From Outlaw Groupie to Outlaw
Belle Starr graduated from criminal groupie to bloody outlaw in her own right. In 1869 she, her husband, and two other outlaws kidnapped and tortured an elderly Creek Indian and forced him to tell where he had hidden about $30,000 in gold. With their share of the loot, Belle and her husband then returned to Texas. There, she reveled in the role of dangerous bandit queen. Her hubby walked the straight and narrow for a while and tried to farm, but soon grew restless and returned to his outlaw ways. The couple resumed their ties with the James-Younger Gang, and fell in with the Starr clan, a Cherokee Indian family infamous as whiskey bootleggers and cattle and horse thieves in the Indian Territory, today’s Oklahoma.
Belle’s husband was killed in 1874 in a gunfight. She remarried, this time to a Cherokee criminal named Sam Starr, and settled with him in the Indian Territory. The couple lived in a ranch north of the Canadian River that she named Younger’s Bend, in honor of her childhood friend, the outlaw Cole Younger. In the Indian Territory, Belle came into her own as a bandit. She sold illegal whiskey to Indians, organized cattle and horse stealing raids, fenced stolen goods, and sheltered fugitives on the lam. Those harbored under her roof included Jesse James. She bribed officials to look the other way, and to free her associates when they were caught. Unfortunately for her, that corruption caught the attention of the straitlaced “Hanging Judge” Isaac Parker in nearby Fort Smith.