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Wayback Wednesday: Death of Oklahoma's Bandit Queen

If it's not obvious from the photo above, Belle Starr wasn't someone you wanted to mess with if you happened to be walking around in 1880's Oklahoma Territory.

A crack shot and an assertive woman with a penchant for organization and getting things done was as pretty good combo back in those days. Starr may not have racked up a body count like Jesse James, but she was an able criminal who knew her way around a pistol.

Starr was mostly a cattle rustler who also sheltered other cattle thieves. Her habit of ridding side saddle with elaborate hats and black velvet dresses with a gun strapped to her hip no doubt boosted her legend.

Starr met her end on February 3, 1889 at King Creek, about 20 miles southwest of McAlester, shot in the back and the head on her way home from a dance. Her killer was never found. Suspects included a man who she refused to dance with, or even her own son upset at the way she had  treated him when Starr caught him beating one of the family's horses.

 Starr died at 40 and had been married three times. She was survived by her daughter Pearl, and son, Eddie Reed. Pearl grew up to be a bordello owner and businesswoman in Arkansas before her death in 1925. Eddie was a horse thief who went to prison and who later became a deputy sheriff. He killed two outlaws in 1895 but was later shot to death himself at a saloon in Claremore.

In either case, the apple didn't fall very far from the tree.

Today, Starr is honored with a statue at Wooloroc in northeast Oklahoma. She's also been portrayed in numerous books and films over the last century.

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›