Though not a native to what is now Oklahoma, the horse thieving and cattle rustling Belle Starr lived a life of love and crime within its territory, and there met her fateful end.
Born in Missouri on Feb. 5, 1848, Belle Starr was born Myra Maybelle Shirley. She was academy-educated and well versed in languages, as well as familiar with the piano. Courtesy of her older brother, Edwin, she also became a sharp-shot with a pistol.
When the Civil War arrived in Missouri, Edwin was killed and the Shirley family was uprooted, making their way to Texas. It is here that Belle began her long association with outlaw lovers. In 1866, Belle and Cole Younger of the James-Younger Gang—known for robbing banks and trains—began what would be a short-lived affair with alleged lasting results. Though Belle married Jim Reed later that same year, it is largely believed that Cole fathered Belle’s daughter, Rosie Lee, whom she nicknamed “Pearl.”
Together, the Reeds made a life of rustling cattle, money, and horses in and around Dallas until Jim Reed died at the hands of one of his own gang members in 1874. At this point, Belle left Texas behind and drifted across the Texas border to modern-day Oklahoma—better known as Indian Territory in Belle’s day—to head up her own band of outlaws.
She became known as the “Bandit Queen,” donning plumed hats, velvet skirts, and riding sidesaddle on her various criminal forays. Almost immediately, Belle got involved with Sam Starr, a Cherokee Indian and her common-law husband, whom she participated in criminal activity with for nearly a decade until they were both arrested in 1883. After serving relatively short sentences, Sam and Belle Starr returned to the life they loved until Sam was caught drawing too slow in a gunfight in 1886.
Not one to waste daylight, Belle Starr found a lover in Jim July—a Creek Indian 15 years her junior—that same year. It was business as usual until July was arrested and his presence demanded in Fort Smith, Ark., in 1889. She accompanied him most of the way and then turned for home. In what is now Eufaula, Okla., Belle Starr was shot in the back with what is rumored to have been her own shotgun on Feb. 3, two days before her 41stbirthday.
To this day, her homicide remains an unsolved murder.
Starr had relationships with many outlaws, Blue Duck included.