Belle Starr (1848 - 1889) It's hard to say whether Belle Starr was more attracted by crime or by criminals. Her long string of husbands and lovers were all on the wrong side of the law, and Belle took to the life they led like a swan to water. Once she had reached her eminence as a western "bandit queen," the law was never able to stop her for long. It was probably one of her outlaw companions who finally gunned her down.
She was born Myra Belle Shirley at Carthage, Missouri and moved on to Texas while in her teens. Although she came from a fairly prosperous family - her father was a merchant as well as a farmer and Belle attended a private boarding school in Missouri - she was an eager companion for the bank-robber Cole Younger when he and Jesse James were hiding out in Texas in 1866. Although Younger was apparently the great love of her life - and probably the father of her daughter Pearl - Belle took up with another bank-robber, Jim Reed, when Cole left town. Her second child, Edward, was born when she and Reed were on the run in California; it was after they returned to Texas with a fortune extorted from an old Indian that she began to show off her outlaw grandeur. She combined a velvet dress with a gunbelt and a pair of six-shooters as she walked or rode her mare Venus around town.
After Reed was killed by one of his gang in 1874, Belle left her children with her mother and moved her operation into the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Although she went through a number of lovers in the next few years, whe was the clear leader of her gang of horse- and cattle-rustlers until she married Sam Starr. Sam must have been considered the major criminal when he was sentenced to one year in jail - and Belle to only six months - for horse-theft in 1883, but that may have only reflected the prejudices of the time. After their release, they went right back to work; after Sam's death in a drunken argument, Belle got herself another outlaw lover, Jim July. It was whiile riding home alone when July had turned himself in to face a larceny charge that Belle Starr was ambushed and shot to death.