Outlawic Heroes


Belle Starr

Belle Starr was one of the wildest women of the West – an outlaw who would do anything for a profit. The flamboyant “Bandit Queen” was born Myra Belle Shirley in Missouri in February 8, 1848. While a child, her family moved to Texas. Myra was barely in her teens when she began associating with the seedier elements in her neighborhood. She had soon made acquaintances with a couple of hoods by the name of Frank and Jesse James.

Over the next few years she entered into a relationship with a member of their gang, Cole Younger and had a child with him. She was now an established member of the outlaw community. Moving on from Younger she married a horse thief by the name of Jim Reed and had a son with him. It wasn’t long before the outlaw life caught up with Reed and he was killed in a gunfight. Belle then moved to the Indian Territory where she entered into her second marriage, this time with a Cherokee Indian rogue by the name of Sam Starr. The Bandit couple formed a gang around themselves and, from their hide-away on the Canadian River, entered upon a life of rustling, horse stealing and bootlegging whiskey to Indians. The brains behind these operations, carefully planning each move, was the woman who was now known as Belle Starr.

Sam and Belle found the bandit life very lucrative. She would use her money liberally to bribe the freedom of any gang members who were captured. Failing this, she would tempt the lawmen with her womanly charms, almost always achieving her ends – the release of compatriots.

The nearest settlement to the Starr gang’s operation was Fort Smith. The local Magistrate was famous Judge Isaac Parker – the hanging Judge. Parker became determined to put Belle Starr behind bars. Several times his Deputies had brought Belle in to face various charges like rustling or bootlegging. Yet, each time she was set free due to lack of evidence. In the fall of 1882, however, Parker got lucky when Belle was caught red handed as she attempted to steal a neighbor’s horse. He finally had something that would stick. After a trial, he sentenced Belle to two six month prison terms. After nine months she was let off for good behavior.

Belle’s time behind bars, however, did nothing to change her in her chosen life course. Upon release she went straight back to her life of rustling and bootlegging. In 1886 she again became a widow when Sam was fatally shot at a party. Not one to waste time mourning, Belle soon got into a relationship with a younger desperado who went under the unlikely alias of Blue Duck. Blue Duck got himself into deep water when he murdered a local farmer. The evidence was overwhelming and he was soon standing in the dock before the hanging judge. Parker sentenced him to hang. Belle however wasn’t prepared to see her lover hang. She hired the very best lawyers in the District. They ended up appealing the case all the way to the White House. President Grover Cleveland commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment.

In 1889 Belle entered into her third marriage, this time with a much younger bandit by the name of Jim July. This marriage, however, would be the death of her. The relationship was particularly stormy.

After one fierce quarrel, July was reported to have offered an accomplice $200 to kill his wife. When the offer was rejected, July screamed, “ Hell – I’ll kill the old hag myself and spend the money for whiskey!” A few days later Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen, was shot to death from an ambush on a lonely country road. She was 41 years of age.

Source:  Mirano, Grace. “9 Most Outrageous Outlaw Heroes.” oddee.com. https://www.oddee.com/item_96687.aspx


Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly

Ned was born in June 1855 to an Irish Catholic family whose resented the British collonialism. His short story is one that saw Ned and three mates take on corrupt police, greedy land barons and an ignorant government in a quest to change their world for the better. Wrongly accused, they survived a deadly shoot out with police in 1878 that saw Ned, his brother Dan, and their mates Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, outlawed with the largest reward ever offered in the British Empire – dead or alive.

Over the next eighteen months, the Kelly Gang held up two country towns and robbed their banks without firing a single shot, wrote numerous essays explaining their actions, and became folk heroes to the masses. Their grand plan to derail a special police train and declare a Republic of North East Victoria came to a fiery end in Glenrowan when they donned their famous but cumbersome armour against an overwhelming police force. By November 11, 1880 the era of the Kelly Gang drew to a close when Ned, after a brief trial, was hanged. Yet the legacy of his life and the chord he struck within a young Australia, unwilling to bend to injustice, saw Ned Kelly become Australia’s most enduring legend.

Far more than a folk hero, Ned Kelly has become one with the Australian spirit. Listed in the top one hundred of the world’s most influential Irish and arguably Australia’s best-known historical figure, our Ned truly deserves his place in the pages of history. As the subject for the world’s first feature film made in Australia in 1906, The Story of the Kelly Gang has been added to a United Nations heritage register, joining a list of fewer than two hundred items on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, including the family archives of Swedish philanthropist Alfred Nobel and the official trial records of Nelson Mandela.

Source:  Iron Outlaw.com. https://www.ironoutlaw.com/history/