Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Western Wednesday With Belle Starr...!

We don't often talk about the women of the old west, but they were a very important part of western development.

Although most women of the west were unknown to us by name, such is not the case with Belle Starr! She was, without a doubt, one of the "bigger than life" characters in the shady side of the early days! From the folks at, here is her story!

Belle Starr murdered in Oklahoma

The outlaw Belle Starr is killed when an unknown assailant fatally wounds the famous "Bandit Queen" with two shotgun blasts from behind.

As with the lives of other famous outlaws like Billy the Kid and Jesse James, fanciful accounts printed in newspapers and dime novels made Belle Starr's harsh and violent life appear far more romantic than it actually was. Born Myra Belle Shirley on a small farm near Carthage, Missouri, in 1848, she received an education in the classics and became a competent pianist. Seemingly headed for an unexciting but respectable middle-class life, her fate was changed by the outbreak of the Civil War, which ruined her father's business as a Carthage innkeeper and claimed the life of her brother Edwin. Devastated, the Shirley family abandoned Missouri to try to make a fresh start in Texas.

In Texas, Belle began her life-long pattern of associating with men of questionable character. In 1866, she met Cole Younger, a member of the James-Younger gang that was gaining notoriety for a series of daring bank and train robberies. Rumor had it that Younger fathered Belle's first child, Pearl, though the father might have actually been another outlaw, Jim Reed. Regardless, Belle's relationship with Younger was short-lived, and in 1866 she became Reed's wife. Belle was apparently untroubled by her new husband's reputation and she had become his partner in crime by 1869. She joined him in stealing cattle, horses, and money in the Dallas area. Riding her mare, Venus, and sporting velvet skirts and plumed hats, Belle played the role of a "bandit queen" for several years.

In 1874, a member of his own gang killed Reed, and Belle was suddenly on her own. Pursued by the law, she drifted into Oklahoma Indian Territory, where she led a band of cattle and horse thieves. There she met a handsome young Cherokee named Sam Starr, who eventually became her common-law husband and new criminal partner. The Starrs managed to elude capture for nearly a decade, but in 1883 they were arrested for horse theft and both served five months in the Detroit federal prison.

Freed from prison, the couple immediately resumed their criminal careers. In 1886, Belle again lost a husband to violent death when Sam Starr was killed in a gunfight with an old enemy. Belle wasted no time in finding a third companion, a Creek Indian named Jim July, an outlaw who was 15 years her junior. In 1889, July was arrested for robbery and summoned to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to face charges. Belle accompanied her young lover for part of the journey but turned back before reaching Fort Smith. On her way home, someone ambushed and fatally wounded her with two shotgun blasts to her back. Jim July believed the murderer was a neighbor with whom the couple had been feuding, but no one was ever convicted of the crime.

Just like her male counterparts, ol' Belle made enough enemies to last for two lifetimes. I'd say that one of them finally caught up to her! That was often the case in the Wild West, regardless of your gender!

Coffee inside today. Cold front is supposed to move in today, and that means rain!


Phyllis *N/W Jersey) said...

She sure was a busy woman! Good story Mr. Hermit - never knew she was murdered. Coffee inside is fine, it is very foggy here today. I'll bring three layer chocolate cake for all.

Momlady said...

Interesting story, Mr. Hermit. Women seemed a lot tougher back then.

linda m said...

Very interesting story Mr. Hermit. Back in the "good ole days" women were a very tough breed. They had to be just to survive. Wonder what ever happened to her daughter? coffee inside here today also. Freezing temps, freezing rain, and very cold temps on the way. Have a great day.

Shellymae said...

I really enjoyed reading this!!! Women had to be tough as men back then....It really made my morning :)

JO said...

Bedside Book Of Bad Girls outlaw women of the American West: By Michael Rutter. Fun read.
Thank you Mr. Hermit for reminding.

Coffee in the kitchen sounds good to me still chilly here and windy.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
She did seem to stay pretty busy, didn't she?

It's clear but fairly chilly here on the Texas coast. Guess that 57 doesn't sound chilly to some, but with a 25 mph wind it feels that way to me!

Bring on the chocolate cake! Great!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Momlady...
I'm not so sure if they were tougher or not. I've known some pretty tough ladies in my life, believe me!

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Linda...
Guess it's like the old song says "only The Strong Survive". Of course, getting shot in the back can hurt even stop the toughest of women(or men).

Wonder if anything is written about her daughter?

Thanks for the visit this morning!

Hey Shellymae...
I think in some cases, they were probably stronger!

Hard work for most, hard running from the law for others couldn't help but make you old before your time, I reckon!

Glad you enjoyed it and also happy you could come over today!

Hey Jo...
I should have known you would have a book like that around, sweetie!

Thanks for dropping in today!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Good post today. Some of the characters we see in "cowboy shows" today were actually real and a lot worse than the stories depict.

HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
The truth is always a little more gritty than the made up version, I think!

Pretty much all of our heroes from the past had a slightly darker side we just don't consider!

Thanks, buddy, for coming over today!