When Belle Starr was shot to death in 1889, a newspaper declared her to be "a most desperate woman." Her killer was never identified. Many suspected her son, whom Belle had recently beaten for mistreating her horse. Her unsolved murder was a fitting end to a life that was a whirlwind of violence, crime, and legend. She was born Myra Maybelle Shirley in 1848 and at the age of sixteen moved to the North Texas town of Scyene. She kept company with notorious criminals, including Jesse James. She married three times to three different outlaws and even spent time in prison for stealing horses. Stories circulated depicting Belle as an elegantly dressed woman riding atop a black mare, in a feathered black sombrero, toting a Colt .45 pistol that she called "my baby." Instead of being remembered as a desperate criminal, she became a romantic symbol of the disappearing American West, known as "Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen." More»

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Belle Starr standing with pistols, ca. 1886. Courtesy of Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.