Belle Starr was a famous gunslinger in the Wild West who gained national notoriety after her violent death in 1889. She was born Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed in Carthage, Missouri, on February 5, 1848. Her father was a wealthy farmer, and her mother was a Cherokee woman.
She grew up in Carthage, Missouri, during the Civil War. She would have witnessed brutal guerilla warfare during this time that played an influence in her life.
Belle married her first husband, Jim Reed, in 1866. They had two children together, Pearl and Ed. Reed was a Confederate soldier and outlaw, and he was killed in a gunfight in 1874.
After Reed's death, Belle became involved with the James–Younger Gang. She was known for her beauty, her sharpshooting skills, and her ability to ride a horse. She was also known for her association with other outlaws, such as Cole Younger and Jesse James.
In 1880, Belle married Sam Starr, a Cherokee.
They settled in the Indian Territory, where she became involved in rustling, horse theft, and bootlegging. She was also known for her intelligence and her ability to plan and organize criminal activities.
Belle Starr was killed in 1889 by two shotgun blasts to the back. Her murder remains unsolved, but there are many theories about who may have killed her. Some believe that she was killed by a rival outlaw, while others believe that she was killed by the law.
Belle Starr's life and death have been the subject of many books, movies, and television shows. She is often portrayed as a glamorous outlaw, but she is also a complex and contradictory figure.
She was a mother, a wife, a businesswoman, and an outlaw. She was both loved and feared, and her legacy continues to fascinate people today.
As one would expect, Belle Starr came from a complicated family situation and grew up in an area known for terrible violence during the Civil War.
Her father married three times and had children with each of his wives. There is not much known about his two other wives, but it seems as though his children prior to his third marriage did well, with some living long lives.
Belle's full siblings had rough lives. One of her brothers died in the Civil War, another was shot for stealing horses, and her youngest seemed to disappear.
Belle would marry a similar amount of times and have two children.
Those children would also lead hard lives that ended in terrible ways.
Family Tree Chart
John Shirley (1794 - 1876) - He was born in Virginia and would move west. He married three times and had many children. His third wife would be the mother of Belle Starr.
Elizabeth Pennington (1816 - 1894) - She was the third wife of John and the wife he would have the most children with.
Jim Reed (1845 - 1874) - He was an outlaw who rode with the James-Younger Gang. The couple had two children together. Belle would leave him after learning he was seeing another woman. He would eventually be killed like most outlaws were.
Bruce Younger (1853 - 1889) - He was married to Belle for three weeks. He was related to the men who rode in the James-Younger Gang but did not participate in their activities. He died at the age of 40 years old without any money.
Sam Starr (1859 - 1886) - He was the third husband to Belle Starr, and it would be during their marriage that she would become an infamous outlaw. He was shot and killed in 1886. The couple did not have any children.
Jim July (1861 - 1890) - He would be the final husband of Belle. The couple did not have any children, and after her death in 1889, he would die the following year.
Rose Lee Reed (1868 - 1925) - She lived a rough life and had many children. She used her mother's notoriety to run a brothel. She eventually died in Arizona.
James Edwin Reed (1871 - 1896) - He was the second child of Belle's first marriage. He lived a rough life until his mother's death. He then turned it around and became a lawman. He was shot in 1896, and the details of his death are somewhat uncertain.
Elizabeth Shirley (1820 - 1858) - She married and had at least four children. She died at the young age of 38 and did not participate in her half-sister's activities.
Mary Ann Shirley (1821 - 1912) - She lived into her 90s and stayed married to the same man until his death in 1861. It is not known if she had any children, but she did not participate in her sister's activities.
Preston Raymond Shirley (1826 - 1892) - He died in the Oklahoma Territory when he was 66 years of age. There is not much known about him.
Charlotte Amanda Shirley (1838 - 1894) - In 1860, Charlotte and her husband lived at North Fork Town, aka Micco, in the Creek Nation, Indian Territory. Coincidentally, this is about 10 miles west of the area known as Younger's Bend, where her sister, May (Shirley), aka Belle Starr, lived two decades later.
John Allison Shirley (1842 - 1863) - He was a bushwhacker during the Civil War. The Following comes from the Carthage Evening Press: Bud Shirley was killed in Sarcoxie during the war having slipped in to visit a family by the name of Stewart. He was accompanied by a man by the name of Morris. The word was given to federal soldiers in camp at Cave Springs, six miles east of Sarcoxie, that the notorious bushwhacker Bud Shirley was in Sarcoxie.
Edwin Benton Shirley (1850 - 1866) - Ed was constantly in trouble and was arrested and charged on many occasions for stealing horses. After moving to Texas with the rest of the family in 1864, Ed continued to be a horse thief. Texas records show that Ed was charged in horse theft cases there on May 3, 1866, and on October 24, 1866. He was shot and killed by a man named Palmer from Collin County in the Chamber Creek Bottom later that year. He was only sixteen years old at the time of his death.
Mansfield Shirley (1852 - 1867) - He was shot and killed in 1867 in a fight with law enforcement officers somewhere in the Indian Territory, and since the family moved from MO to Texas in about 1864, it's possible he died somewhere in Texas.
Cravens John Alva Shirley (1858 - unknown) - Cravens was referred to by the family as "Shug" and later as "Doc." Mystery surrounds this son. Although his name was originally Cravens, the family often referred to the boy as John Alva later on. Aunt Annie, Shirley's ex-slave, reported to the Dallas Times-Herald in her 1894 interview that this boy had not been seen for years and that Mrs. Shirley assumed he was dead.