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Belle Starr

Belle StarrAKA Myra Maibelle Shirley

Born: 5-Feb-1848
Birthplace: Carthage, MO
Died: 3-Feb-1889
Location of death: Briartown, OK
Cause of death: Murder
Remains: Buried, Belle Starr Cabin, Porum, OK

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Criminal

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Bandit Queen of the Old West

American outlaw Belle Starr was raised in relative wealth and affluence, but in her late teens she was romantically and criminally involved with Cole Younger of the Younger brothers and James brothers gangs. She became the common-law wife and suspected partner in crime of bank robber and horse thief Jim Reed, but she named their ranch after Younger, calling it Younger's Bend. Reed was killed in a shootout with lawmen in 1874, and after his death she married Younger's uncle, a gambler named Bruce Younger. Their marriage, however, was apparently quite brief, as within months she fell in with Sam Starr, a three-quarters Cherokee cattle rustler, bandit, and bootlegger. She took an active role in some of Starr's crimes and took his name, for which she was portrayed in widespread and hyperbolized media coverage as "Bandit Queen of the Old West".

Sam Starr was killed in a duel with another criminal in 1886, and Belle later moved in with Jim July, a.k.a. Jim Starr, apparently the adoptive son of her dead lover's father. On 3 February 1889, as she and July were en route to a courtroom where charges of horse theft awaited him, she was shot twice while riding her horse, and killed. Her killer was never apprehended, and the prominent suspects include July, who had reportedly come to despise her; a worker on their farm whom she had ordered whipped for some transgression; and her own son and daughter, the former a horse thief and the latter a prostitute, both of whom were estranged from their mother.

Belle Starr was clearly a criminal, and was prosecuted for several crimes including cattle rustling, robbery, and bootlegging, though she was convicted only of horse theft. For this she was sentenced to a year in prison, and released after nine months. Her mother was a member of the Hatfield clan, remembered for their long-running feud with the McCoys. Beyond that, however, the legend of Belle Starr undoubtedly exceeds the reality. After her death she was the subject of a wildly popular but heavily embellished biography, purportedly including sections of Belle Starr's personal journal, and her exploits have been exaggerated in films and television programs ever since.

Father: John Shirley
Mother: Elizabeth Pennington Hatfield ("Eliza", b. 1816)
Sister: Charlotte Shirley (b. 1838)
Brother: John Allison Shirley (“Bud", b. 1842, d. 1864 Civil War)
Brother: Edwin Benton Shirley (b. 1849, d. 1866)
Brother: Mansfield Shirley (b. 1852, d. 1867)
Brother: Cravens Shirley (b. 1858)
Boyfriend: Cole Younger (criminal, one presumed daughter)
Daughter: Pearl Younger (with Younger, paternity presumed, a.k.a. Pearl Starr or Rosie Reed, prostitute, b. 1868, d. 8-Jul-1925)
Boyfriend: Jim Reed (criminal, together 1868-74, d. 6-Aug-1874 shootout with police, one son)
Son: James Edwin Reed ("Eddie", horse thief/police officer, b. 1871)
Boyfriend: Bluford "Blue" Duck (criminal, Cherokee name Sha-con-gah Kaw-wan-nu, b. 1859, together 1880s, d. 1895)
Husband: Bruce Younger (gambler, uncle of Cole Younger, b. 1853, m. 15-May-1880)
Boyfriend: Sam Starr (three-quarters Cherokee, together 1880s, d. 17-Dec-1886)
Boyfriend: Jack Sevier (criminal, aka Jack Spaniard, together 1887)
Boyfriend: Jim July (aka Jim Starr, adoptive brother of Sam Starr, together 1888-89)

    High School: Carthage Female Academy, Carthage, MO

    Robbery stagecoach robbery (1874)
    Horse Theft 1878
    Horse Theft charged (9-Nov-1882), convicted (8-Mar-1883)
    Horse Theft (1886), acquitted
    Robbery (1886), acquitted
    Shot Younger's Bend, AR (3-Feb-1889), fatal

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