Friday, August 23, 2013

Sam and Belle Starr

Samuel Starr, Son of Thomas Starr (Goodman or Badman? Post) 
Born in 1859 in Cherokee Nation West  and Died at Age 27 in 1886  -  My 3rd Cousin 3x Removed  -  Married the Bandit Queen, Belle Starr   

Haskell County Historical Society
Franklin Pierce West and Sam Starr

"The Trail of Tears was a Cherokee holocaust. Less than half the people arrived in Indian Territory alive.
"Indian Territory was home to other Native American tribes, including Apache, Choctaw and Comanche. These tribes had to share their land and resources with the Cherokee. The white encroachment on Indian lands was spreading further and further West.
"The West family settled in Canadian District of Indian Territory near the Canadian River. Whitefield, Stigler, Porum and Briartown are several of the towns that were established in this area. John and Ruth West were given an allotment of approximately 40 acres to homestead in Briartown. They built a three bedroom home at the top of a hill facing southwest. This house is still standing. Here, they raised their children, William, George, Martha, John Calhoun, James, Kiamitia, Ruth and Franklin. They owned horses and cows and had a garden in which they grew potatoes, tomato's, beans, carrots, strawberries, and grapevines. Pecan trees grew wild on the land, and many of them are still producing today.
"Franklin Pierce West, youngest child of John and Ruth, was born in 1852. He married Nancy Ella Brewer, born 1853 and died 1909. They had three children, John Brewer, Richard and Ruth Ella. He and Nancy built a home for their family down the hill from the old homestead. This house is no longer standing, but in it's place is my Aunt Lucy's home. She still lives on the land that was left to her by her grandfather, although only 10 acres of this land is West land.
"Franklin West was a deputy marshall in the Indian Territory Sheriffs Department. His cousin, Sam Starr and his wife, Belle, were notorious outlaws in the Old West.
"Sam and Belle Starr also settled in the Briartown area, naming their homestead Younger's Bend. Younger's Bend became a haven for outlaws. Ironically, Frank West lived only a few miles away. Sam and Belle were arrested in 1882 when deputy marshalls found stolen horses in their stables. Sam was arrested on many counts of hold-ups of US Mail hacks and post offices. Belle was indicted for Larceny in stealing horses and robbery. She often wore mens clothing in her raids and was dubbed "gang leader" after a robbery in Cache of horses and about $40.
"Sam Starr and Franklin West met often on opposite sides of the law. On September 16, 1886, Franklin West, Sheriff William Vann, Deputy Robinson and police officer John Toney spotted Sam in the Canadian Bottoms. West shot and wounded Sam, killing the mare he was riding. Vann and West hurried to a nearby farm house to get help for the wounded Starr. Deputies Robinson and Toney were left to guard Starr. They moved an unconcious Starr to a wooded area for cover from the rest of Starr's gang. When he regained consciousness, Sam cunningly disarmed both deputies, siezed Robinsons' horse and escaped. As he rode away, he shouted "Tell Frank West he'll pay for killing Belle's mare".
"Starr holed-up at one of his brothers' homes. Belle cared for her wounded husband, convincing him to surrender before he was killed. Sam was taken into custody and arraigned on a grand jury indictment for breaking into a post office. Belle posted his bail and Sam was released. His trial was scheduled for February 1887. He wouldn't make it.
"On December 17, 1886, Lucy Surrant, a Choctaw native who had settled in Whitefield, gave a Christmas dance at her home on Emachaya Creek, which was named after her father. She was affectionately known to locals as "Aunt Lucy". Belle and Sam decided to attend the dance. Frank West happened to arrive shortly before them.
"Frank was warming himself by a log fire, alongside a 12 year old boy named J. Daniel Folsom. Sam Starr angrily stormed over to where West was, began cursing him and demanded he leave the dance. West refused and more heated words followed. Sam went for his gun at the same time Frank drew his weapon. Gunshots rang out, and both men fell to the ground. The young 12 year old boy was struck by a stray bullet in the face. West had been hit in the neck and died within minutes. Sam was shot in the chest and struggled for a few moments before passing on. Belle raced to the fireplace, knelt beside her dead husband and cursed Frank West. Sam was just 27 years old while Franklin West was 34.
"Sam Starr is buried in the Starr Cemetary located in Younger's Bend. The Starr homestead is no longer standing. To reach this cemetary, one must drive through a maze of trees and shrubs on a winding dirt road.
"Franklin Pierce West is buried in McClure Cemetary, one of many cemetaries where West family members are interred.
"(information sources on Sam Starr for this article from "Sam Starr, A Short and Violent Life" by Michael Koch).
"***(Editor's Note: 4-2-00 - I have been informed by a reader that J. Daniel Folsom, the 12 year old boy at the Christmas dance, did not die. He became a sheriff of Haskell County OK.  I apologize for and have amended this error.**

Myra Belle Shirley (Relationship only by Marriage to Sam Starr)

Murderer Blue Duck and Belle Starr

Belle Starr 
FULL NAME: Myra Belle Shirley
BIRTH DATE: Feb. 5, 1848.
BIRTHPLACE: Carthage, Mo.

EDUCATION: Attended the Carthage Female Academy, where she excelled in reading, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, deportment, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and music-learning to play the piano.
FAMILY BACKGROUND:  Father John Shirley was a wealthy Carthage innkeeper, mother Elizabeth "Eliza" Pennington Shirley. Belle moved with her family to Sycene, Texas shortly before Carthage was burned to the ground by Confederate guerillas during the Civil War in 1864. That same year her older brother John "Bud" Shirley, who fought for the Confederacy with William C. Quantrill's guerillas, was killed by Union troops in Sarcoxie, Mo.
DESCRIPTION OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS: In the legendary period of American history known as the Old West, the law of the whole nation had yet to tame that frontier which was spottily settled. This resulted in lawlessness seen in the personage of those known as outlaws-lawbreakers whose notorious reputations often exceeded their very person to mythical proportions. Belle Starr was one such outlaw.  From her association with outlaws such as Jesse James and the Younger brothers, she reached a level of fantastic notoriety that today leaves the facts of her life not always distinguishable from the fiction.
As a teenager during the Civil War, Belle Shirley reported the positions of Union troops to Confederacy.  One of her childhood friends in Missouri was Cole Younger, who served in Quantrill's guerillas with Jesse and Frank James. After the war these men (and later Cole's three brothers, among others) turned to outlawry, primarily that of robbery of banks, trains, stagecoaches, and people. In their flights from lawmen they would sometimes hide out at the Shirley farm, through which Belle became very tight with the James and Younger gangs. Their influence would be part of the reason Belle would turn to crime herself.
In 1866, Belle married James C. "Jim" Reed, a former guerilla whom she had known since her childhood in Carthage. Their daughter Rosie Lee "Pearl" (who was later rumored to be Cole Younger's child) was born in 1868 and their son James Edwin "Ed" was born in 1871. While Jim initially tried his hand at farming, he would grow restless and fell in with bad company in that of 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. Then in 1869, Jim shot in cold blood the man who supposedly accidentally shot his brother in a quarrel. Wanted by the law, he fled to California with Belle and Pearl in tow. Here two years later Jim again ran afoul of the law for passing counterfeit money and with Belle, Pearl, and newborn son Ed fled to Texas.
In November 1873, Jim Reed with two other men robbed Watt Grayson, a wealthy Creek Indian farmer in the Indian Territory, of $30,000 in gold coins. Belle was named as an accomplice, however, there was very little proof of her involvement.  Nonetheless, they both went into hiding from the law in Texas: Jim in the town of Paris and Belle and the children with her family in Sycene. Allegedly, she took Pearl and Ed and went to Dallas, where she lived off the gold from the Grayson robbery. She wore buckskins and moccasins or tight black jackets, black velvet skirts, high-topped boots, a man's Stetson hat with an ostrich plume, and twin holstered pistols. She spent much her time in saloons, drinking and gambling at dice, cards, and roulette. At times she would ride her horse through the streets shooting off her pistols.  This wild behavior was among what gave rise to her rather exaggerated image as a pistol-wielding outlaw.
In April 1874, Jim held up the Austin-San Antonio stagecoach and robbed the passengers of about $2,500. A price of $7,000 was placed on his head and he went into hiding. The law caught up with him near Paris, Texas on Aug. 6, 1874, when Jim Reed was shot to death while trying to escape from the custody of a deputy sheriff.
The young widow of an outlaw, Belle left Texas, put her children in the care of relatives, and took up with the Starr clan in the Indian Territory west of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Here Belle immersed herself in outlawry: 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. When she was unable to buy off the lawmen, she was known to seduce them into looking the other way. All of the aforementioned confirmed Belle's status as an outlaw and her reputation would supersede her with the sensationalistic writing of the day. During this period she married Samuel Starr, a member of the infamous Starr clan, in 1880.
Judge Isaac C. Parker, a.k.a., "The Hanging Judge," of Fort Smith became obsessed with bringing Belle Starr to justice, but she eluded him at every turn. Then in 1882, charges of horse theft were brought against Belle and Sam by one of their neighbors in the Indian Territory. The jury returned a guilty verdict for each and in March 1883, Judge Parker sentenced Belle and Sam to a year in the House of Correction in Detroit, Mich. During her prison term Belle proved to be a model prisoner and won the respect of the prison matron, whereas Sam was more incorrigible and was assigned to hard labor. Nevertheless, they were both released after nine months and returned to the Indian Territory. In fact Belle proved not to have been reformed at all by prison for she-as well as Sam-almost immediately returned to their villainous ways. Belle's unrepentant attitude was best expressed in a comment to a Dallas newspaper reporter: "I am a friend to any brave and gallant outlaw."
Over the next several years Belle Starr would continue to find herself arrested for charges of robbery, however, Judge Parker would be forced to release her for lack of evidence. A particularly memorable such arrest was in 1886, when Belle was charged with robbing a post office while dressed as a man.  That same year Sam Starr was killed by a longtime family nemesis. Shortly afterward Belle provided the legal counsel for Bluford "Blue" Duck, a Cherokee Indian indicted for murdering a farm hand.  To Judge Parker's ire, the death sentence he imposed was commuted to life imprisonment. And in 1888, when her son Ed was arrested for horse theft, her lawyers contacted President Grover Cleveland, who overturned Judge Parker's seven-year prison sentence with a full pardon.
The notoriously unlawful life of Belle Starr came to a violent end on Feb. 3, 1889, two days short of her forty-first birthday. While riding from the general store to her ranch near Eufaula, Okla., Belle was killed by a shotgun blast to the back. Suspects included Edgar Watson, with whom Belle had been feuding over the land he was renting from her (Watson was a fugitive and Belle had been told by the authorities that she would lose all of her land if caught harboring fugitives and for once she was obeying), her lover a Cherokee named Jim July with whom she had recently had a quarrel, and her son Ed, with whom she had had a strained relationship. However, the identity of the murderer of Belle Starr was never identified.  Belle Starr was buried on her ranch with a marble headstone on which was engraved a bell, her horse, a star and the epitaph written by her daughter Pearl which reads:
"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."
Even in her lifetime Belle Starr had become a legend through the yellow journalism of her day. This status would be reinforced through the years by-in addition to the press-dime novel literature and the Hollywood motion picture industry. The result is that today historians continue attempting to decipher the facts of Belle Starr's life from the fiction.
DATE OF DEATH: Feb. 3, 1889, age 40 (shot to death).
PLACE OF DEATH: near Eufaula, Okla.
  • History Site Index: Belle Starr
  • Article from Wild West: "Bandit Queen Belle Starr"
  • Wild West Women: Belle Starr
  • The Ballad of Belle Starr

This page may be cited as: Women in History. Belle Starr biography. Last Updated: 5/8/2011. Lakewood Public Library. Date accessed 5/8/2011 . .

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