville, IN who had always been intrigued by the little-known, true story of the Renos. Tony and another veteran of the film industry along with Dave soon created a docudrama titled The Legend of the Reno Brothers. The three formed the Indiana corporation, Hangman’s Crossing Productions, to manage budgets, negotiate contracts, maintain intellectual ownership and prospective worldwide film distribution.

Reno Bros

The grass roots docudrama features interviews with historians and contains all of the elements of a big Hollywood movie; love, tragedy, anarchy, underhanded politics and a heavy dose of mystery which the film attempts to resolve once and for all.

The initial premier screening of the movie will be in Scottsburg, IN near where the Reno Brothers’ most lucrative train robbery occurred. The county has planned a three-day event highlighting arts, crafts, a new town mural and demonstrations from the Post-Civil War era plus a dinner and movie premier this Saturday, September 7, and a matinee on Sunday, September 8, which is already sold out! The audiences will have a rare chance to contribute to the final version of the movie’s release by filling out a survey after the showings to make it a better final product for official release in late 2013.

Geauga News recognizes Dave’s diligent efforts and congratulates him on this much anticipated initial showing in Indiana!

To follow the festival and film, see:


Scott County Indiana Visitors Commission Facebook Page

Scott County Mural Project Facebook Page



Geauga News
Author: Geauga News