Haskell County Historical Society

Franklin Pierce West and Sam Starr

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BELLE STARR Rides in Haskell County, Oklahoma

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Original Link to this story: Franklin Pierce West and Sam Starr - "Cherokee Nation" by Karen West Sanchez

"The Trail of Tears was a Cherokee holocaust. Less than half the people arrived in Indian Territory alive.

"Indian Territory was home to other Native American tribes, including Apache, Choctaw and Comanche. These tribes had to share their land and resources with the Cherokee. The white encroachment on Indian lands was spreading further and further West.

"The West family settled in Canadian District of Indian Territory near the Canadian River. Whitefield, Stigler, Porum and Briartown are several of the towns that were established in this area. John and Ruth West were given an allotment of approximately 40 acres to homestead in Briartown. They built a three bedroom home at the top of a hill facing southwest. This house is still standing. Here, they raised their children, William, George, Martha, John Calhoun, James, Kiamitia, Ruth and Franklin. They owned horses and cows and had a garden in which they grew potatoes, tomato's, beans, carrots, strawberries, and grapevines. Pecan trees grew wild on the land, and many of them are still producing today.

"Franklin Pierce West, youngest child of John and Ruth, was born in 1852. He married Nancy Ella Brewer, born 1853 and died 1909. They had three children, John Brewer, Richard and Ruth Ella. He and Nancy built a home for their family down the hill from the old homestead. This house is no longer standing, but in it's place is my Aunt Lucy's home. She still lives on the land that was left to her by her grandfather, although only 10 acres of this land is West land.

"Franklin West was a deputy marshall in the Indian Territory Sheriffs Department. His cousin, Sam Starr and his wife, Belle, were notorious outlaws in the Old West.

"Sam and Belle Starr also settled in the Briartown area, naming their homestead Younger's Bend. Younger's Bend became a haven for outlaws. Ironically, Frank West lived only a few miles away. Sam and Belle were arrested in 1882 when deputy marshalls found stolen horses in their stables. Sam was arrested on many counts of hold-ups of US Mail hacks and post offices. Belle was indicted for Larceny in stealing horses and robbery. She often wore mens clothing in her raids and was dubbed "gang leader" after a robbery in Cache of horses and about $40.

"Sam Starr and Franklin West met often on opposite sides of the law. On September 16, 1886, Franklin West, Sheriff William Vann, Deputy Robinson and police officer John Toney spotted Sam in the Canadian Bottoms. West shot and wounded Sam, killing the mare he was riding. Vann and West hurried to a nearby farm house to get help for the wounded Starr. Deputies Robinson and Toney were left to guard Starr. They moved an unconcious Starr to a wooded area for cover from the rest of Starr's gang. When he regained consciousness, Sam cunningly disarmed both deputies, siezed Robinsons' horse and escaped. As he rode away, he shouted "Tell Frank West he'll pay for killing Belle's mare".

"Starr holed-up at one of his brothers' homes. Belle cared for her wounded husband, convincing him to surrender before he was killed. Sam was taken into custody and arraigned on a grand jury indictment for breaking into a post office. Belle posted his bail and Sam was released. His trial was scheduled for February 1887. He wouldn't make it.

"On December 17, 1886, Lucy Surrant, a Choctaw native who had settled in Whitefield, gave a Christmas dance at her home on Emachaya Creek, which was named after her father. She was affectionately known to locals as "Aunt Lucy". Belle and Sam decided to attend the dance. Frank West happened to arrive shortly before them.

"Frank was warming himself by a log fire, alongside a 12 year old boy named J. Daniel Folsom. Sam Starr angrily stormed over to where West was, began cursing him and demanded he leave the dance. West refused and more heated words followed. Sam went for his gun at the same time Frank drew his weapon. Gunshots rang out, and both men fell to the ground. The young 12 year old boy was struck by a stray bullet in the face. West had been hit in the neck and died within minutes. Sam was shot in the chest and struggled for a few moments before passing on. Belle raced to the fireplace, knelt beside her dead husband and cursed Frank West. Sam was just 27 years old while Franklin West was 34.

"Sam Starr is buried in the Starr Cemetary located in Younger's Bend. The Starr homestead is no longer standing. To reach this cemetary, one must drive through a maze of trees and shrubs on a winding dirt road.

"Franklin Pierce West is buried in McClure Cemetary, one of many cemetaries where West family members are interred.

"(information sources on Sam Starr for this article from "Sam Starr, A Short and Violent Life" by Michael Koch).

"***(Editor's Note: 4-2-00 - I have been informed by a reader that J. Daniel Folsom, the 12 year old boy at the Christmas dance, did not die. He became a sheriff of Haskell County OK.  I apologize for and have amended this error.***

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Haskell County Historical Society * P. O. Box 481 * Stigler, OK 74462 * 918-967-2161

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