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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Myra Maybelle Starr
(4631, Frederick S. Barde Collection, OHS).


Belle Starr, "the Bandit Queen," was born Myra Maybelle Shirley, in Jasper County, Missouri, on February 5, 1848. Her parents were "Judge" John and Elizabeth Hatfield Shirley, her mother being related to the Hatfields of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys. Of five siblings, John A. M. "Bud" and Edwin were outlaws killed by lawmen. Belle continually associated with notorious outlaws and gang members, even while attending the Carthage Female Academy, Carthage, Missouri. On November 1, 1866, she married James C. Reed, a former member of Quantrill's Raiders. From this union two children were born: Rosie Lee "Pearl" (who was known as Pearl Younger) in 1868 and James Edwin in 1871. Because she disapproved of his involvement in several robberies, Belle soon left Reed. In 1874 he was killed while resisting arrest.

After a brief relationship with Bruce Younger, Belle Reed married Sam Starr on June 5, 1880. The Starrs settled on communal tribal land in the Cherokee Nation, at a place called Youngers' Bend, near present Eufaula, Oklahoma. During the early 1880s their cabin provided a hideout for outlaws. In 1886 Belle again became a widow after Sam was killed during a dispute. The legendary Belle Starr's only documented crime was the theft of a horse in 1882. On February 3, 1889, she was shot in the back by an unknown assailant and was buried at Youngers' Bend.

Adriana G. Schroeder

Learn More

"Belle Starr," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Carl W. Breihan and Charles A. Rosamond, The Bandit Belle (Seattle, Wash.: Hangman Press, 1970).

Glenda Riley, "Belle Starr: 'Queen of the Bandits,'" in With Badges and Bullets: Lawmen and Outlaws in the Old West, ed. by Richard W. Etulain and Glenda Riley (Golden, Colo.: Fulcrum Publishing, 1999).

Glenn Shirley, Belle Starr and Her Times: The Literature, the Facts, and the Legends (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Adriana G. Schroeder, “Starr, Myra Maybelle Shirley,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ST018.

Published January 15, 2010

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