Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Henry Starr

If a tendency toward violence and crime is inherited or even if one's social environment plays an important role, it is little wonder that Henry Starr, the so-called "King of the Bandits," grew up to become a notorious outlaw. Also sometimes called the "Cherokee Badman," Starr's mixed-race Cherokee family had a long history of violence dating back to the feud that developed between the John Ross faction (mostly purebreds) and the Major Ridge faction (mostly mixed-race Cherokees) over the question of removal of the Indians from their native homelands in the southeastern United States. Henry's great grandfather, James (whose mother was a full-blooded Cherokee and whose father was white) was a member of the Ridge faction, which favored the removal treaty. After the removal to Indian Territory in the late 1830s, bitterness lingered, and open warfare erupted between the two sides during the 1840s. James's son Tom (Henry's grandfather)was suspected of killing several members of the Ross faction, and James was killed in retaliation for his son's actions. Tom then supposedly killed several more pro-Ross Cherokees in revenge for his father's death before a treaty between the two warring factions finally brought the bloodshed to a close, at least until the Civil War. During the war, Tom Starr served with Stand Watie and most of the other other mixed-race Cherokees in the Confederate Army, while many of the purebreds served in the Union. After the war, Tom's son Sam became notorious in his own right and later married Belle Shirley Reed, the widow of outlaw Jim Reed, who became infamous as Belle Starr. Another of Tom's sons, George, was the father of Henry, who went on, according to legend, to carry out more robberies than any other outlaw in American history, beginning during the Old West days of the 1890s and ending in February of 1921 when he was killed trying to rob a bank in Harrison, Arkansas. You can read more about Henry Starr and particularly the Harrison bank robbery in my book about notorious Ozarks incidents.

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