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 Belle Starr

Belle Starr

Original Name Myra Belle Shirley
Carthage, Jasper County, Missouri, USA
Death 3 Feb 1889 (aged 40)
Briartown, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, USA
Burial Porum, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, USA
Memorial ID 975 · View Source
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Folk Figure. She was born Myra Maybelle Shirley (parents called her Belle) on a farm near Carthage, Missouri one of six children but the only daughter of dirt farmer parents, John and Elizabeth (Hatfield) Shirley. Her parents moved into Carthage and her father became a prosperous innkeeper and slave holder. Frank and Jessie James and the Younger brothers were customers. Belle attended Carthage Female Academy then Cravens a private school and had a talent for music. At the start of the Civil War, her parents were southern sympathizers and supporters of Confederate troops in Missouri and continued with Raider William Clarke Quantrill. After burning and widespread destruction in Carthage during Civil War battles, the family migrated to Scyene, Texas again establishing a hotel and tavern. They soon had visitors. The wanted and pursued outlaws from Missouri, Cole, Jim, Bob and John Younger and Jesse James used the Shirley home as a hideout. Belle's life is an odyssey of many marriage's and affairs with felons, petty criminals and unsavory characters. There are no records that she was ever involved in murder, the robbery of trains, banks, stagecoaches or cattle rustling. However, she was a convicted horse thief. She married outlaw Jim Reed and lived in the Oklahoma Indian Territory at the home of outlaw Tom Star, a Cherokee. When he was charged with murder, they hid out in Los Angeles. After their return, Reed became involved with the Younger gang which killed and looted throughout Texas and Arkansas. Jim Reed was killed by a deputy sheriff at Paris, Texas. The grieving widow remarried. This time to Bruce Younger in a one month affair. The next in line was the Cherokee Sam Starr. Belle and Sam were charged with horse stealing and she received two six-month terms which was served at a correction center in Detroit, Michigan. Newspapers reporting on the story dubbed her "The Bandit Queen." During her incarceration, Sam Starr was killed by an Indian policeman on the Reservation. Belle lived up to her new name and quickly took several lovers, Jim Starr, Blue Duck, Jack Spaniard and Jim French. She survived all but two of these men. While living in the Choctaw Nation, near the Canadian River, an unknown assassin shot her from ambush with a shotgun. Many suspects were named, however, no one was ever charged nor convicted. Still alive, Belle was taken to her cabin where she expired an hour later two days short of her 41st birthday. The women in the area dressed her in her finest black velvet riding attire with boots and adorned her with her expensive jewelry. A pearl-handled Colt 45, which was a gift from Cole Younger was cradled in her hands. Placed in a homemade casket constructed of pine boards, she was conveyed to an open grave dug close to the front door by six Cherokee Indians. Neighbors then passed by the coffin while each Indian dropped a crumb of cornbread in the coffin in traditional tribal custom. Later the grave was robbed, the pistol and Jewelry were gone. Her daughter erected a headstone with an engraved bell, a star, a horse and a poignant poem. At the time of her death, Belle was virtually unknown outside of the Oklahoma Indian Territory. Then, The National Police Gazette published "Bella Starr, the Bandit Queen." a story of her supposed exploits. A paper flood resulted: embellished books, in the form of bibliography, biographies, many dime novels as well as featured magazine articles and then the ultimate in fiction, Hollywood movies. The big loop formed by the meandering Canadian River where Belle lived, was killed and buried was named Younger's Bend by her and the name has stuck. The Belle Star cabin where she lived and died consisted of three rooms. She had a piano and knew how to play. Her walls were covered with shelves full of books and her large mantel over the fireplace had trophies linked to her marksmanship. Alas, the Bell Starr cabin was razed in 1933. However, the nearby Younger Bend School stands today near Porum, Oklahoma and was constructed by Bell to ensure that her daughter and the Indians received an education. By paying a small fee, one can visit both the school and her grave located on private property. The many maple trees gracing the area were all planted by Belle Starr.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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"Shed not for her the bitter tear,
Nor give the heart to vain regret
Tis but the casket that lies here,
The gem that filled it sparkles yet."




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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 975
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Belle Starr (5 Feb 1848–3 Feb 1889), Find A Grave Memorial no. 975, citing Belle Star Cabin, Porum, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .