Myra Maybelle Belle Shirley, AKA Belle Starr was reinvented by the media, as were many others. She was from an affluent Southern family, raised in Missouri around the James, Youngers and other outlaws.
She never rode at the head of a gang and never robbed a stagecoach, bank or train. She was from a genteel Southern family, raised properly, educated in a female academy, and uprooted by the Civil War. Her brother was killed by Yankees and she wanted to avenge that.
She married Jim Reed, a bad outlaw. He was killed by lawmen in Texas. Then in 1880 she married another desperado, a Cherokee named Sam Starr and moved to Oklahoma, Indian Territory. Two years later she was arrested for stealing horses and sentenced to 9 months by Isaac Parker. She served 6 mos.
Starr was killed by lawmen and she was a widow again. When dressed up she wore shiny boots, velvet gown and rode a black mare named Venus. She took up with another Cherokee, Jim July, who was 15 years younger, (being married to an Indian she could stay in the Indian Territory) She and July rode to Fort Smith for him to answer charges. On February 2, 1888, she was shot from ambush and killed. Her nearest neighbor, a fugitive named Edgar Watson, was accused of the killing because he feared she would turn him in. Supposedly he shot her with a shotgun then put another load in her face. He was accused but the charges were dismissed.
Possibly her son, Ed Reed shot her. He was angry because she whipped him for riding her favorite horse without permission.
Some said she’d been trying to disassociate herself from the outlaws. Her son Eddie became a horse thief and daughter Pearl became a prostitute. Apples don’t fall far from their trees.In reality,
Myra Bell Shirley, Reed, Starr, July was a small-time outlaw until her obituary appeared in the National Police Gazette. And then the legend began. What’s in a Name? The legend makers had several choices when it came to giving her a suitable name for a legend. “Starr” was an ideal choice. She became a female version of the outlaw formula dime novels—and was dubbed, The Bandit Queen. The hatchet-faced harridan was no beauty. She was so ugly that when she was making love her lover had to shut his eyes and pretend she was Gene Tierney.