Special to the Star-Telegram
Unromantic Death of "Outlaw Queen"
Aug 21, 1910
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Transcribed by K. Torp
Belle Star's End had Nothing of Glamour Surrounding It.
STILL STORIES OF DEEDS
Woman's Most Desperate Crimes Involved Stealing Horses in Oklahoma
Muskogee, Okla. Aug. 20 -- Of all the outlaws in old Indian Territory that died with their boots on, none passed away is such glamour of romance as did Belle Starr.
Time has not dimmed the luster of that certain reputation which she enjoyed. The years, in fact, have given increase to the blood and thunder notoriety that caused her name to be spoken in whispers by timid persons in the days when she swaggered in Indian Territory towns with her sombrero atilt, and her pistols glistening in her belt, or when she rode into Fort Smith, despite Judge Parker and his hangman, Maledon, and browbeat policemen with oaths and display of firearms, until they were at the point of jumping their jobs.
Her Name Still Remembered
Perhaps it was because she was a woman and knew how to keep close to the footlights that she blazoned her name along every trail and at every cross-roads in the Southwest. Though she has been dead these more than twenty years, yet no name is spoken more frequently than hers in tales of outlawry. Popular imagination continues picturing her as having killed countless men, as having robbed innumerable banks and trains, and as a demon with a bloody knife between her teeth and a pistol in each hand, terrorizing whole communities and making deputy marshals hit the high places, getting out of the country.
Myra Belle Shirley -- that was her maiden name -- fell as far short of her general reputation as a coyote does of being a cougar. Her father, Judge John Shirley, kept a hotel at Carthage, Mo., before the Civil war, and there Belle was born Feb. 5, 1848. In 1869 she was married to James Reed, whose father owned a farm near Rich Hill, and the two moved to Texas, where Reed took a crooked trail and began "scouting," one of the charges against him being murder. He was assassinated, after which his widow went with her two children to the home of "Uncle Tom" Starr on the South Canadian river, in what is now Haskell county, Oklahoma. This was about 1879. Reed had been frequently at the Starr home when a young man and it was there that he became acquainted with "Uncle Tom's" son, "Sam" Starr, who Belle married. With him she served a year in the Federal house of correction at Detroit, Mich., for horse stealing.
Their Home a Bandit Refuge
During their married life Sam and Belle lived at what is now known as Younger's Bend - a long turn of the South Canadian -- about seven miles southwest of the present town of Porum. Hidden away in a wilderness of deep canyons, inaccessible hills and dark forests, they gave refuge to every bandit that ranged northward from the Rio Grande. Settlements were far between, and the rural inhabitants of that part of Indian territory found it wise to relinquish the hunting of outlaws to United States marshals. Edward Reed, Belle's son, was killed while trying to shoot up a saloon at Wagoner in 1896. Her daughter, Pearl Reed, is living at Fort Smith, Ark. It has been said that her father really was Cole Younger, which is denied vehemently by Younger and the Younger kinsmen.
Among men who knew her well, Belle Starr is described as having been a woman of more than ordinary education and of great natural wit and shrewdness. Then they turn the other side of the picture and say that she relied upon her skirts to save her from harm when she "talked back" to officers of the law; that her blackest crimes were stealing horses and taking money and contraband goods from the outlaws she harbored and protected at her home on the South Canadian. An old deputy United States marshal who used to surround her place with his men and search it said ??ly:
"Belle and Sam lived just like full-blood Indians - from hand to mouth -- letting each day take care of itself. There were times when they had plenty to eat and times where there was nothing in the house."
Sam Starr and Frank West, a deputy United States Marshal, drew their guns in a fued(?) fight one winter night at a dance at the home of Mrs. Lucy Surratt, near the present town of Whitefield. When the smoke cleared away both men were dead and Belle was a widow for hte second time. She replaced Sam with a full-blood Cherokee, "Bill" July, whose chief accomplishment was horsestealing. He was shot and killed by "Bud" Trainer, a deputy United State marshal, while scouting in the Choctaw country.
There are numerous stories of the manner in which Belle Starr met her death. A man that made close inquiry lately in the neighborhood of her old home on the South Canadian accepted the statement of one of her old friends that she was killed by Edgar A. WAtson, who came with his family from Florida in the late '80s and rented land on the south side of the Canadian, about seven miles from Belle Starr's home. Watson appeared to be a law-abiding man, and merchants with whom he traded had confidence in his integrity. But in time it was learned that he was a desperate character and a fugitive from Florida, where he was suspected of murder.
Belle Starr kept close watch upon every stranger who appeared within striking distance of her lair on the river. She wormed herself into Watson's confidence and is supposed to have learned his secret. It is told that they became enemies over the renting of land, while another story is that Watson and July were stealing together, and when Watson refused to make a fair division of the spoils, Belle threatened to betray him.
In the forenoon of Sunday, Feb. 3, 1889, she rode up to the King Creek store and gin and told the proprietor she had come to eat dinner with him. She was riding her favorite mare, a fast and spirited animal. Though she had become dissolute, she retained....... [missing text] her side-saddle was made by skilled workmen and was known through Indian Territory as "the Belle Starr saddle".
At the dinner table, Belle appeared worried, and said she had a premonition of approaching death at the hands of her enemies. She was laughed at and told that "thunder and lightning couldn't kill her." With a pair of scissors she cut a large silk handkerchief in two, and gave half of it to the farm tenant's wife for a keepsake and asked that her cloak, for which she had paid $40, be kept until her return - if she ever came back.
Stopped for a Pone of Corn Bread
She started for home about 1 o'clock in the afternoon and on her way, before reaching the river, stopped at the house of a man named Barnes, where she remained talking to the women until about 3 o'clock. A homely reason for her stopping was to get a pone of sour corn bread from Mrs. Barnes. When she reached the Barnes place, Watson was standing in the yard with a double-barrel shotgun. He left at once, walking in the direction in which Belle was traveling.
Milo ("Frog") Hoyt, a farmer, had been on the north side of the river and was on his way home when he rode off the ferry boat about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Hearing the sound of a rapidly running horse, he loped up just in time to see Belle Starr's mare, riderless, leap from an embankment into the river and swim across. He galloped in the direction from which the mare had come. At a sudden turn his horse startled and sprange aside at an object lying in the road - the body of Belle Starr. She had been shot from behind with two loads of mixed shot. Her assassin had chosen this abrupt turn in the road as a point of vantage and had concealed himself behind a large tree about thirty stops distant. The tracks from the tree led close to the home of Watson.
The day of the funeral July caused Watson to be arrested for murder and taken to Fort Smith. Merchants who went from the neighborhood told Judge Parker of Watson's good reputation and Watson was discharged. Later he was sent to the penitentiary in Arkansas for horse stealing and was killed by guards while trying to escape from the coal mines.
The body of Belle Starr, into which more than sixty shots had been fired, was dressed for burial by women in the neighborhood , many of whom she had befriended. She had much sympathy for persons in want, and there was scarcely a home within miles of where she lived into which she had not gone and remained night and day doing all that was possible to alleviate sickness and suffering. She liked to tell stores to children,a nd would sit hour after hour singing old fashioned religious songs to the accompaniment of her guitar. Her grave was dug int he dooryard and the clods heaped over her without a prayer.
Not long ago a man with an Indian driver that knew the county, who as a boy had sat on Belle Starr's knee, drove tot he old Belle Starr home. The country is still thinly settled. There are dim outlines of the almost forgotten Briartown-Eufaula trail to be seen at intervals in the timber. Belle Starr followed this trail in going to and from her outlaw den. This traveler had long pictured to himself the appearance of this region, after listening to descriptions of it by deputy United States marshals. He found that his imagination had fallen short of the reality. The country was savage and forbidding; the silence, oppressive. At the stream crossings the Indian driver shifted his automatic further in front on his belt and looked inquisitively at places where men could have been in hiding.
"This is Belle Starr creek," he said at last, as the horses splashed through the water. "It comes from the Belle Starr canyon, which is about three miles in length, with walls so high and steep that a man may not ride up or down them. The entrance is up the creek a short distance. Once inside you will find meadow land where there is good grazing. In that canyon was once a grapevine corral, in which stolen horses were kept."
Up from Belle Starr creek was a level bench of land on which stood a gaunt dead tree beside what appeared to be a grave, inclosed with a picket fence.
"There is the old Belle Starr spring," said the driver. "It is only about two hundred yards from the house."
From the somber forest the road wound suddenly up a rocky hillside and stopped at a gate over which two large maple trees threw their shade. These trees were planted by Belle Starr. Inside stood the old home of the woman who had stolen away with her Cherokee husband, "Sam" Starr, thirty years ago, to this solitude. The house was of cedar logs built by an Indian named Dempsey Hannell shortly after the war. It faced south, with a porch its entire length. The log room was about 14 feet square, with a big stone fireplace on the west side. Two small windows, scareely larger than a cowboy's hat, did not let in enough light to drive out the shadows. This room had witnessed many an outlaw revel. The grimy rafters were nearly within reach of a man's hand. At the rear was a "leanto", divided into two rooms and beneath them was a cellar. In later years a box house had been built on the east side of the old cedar fortress.
View from Doorway
The view from the doorway was forlorn. Thickets of wild plums and patches of briars and brambles had pushed out of the timber and crawled closer and closer to the cedar house, struggling to cover the few remaining feet of bare hard earth that lay crinkling in the hot sunshine. Down across a ragged field was a sluggish, yellow river, and still further was a "deadening" the branches of the tall, dead trees making a picture of desolation. Beyond the Canadian, rising sheer to the sky, were precipices, with caverns, where in the old days lay securely hidden the men for whose necks the hangman's noose dangled at Fort Smith.
About twenty feet from the doorway was the grave of Belle Starr, with the edges of the marble headstone chipped and broken by relic hunters. At one corner grew a hollyhock, with crimson flowers. The stone had been cut and inscribed by Joseph Dalley, a rural stone cutter. First, was a picture of Belle Starr's horse. Above its head was a star; beneath a bell, and on its flank, a BE brand. At the bottom of stone was a clasped hand filled with flowers.
The farmer that lived in the cedar house said that a human skull had been plowed up in the garden.
Belle Starr, Woman Bandit
May 9, 1919
The Kansas City Star
Transcribed by K. Torp
Belle Starr, the "outlaw queen" was the daughter of Judge John Shirley, who kept a hotel at Carthage, Mo., where she was born February 5, 1848. Her maiden name was Myra Belle Shirley, which fell short of her general reputation as a coyote does of being a cougar. In 1869 she was married to James Reed, whose father was a farmer near Rich Hill and the two moved to Texas. In Texas, Reed took a crooked trail and was finally charged with murder. He was assassinated. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Reed went with her two children to the home of Tom Starr, on the South Canadian River, in what is now Haskell County, Oklahoma. This was about 1879. She later married Tom Starr's son, Sam Starr, with whom she served a year in prison for horse stealing. They lived at what is now known as Younger's Bend, about seven miles southwest of Porum, Ok. At Younger's Bend they gave refuge to every bandit who sought it.
Edward Reed, Belle's son, was killed while trying to shoot up a saloon at Wagoner in 1896. It is said that Belle's father was really Cole Younger, but this is vehemently denied by the Younger kinsmen. She is said to have been a woman of more than ordinary education and of great natural wit and shrewdness. Her blackest crimes were stealing horses and taking money and contraband goods from the thieves she harbored at Younger's Bend. One of her old friends, who inquired as to her death, accepted the statement that she was killed from ambush by Edgar A. Watson February 3, 1889. More than sixty shots were fired into her body. Belle Starr had much sympathy for persons in want. She would sit hour after hour singing old-fashioned religious songs and telling stories to children.
Belle Starr Takes Her Place in History
Dallas Morning News
July 28, 1929
By Fred E. Sutton
Transcribed by K. Torp
A Statue of the Queen of Bandits Soon to Be Erected in Oklahoma Recalls Her Mad, Romantic Career
Some Little Quirks in the Character of This Wayward Lady Who, Although She Liked to Sing "Jesus, Lover
of My Soul" to Little Children, Nevertheless Shot Like a Man, Rode Her Prancing Mare Down the Streets of Dallas
and, Generally Surrounded Herself With an Atmosphere of Glitter and Fame, Told by a Man Who Once Knew Her.
Belle Starr, queen of the bandits, lawless heroine of the old bloodstained frontier, is at last to take her place among, the historic characters of Oklahoma. Labeled "The Outlaw Queen," a statue of Belle, with other heroic figures, "The Indian Chief," "The Cowboy" and "The Indian Squaw," has been executed by the noted sculptor, Jo Mora of California, and soon will be placed in Marland Park at Ponca City, Ok. Mr. Mora was commissioned to make these four statues by E. W. Marland, whose home is in Ponca City.
The late George Miller of 101 Ranch posed for the cowboy statue a short time before his death. The figure of the outlaw queen has been made from photographs of Belle Starr and from information gathered from the few old-timers now living who knew this strange woman, her home, her habits and her erratic and romantic life. The writer had the privilege of contributing to this jumble of information from which Mr. Mora has made a good likeness of the noted woman. The statues are now being cast in bronze and are soon to be shipped to Ponca City, where they will be viewed by posterity for ages to come.
Of all the characters of bad repute that infested the Southwest in the early days, Belle Starr came nearest to surrounding herself with the atmosphere of romance from which arc drawn the heroes of the old and bloodstained border. With an education far in advance of her surroundings and with a natural sagacity that enabled her quickly to separate the spectacular from the commonplace and use same to her advantage, she acquired a reputation for banditry that is still vivid after the lapse of nearly half a century, however threadbare were the facts on which this reputation was founded. She had the love of admiration common to women, and being a woman undoubtedly gave prestige to her career. A sentimentalism common to the South prior to the Civil War, joined to more than ordinary vanity, led Belle Starr to affect and imitate the ways of cheap melodrama.
I know of no absolute proof that she ever killed anyone in a personal encounter or held up a train or stained her hands with human blood. Yet in some localities in Missouri, Arkansas, Texas and the Indian Territory, her name was connected with many of the major crimes of that day. Even at this date, the few old-timers who saw her on parade, seeking the spotlight, "shake" their heads or give a wink to anyone asking about her.
I knew her well and stayed in my studio until the storm blew over. While it was at its height, I sneaked up to the window and snapped a picture of her. This is the one I lost, and the only other one I know of was made for Dr. W. F. Carver, who was greatly smitten with the outlaw queen."
This picture was made in 1858
"While not pretty," says the writer, who saw her in Muskogee. , "Belle was a fine-looking woman. Her movements were lithe and graceful and it was easy for her to vault from the ground to her horse when equipped with a man's saddle.
Snapped While Quarreling
In an old town in the Indian Territory, an old photographer who lived for a long time in Fort Smith was asked if he had a photograph of Belle Starr. He smiled and said he made one once and lost it. Then he told this story: "One day I heard a big racket in the street, and upon looking out, I saw Belle on her favorite saddle mare, Venus, with a forty-five in her belt and a rifle across her lap, cussing out a bunch of policemen, and daring them to try and arrest her.
Sheriffs Didn't Fear Her.
This estimate of the prowess of Belle Starr is characteristic of those who saw only the tinsel that she wore when seeking notoriety. There are still old officers who laughed at her and looked her in the eye when she began her bluffing and took her six-shooters from her, and told her that the fact that she was a woman often saved her a good beating and a trip to the lock-up. This, or course, always took place when she was off her range and alone. These persons knew her to be merely a harborer of outlaws at her home on the South Canadian River, and that she received a share of the booty for hiding them.. They knew her to be a steady friend always faithful to "her man." They even had a sort of sympathy for her, for she was human to the heart, and in the scarcely settled region where she lived, no one was more generous to the sick and unfortunate. She never refused food or shelter to anyone who asked it, and when the women of the neighborhood were sick and unable to care for their folks, Belle always dropped everything and took care of them until they died or got well.
Sang to the Children.
Belle loved children and was fond of telling them stories. Many boys and girls living at Porum or In Younger's Bend, now grown to middle age, remember her as playing the guitar and singing such songs as "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," or "There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood." Like most women, she often sought relief from care and worry in a flood of tears. One time a deputy and posse went to her house looking for stolen property and found her absent. In hunting they found a peddler's pack in which were a number of pairs of spectacles, and Bill Vann, one of the deputies, put three or four pairs on his nose. As Belle came in he looked at her through the glasses and asked. "Are you Mistress Belle Starr?" while his comrades looked on and laughed loudly at the joke." Belle looked at her home all topsy-turvy and her eyes flashed with rage as she dropped her hand to her gun only to be told she was covered by a deputy behind her and that a move meant death. She seemed unable for the moment to speak, and covering her face with her hands, she burst into tears.
A Lady, Except When Angry.
"The Outlaw Queen" was a fine-looking woman, though not pretty. She was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 145 pounds. Her movements were quick, lithe and graceful, and it was easy for her to vault from the ground to her horse when equipped with a man's saddle. She danced well and was especially fond of all the old-time square dances of the cowboys. Her voice was soft and pleasant and her manners polite when she was in a good humor. She was neither vulgar nor profane, except when angry. Her deep tan and long midnight hair often caused her to be taken for an Indian. Her hands were too large to be pretty, but her feet were her pride, very small and neat, and she wore only the very best of covering for them.
Owns Her Gun.
I saw her once in Muskogee, dressed in a man's suit of fringed buckskin, a large cowboy hat and a pair of hand-painted kid boots worth $100. In her belt was a large six-shooter that at her death fell into the hands of Jackson Ellis, a Deputy United States Marshal under Leo Bennette at Muskogee. In the holster on her saddle hung the Winchester carbine, a forty-four that she always carried, and which had her name in brass on one side of the stock and on the other side a brass star. This gun I now own, as it was given to me by James Bowles (a posseman under United States Marshal Tiner Hughes), who was one of the first on the scene when Belle was killed.
The Belle Starr Saddle.
She usually rode a side saddle, and it was of such excellent workmanship that it was known throughout Indian Territory and Texas as the Belle Starr saddle. This saddle is now owned in Kansas City, Mo., by a half-breed Indian woman, who at one time was a member of Belle's guns of long riders. She has frequently shown it at county fairs, but of late years she is too old to do so, although she is very bright and loves to talk of Belle and Pearl Starr.
Good Girl With Bad Start.
Belle Starr was unexcelled as a rider, and upon one occasion was a competitor for a prize as a fair and cowmen's convention held at Muskogee. She won the prize by her horsemanship, but it was not awarded to her, on account of her reputation. She was born of good parentage, but got a bad start in life. Her father was Judge John Shirley, who kept a good hotel in Carthage, Mo., where Myra Belle Shirley was born Feb. 5. 1848. During the war Judge Shirley sympathized with the South, and when Quantrell began scouting in Southwest Missouri he soon found a haven in the Shirley home, and he was joined by Belle's twin brother, who was later known as Captain Shirley and who was killed during the war. Belle then became a spy for Quantrell and made many daring raids in his service. It was during these raids that she met and made lifelong friends of Frank and Jesse James and Cole Younger. After the war they moved to Texas, and in 1868(?) Belle married Jim Reed, the son of a fine farmer at Rich Hill, Mo. Bill Anderson, the noted guerilla, was best man at the wedding.
Refuge With Tom Starr.
Her marriage to Reed undoubtedly shaped the course of her life. He had the inclinations of a "bad man," and it was not long until he was a fugitive from justice, charged with murder. He found his way to the home of "Uncle Tom" Starr, on the South Canadian River, in what is now Haskell County, Oklahoma, and here, he was protected. Starr was a Cherokee Indian, and one of the most desperate men who ever infested the Indian Territory. In his day he killed enough men to fill a small graveyard. He took life without compunction if he felt his cause was just, and in those days men would quarrel over a plug of tobacco and settle the dispute with a forty-five.
Belle came occasionally on horseback to visit Reed. In 1869 she gave birth to a girl baby whom she named Pearl, and in 1871 to a boy, Ed Reed, who was killed in 189? while shooting up a saloon in Claremore, Ok. For the sake of a reward. Jim Reed was killed by his partner, John Morris, at a farmhouse near McKinney, Texas, in 1871.
Cutting a Wide Swath In Dallas.
Her life with Reed had led Belle into devious paths. She became a woman of the world, frequenting race tracks with her horses and came into conflict with the law on various occasions. After Reed's death she came to Texas, raced her thoroughbred horses in Dallas, rode them dashingly, and received her friends at her home near Scyene. At times she attired herself in men's clothes and posed as a man.
One on Willie.
It is told that one night in a little Texas town two strangers occupied the same bed. One of them, a young man from the East, asked many questions about Belle Starr, and said it seemed she had all the United States Marshals "scared of her," and they would not try to arrest her, but he (showing a tin star usually seen on corresponding school detectives) was here for the purpose of earning a reward and fame by taking her to the Federal Jail a prisoner. To gain this end, the detective rose early the next morning, and "while he was eating breakfast his partner of the night also rose. As the officer with his horse and new saddle at the door prepared to mount after carefully adjusting a nice, new and shiny .32 pistol in a nice, new belt and holster, reached out a hand to say good-bye, he was caught by the coat collar and given about a dozen kicks where they would do the most good, after which his pretty pistol was taken from him and thrown into the brush, and he was addressed by his companion of the night as follows:
"Willie, you had better run home to mamma now, and when you get there tell her you talked too much around Belle Starr, And don't come back here any more, for some of my boys might get hold of you and treat you rough."
Back to Tom's.
With her children Belle left Texas about 1879 and went to old Tom Starr's, and from, then on Indian Territory was her home.
Starr had several sons, one of whom, Sam, was marked for a stormy career. The Starr family was one of the largest in the Nation of the Cherokees, and among them are many fine citizens of Oklahoma. Uncle Tom, however, always had a regular rip-saw edge. When Belle appeared on the South Canadian, one of Starr's kinsmen rode 100 miles to make this suggestion:
"Uncle Tom, It's this way. If you let that woman stay around here she will ruin your boys. I've been thinking the matter over, and I think you ought to kill her; yes, sir, kill her, and save your sons lots of trouble."
A New Husband.
Sam Starr was a handsome man with pearl white teeth, black hair and eyes, and the form of an athlete. Belle was soon deeply in love with him. Even now it is said around the old home that she persuaded Sam to run off with her. They were married by Judge Abe Woodall. They lived for a time in a little cabin two miles south of the little town of Porum. Then they went to what became the most notorious lair of outlaws, ever known in the Southwest, down on the lonely South Canadian, deep in the dense wilderness, walled in by rugged and inaccessible hills. A place of twilight canyons and gloomy forests, this region was very sparsely settled.
The house was built of cedar logs half a hundred years ago by a man named Dempsy Hannell and was long occupied by an old Cherokee, Chief Big Head, who died without telling where he had buried $14,000 in gold that he was known to have had. Bella and Sam spent much time in trying to find the fortune, but to no avail.
A Refuge In The Wilderness.
The home was near the old Briartown-Eufa?? trail and stood on a little hill facing south. The one room was some fifteen feet square with a large stone fireplace on the west side. The roof was scarcely eight feet from the floor of dirt. On the north was a lean-to with two rooms under which was a cellar. Two lookout holes let in a little light and sunshine. Across the entire front was a wide porch which was only a few steps from the dense timber. To the west a short way lay the always dangerous South Canadian with its yellow water writhing and swirling among its quicksands. To the immediate east, coming from the north to the river was a great dark and deep canyon. It was three miles in length and so high and deep that one could not carry a wagon over it. In time a grape vine corral was built to hold the stolen stock. Water was carried from a spring two hundred yards away at the foot of the hill near the creek now known as Belle Starr Creek.
All Tracks Led to Belle's
On the other side of the Canadian, great precipices towered to the sky, and there in perfect safety, the outlaws that were Belle Starr's friends lodged by day and kept watch over all the surrounding country. A record of the names of the men who found their way to this place during the ten years that the Starrs lived there, would be without parallel in the annals of crime in this noted territory.
At this time if an armed stranger appeared anywhere in the Indian Territory, sooner or later the tracks of their horses led to the Starr stronghold.
Belle Starr gave the name of Younger's Bend to the big elbow of the river, but she denied that the Youngers were ever there. Her daughter, Pearl Starr, went by the name of Younger.
Belle and Sam were moving about the country much of the time, but never left the territory. They stole horses right and left, and occasionally Sam took part in an important robbery. The robbery of Walt Grayson, an old, Choctaw, of $33,000 in gold, in which Sam participated, was before Belle and Sam made their home in Younger's Bend.
TheDance at Surratt's
A year after they were married, they stole a gray mare from Sam Campbell, and a bay horse from Andrew Crane, for which they were sent to the Federal house of correction at Detroit, Mich, for a year, by Judge Parker at Fort Smith. They were prosecuted by W. H. H. Clayton.. Imprisonment did not reform them, and Sam was soon scouting again, and was shortly ambuscaded by the United Stales Marshals who shot his horse from under him and slightly Sam who escaped capture This fight, however, cost him his life. Among the officers was Frank West. Starr always blamed him for killing his horse. One winter night there was a dance at home of Lucy Surratt on the south side of the Canadian River, near the old postoffice of Oklahoma, now called Whitefield. The boys and girls warmed themselves by a big log fire in the yard. Frank West was there, and during the night Sam and Belle arrived on their way home from Fort Smith. Sam was drinking and West was ordered to keep an eye on him. West was sitting alone when Sam and Belle came from the house, Belle in front. Sam came up and accused West of killing his horse and wounding him, but West denied it. Belle moved quickly to one side and slipped behind Sam. The latter drew his gun and fired. West managed to pull his gun from his overcoat pocket and returned the fire. Both men died in a few seconds and within reach of each other.
Again a Bride.
Bella was soon searching for another man, and this time her affections were bestowed upon a full-blood Cherokee, Bill July whose name Belle changed to Jim Starr. July was a common thief and coward and would rather run than fight.
One day a man giving his name as Edgar A. Watson, moved into their part of the country and rented a farm some six miles west of the Starr home. Mrs. Watson was a refined woman and her husband appeared to be a good man, but it was soon learned that he was charged with murder in Florida, and was here to hide from the law. It was natural that Watson should fall in with Belle Starr, and it was her practice to learn the secrets of those who might help or harm her, and use the knowledge according to her needs. She gained Watson's confidence and learned his history. There are several stories as to what started the trouble between them. One is that they quarreled over land: another is that Watson and July were stealing together, and that Watson did not divide fairly and this caused Belle to threaten to betray Watson to the officers.
Paid Account In Full.
On his way to Fort Smith to appear in court for horse stealing, July and Belle stopped at what was known as the King Creek store and gin, on Feb. 2, 1889, where they paid in full their account of $75. The store was on the south side of the river not far from where they lived. Belle said she was going part way with July and would stay all night at the home of Mrs. Nail on San Bois Creek, twenty miles east of Whitefield, and would return the next day, which would be Sunday.
She got back to the store about 11 o'clock, fed her horse and ate dinner with the proprietor, who lived with the men who rented his farm. Belle seemed sad and worried about something and while at dinner said she feared she would be killed by some enemy.
"Pshaw, Belle! Thunder and lightning couldn't kill you," said the merchant.
Taking a silk handkerchief from her pocket, she cut it in two with a pair of shears, and gave half of it to the renter's wife as a keepsake. She laid aside a coat with $50 in it and asked that it be kept until she called for it, if she ever came back. She left the store at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, riding her favorite mare, Venus. At the home of a man named Barnes, shs stopped to get some sour dough which Mrs. Barnes was noted for making. When she rode in, Watson was standing in the yard with his shotgun in his hand. He left at once, going in the direction Belle was traveling. Belle stayed a while, talking to the Barnes family and left at 3 o'clock. That was the last time any one ever told of seeing this noted woman alive.
Murdered in Cold Blood.
Frog Hoyt had just ridden off the Canadian ferry at 4 o'clock, when he heard a horse running, and looking up he saw Belle Starr's mare riderless, leap into the river and swim across where she was caught by Deputy United States Marshal James Bowles. Hoyt rode rapidly in the direction from which the mare had come and soon came to the lifeless body of the Outlaw Queen. She was lying on her side with blood covering her face. She had been shot from behind with a double barreled shotgun and she was filled with shot from her hips to the crown of her head. More than sixty shot had entered her body. At the point where the fell the road curved and there was a large tree behind which had stood her murderer as was shown by his tracks.
Marshal Bowles took from the saddle a Winchester carbine and then turned the mare loose. Her running home frightened Belle's daughter, Pearl, who leaped into the saddle and ran down the road until she came to where her mother lay staring vacantly at the sky.
Men who lived there then and some who still live there have no doubt that Watson was her murderer as the tracks led from his farm to the tree. The day after the funeral, July had Watson arrested and taken to Fort Smith. Watson's neighbors had confidence in him, and through their influence Judge Parker turned him loose. The truth is that many people thought that if Watson had done the killing, he had done a good thing for the country and should not be punished ofr it. He would later be sent to the penitentiary for another crime, and in trying to escape he was killed by a guard.
While under indictment for horse stealing, July fled from his bondsmen and was overtaken in the Choctaw Nation, and in a gun battle he was killed by Marshal Bud Trainer.
Burial of a "Queen."
The women of the neighborhood prepared Belle's body for burial. A rude coffin was made of rough boards and her grave dug close to the door of her old cedar house. There was no preacher, and without a prayer the clods were heaped above all that remained of that colorful and wayward woman. Belle Starr, the scourge of the Indian Territory.
In the year 1931, the writer rode through the hills to Younger's Bend. Early summer was on and the Cherokee country looked beautiful in the sunshine. There were grazing herds of fat cattle. Birds were singing the joy of life. The roads grew rough and the hills grew steeper until the wilderness swallowed all. The country became somber and forbidding. One felt as if he were looked at by eyes unseen, peering out from hidden places. An uncanny stillness seemed to grip the traveler. Leading into a canyon through which flowed a lazy stream was a dim trail, long abandoned, washed with rains and overgrown with weeds.
A Rose at Her Grave.
"That," said the driver, "is the old Belle Starr Trail. I used to think her ghost could be seen riding along here at night. We are getting close to her old home."
UJp from Belle Starr Creek our horses clambered to a level plot where stood two Cherokee women doing their washing over a camp fire. "Nearby, inclosed by a brush fence was a spring, the Belle Starr spring, welling up from the roots of a tree that had been killed by lightning. The road wound up around a rocky hill, and the old house of cedar logs came into view; The gate hung between two fine old trees that were set out by Belle Starr when she came there with her children and Sam Starr. A step more and we came to a little house built of rough stone. It was the grave of the Queen of Younger's Bend. At one corner of the grave grew a blood red rose. Far overhead a buzzard floated lazily. From a blasted tree near the treacherous Canadian flew a screaming hawk. In this solitude, the writer remembered how Belle Starr from the porch of her log house jibed and laughed at a posse of Marshals when she found them skulking in the timber, spying on her home at daybreak.
She Was Right, Too.
"How many of you devils are there?" she asked of one officer whom she knew.
"Just two of us," came the reply from the brush.
"You're a liar," she screamed, "For I know you two wouldn't dare come here by yourselves."
The grave looks to the west. The headstone, firmly set in mortar, had been chipped by souvenir hunters until it was about ruined. It was made by Joseph Dailey, a stonecutter, shortly after Belle was killed. At the top is the image of her favorite mare, Venus, with a brand on her shoulder B-S: a star suspended above and in front of a belt At the bottom is a clasped hand filled with wild flowers.
[Picture from findagrave.com]
On the stone is this Inscription:
Born at Carthage, Missouri
Feb. 5, 1848.
Died Feb. 3, 1889.
Shed Not for me the bitter tear,
Nor give the heart to vain regret;
Tis but the casket that lies here,
The gem that filled it sparkles yet.
The writer has the Winchester carbine that was taken off Belle Starr's horse (when she was killed) by Marshals Jim Bowles and Tiner Hughes. On one side of the stock is Belle Starr's name, and on the other side a brass star. Instead of being notched as is some-times the case, there are seven brass tacks driven into the front end of the stock. What do they mean? Who knows? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps . . .
Belle Starr was buried at Younger's Bend near the Lake Eufaula Dam on a wooded hill on her ranch. The grave is on the land of Mrs. Ada Hamilton and is open to the public for a small charge.
Younger's Bend was the center of much of Belle Starr's adult life. She and Sam Starr settled on about 1000 acres (or less) in a bend of the Canadian River near Briartown on the McIntosh-Muskogee County border, which is a beautiful, rugged, hilly country covered with trees and shrubs, and tall grass, and now overlooks the Lake Eufaula Dam Belle often shopped in Whitefield, crossing the Canadian River on the Tom Starr or the Frank West Ferry. The road to Fort Smith went east from Whitefield. There was also a ferry across the North Canadian from Belle's property operated by Abner Brassfield.
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