PORUM, OKLAHOMA — It’s still a lonely stretch of the Canadian River in eastern Oklahoma just a few miles upstream of where it flows into the Kerr Reservoir.
Very near a spot below the Lake Eufala Dam, along a river approach still called Hoyt’s Lane, an un-known assailant killed the famous lady outlaw Belle Starr.
On February 3, 1889, amateur historian Ron Hood told us, “About 30 minutes before sundown, according to testimony, she was shot from the back left with a shotgun blast.”
Dr. Hood, a Tulsa orthopedic surgeon, has walked this path before and read the murder trial transcript identifying the exact location of her death.
“It’s very near where we’re standing,” he said.
She was almost home that evening, almost back to her cabin overlooking Younger’s Bend.
Hood continues, “The fact is that Belle Starr met her demise here and who did it remains a mystery.”
For years her grave was all but forgotten.
The property became overgrown with brambles.
On a previous story that first aired in 2007, we found it after a long, hot search through thick brush.
The Hood family bought the property and cleared it off.
He built a trail to the gravesite.
People who visit from all over the world still leave offerings like coins and flowers.
Hood explains the public fascination, “She was kind of known as the female Jesse James.”
Belle Starr was a convicted horse thief, a friend to famous outlaws like James and Cole Younger, who liked the notoriety she cultivated in ‘Hell on the Border’ Fort Smith, Arkansas.
When Hood bought her old place the deal included a Winchester rifle that belonged to her, what many believe to be her side saddle, and a famous legacy.
“This was the Old West,” argues Hood, “and I think the point that’s lost, even among Oklahomans, is that we think the Old West occurred in New Mexico or Arizona.”
The Hoods re-built another cabin circa 1850’s on the property.
It too overlooks Younger’s Bend guarding both memory and mystery.
To commemorate the 125th anniversary of her death Dr. Hood organized a trail ride beginning in Stigler and ending at the gravesite near Porum.
However,the threat of winter weather postponed it to a later date.
For more information go to the Younger’s Bend Facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/YoungersBend