Inside was a piano that was played by the famous female outlaw, Belle Starr, whenever she was a guest. She was a gifted pianist who learned to play the piano while she was a young girl attending the Carthage Academy for young ladies, in Carthage, MO. There she learned arithmetic and algebra and excelled in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
While smart and talented, Belle was not a pretty girl. Known as “The Lady Desperado,” “The Bandit Queen,” and the Petticoat Terror of the Plains,” Belle was considered a trollop and attracted to some of the worst “bad boys of her time.”
Myra Belle Shirley was born February 5, 1848, to a well-off family in Washington County, AK. After Myra’s brother was killed in the Civil War, the family moved to Scyene, TX. There Myra met the ex-Quantrill guerilla, Coleman Younger.
When Myra was twenty she became reacquainted with an old childhood sweetheart from Carthage, James Reed, who ran with the infamous Tom Starr. After a pregnancy and a quick marriage, Myra raised their daughter while Reed rode with Tom Starr. During this time Reed killed a man named Shannon, which forced him to take his family to CA. Reed provided for his family by committing highway robberies and Myra gave birth to a son in 1871.
To avoid arrest for stage robbery the family moved back to Scyene where they opened a livery. Myra tended the business, leaving James to steal horses in Indian Territory. In 1874, James was killed by Deputy Sheriff J.T. Morris near Paris, TX.
Myra sold the livery, left her children with relatives and headed to Dallas, where she worked as a Faro dealer and became acquainted with Jesse James. In 1877, Myra moved north to Galena, KS and became the common law wife of a gambler named Bruce Younger, who was a cousin of Cole.
At one time there was a reward posted, of ten thousand dollars in gold for Sam and Belle Starr, dead or alive. They were arrested by Deputy United States Marshals and brought before the “Hanging Judge,” Isaac Parker. They received light sentences and were back at their ranch in the fall of 1883.
Once home Belle became involved with a twenty-three year old outlaw who frequented the ranch, a man named Blue Duck. After Blue Duck ended up in the state penitentiary in 1886, Belle began a new relationship with John Middleton, who was wanted for the murder of Sheriff J.H. Black. Before she and Middleton could leave the ranch, Middleton was found dead a few miles south, from a shot gun blast to his face.
Then in December 1886, Sam Starr was shot in a dance hall brawl. In 1888, Belle took up with one of Tom Starr’s nephew’s, Jim July. In 1889 Belle convinced July to turn himself in. She accompanied him as far as San Bois. July continued alone to Fort Smith and Belle headed back to Younger Bend.
A shot gun blast threw Belle from her horse and left her dying by the side of the road. The name of her killer is unknown and she was buried in the yard of Younger Bend.
The piano is now in the home of a direct descendent of Ed Sittle, the owner of Elk House where Belle once played it so beautifully.