Belle Starr

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    • Belle Starr


      Feburary 5th 1848
      Carthage, Missouri

      February 3rd. 1889
      Eufaula, Oklahoma,


      Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr better known as Belle Starr,
      was a notorious American outlaw.
      She was born Myra Maybelle Shirley (known as May to her family)
      on her father's farm near Carthage, Missouri.
      Her mother was a Hatfield from the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feuding clans.
      In the 1860s her father sold the farm and moved the family to Carthage
      where he bought an inn and livery stable on the town square.

      May Shirley received a classical education and learned piano,
      while graduating from Missouri's Carthage Female Academy,
      a private institution her father had helped to found.

      During the Civil War
      After a Union attack on Carthage in 1864, the Shirleys moved to Scyene, Texas.
      According to legend, it was at Scyene that the Shirleys
      became associated with a number of Missouri-born criminals,
      including Jesse James and the Youngers.
      In fact, she knew the Younger brothers and the James boys
      because she had grown up with them in Missouri,
      and her brother John Alexander Shirley (known as Bud) served
      with them in Quantrill's Raiders, alongside another Missouri boy,
      James C. Reed.
      Her brother served as one of Quantrill's scouts.
      Bud Shirley was killed in 1864 in Sarcoxie, Missouri,
      while he and another scout were being fed at the home
      of a Confederate sympathizer. Union troops surrounded the house
      and when Bud attempted to escape, he was shot and killed.


      After the Civil War
      Following the war, the Reed family also moved to Scyene
      and May Shirley married Jim Reed in 1866,
      after having had an earlier crush on him as a teen.
      Two years later, she gave birth to her first child,
      Rosie Lee (nicknamed Pearl),
      who is known to have been Cole Younger's daughter.
      Cole ran away after Pearl was born.
      Belle always harbored a strong sense of style,
      which would feed into her later legend.
      A crack shot, she used to ride sidesaddle while dressed
      in a black velvet riding habit and a plumed hat, carrying two pistols,
      with cartridge belts across her hips. Jim turned to crime
      and was wanted for murder in Arkansas, which caused the family
      to move to California, where their second child,
      James Edwin (Eddie), was born in 1871.

      Cole Younger.................................................Jim Reed.1883

      Later returning to Texas, Jim Reed was involved with several criminal gangs.
      While Jim initially tried his hand at farming, he would grow restless
      and fell in with bad company: the Starr clan,
      a Cherokee Indian family notorious for whiskey, cattle,
      and horse thievery in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma),
      as well as his wife's old friends the James and Younger gangs.
      In April 1874, despite a lack of any evidence, a warrant
      was issued for her arrest for a stagecoach robbery by her husband and others.
      Jim Reed was killed in Paris, Texas, in August of that year,
      while she settled down with his family in Missouri.

      Belle Starr and her favorite horse in Fort Smith

      Marriage to Sam Starr
      Allegedly, Belle was briefly married for three weeks to Bruce Younger in 1878,
      but this is not substantiated by any evidence
      . In 1880 she did marry a Cherokee Indian named Sam Starr
      and settled with the Starr family in the Indian Territory.
      There, she learned ways for organizing, planning and fencing for the rustlers,
      horse thieves and bootleggers, as well as harboring them from the law.
      Belle's illegal enterprises proved lucrative enough for her
      to employ bribery to free her cohorts from the law whenever they were caught.

      In 1883, Belle and Sam were charged with horse theft and tried before
      "The Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker's Federal District Court in
      Fort Smith, Arkansas; the prosecutor was United States Attorney W.H.H. Clayton.
      She was found guilty and served nine months at the
      Detroit House of Corrections in Detroit, Michigan.
      Belle proved to be a model prisoner and during her time in jail
      she won the respect of the prison matron,
      while Sam was more incorrigible and was assigned to hard labor.

      In 1886, she escaped conviction on another theft charge,
      but on December 17, Sam Starr was involved in a gunfight with Officer Frank West.
      Both men were killed, while her life as an outlaw queen
      abruptly ended with her husband's death,
      in what had been the happiest relationship of her life.

      Unsolved Murder
      For the last two-plus years of her life, she took on a series of lovers
      with colorful names, including Jack Spaniard, Jim French and Blue Duck,
      after which, in order to keep her residence on Indian land,
      she married a relative of Sam Starr, Jim July Starr,
      who was some 15 years her junior.

      Belle Starr and Blue Duck
      Photo courtesy
      Legends of America and Kathy Weiser

      On February 3, 1889, two days before her 41st brithday,
      the outlaw queen met her own tragic end.
      She was riding home from a neighbor's house in
      Eufaula, Oklahoma, when she was ambushed.
      After she fell off her horse, she was shot again to make sure she was dead.
      Her death resulted from shotgun wounds to the back
      and neck and in the shoulder and face

      There were no witnesses and no one was ever convicted of the deadly crime.
      Suspects with apparent motive included her new husband
      and both of her children, as well as Edgar J. Watson,
      one of her sharecroppers, because he was afraid s
      he was going to turn him into the authorities as an
      escaped murderer from Florida with a price on his head .
      Watson, who was killed in 1910, was tried for her murder
      but was acquitted, and the ambush has entered Western lore as "unsolved."

      One source suggests her son, whom she had allegedly beaten
      for mistreating her horse, may have been her killer.

      Story Becomes Popularized
      Although an obscure figure outside Texas throughout most of her life,
      Belle's story was picked up by the dime novel and
      National Police Gazette publisher, Richard K. Fox.
      Fox made her name famous with his novel Bella Starr, the Bandit Queen,
      or the Female Jesse James, published in 1889 (the year of her murder).

      This novel is still often cited as a historical reference.
      It was the first of many popular stories that used her name.

      Belle's son Eddie was convicted of horse theft
      and receiving stolen property in July 1889.
      Judge Parker sent him to prison in Columbus, Ohio.
      Belle's daughter, Rosie Reed, also known as Pearl Starr,
      became a prostitute to raise funds for his release.
      She did eventually obtain a presidential pardon in 1893.
      Ironically, Eddie became a police officer and was killed
      in the line of duty in December 1896.

      Pearl Starr, on the right

      Making a good living in prostitution, Pearl operated several bordellos
      in Van Buren and Fort Smith, Arkansas, from the 1890s to World War I.

      Edited And Compiled by ethanedwards
      Information And Photographs from Wikipedia
      Legends of America and Kathy Weiser
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 10 times, last by ethanedwards ().