was born near Fort Gibson in
Territory on December 2, 1873 to George "Hop” Starr, a half-breed
and Mary Scot Starr, a woman of Irish decent and one-quarter
Mary came from an educated and respectable family, but the Starr side of
the family was rife with
outlaws. Henry’s grandfather was Tom Starr, an
in his own right. Henry would later say that his grandfather "was
known far and wide as the Devil’s own. In all matters where law and order
was on one side, Tom Starr was on the other.”
uncle was the notorious Sam Starr who was married to
Starr was widely known for her relationship with the notorious
Gang and her criminal escapades through
Henry though, reportedly was not fond of
finding her to be crude and reprehensible, quickly informing anyone who
commented on the relationship, that she was his aunt by marriage only.
During the time of Starr’s youth, the northeastern corner
Indian Territory was rugged and
untamed, often referred to as the "Land of the Six-Gun” and the "Robbers’
Roost.” The rough terrain of the area provided a number of natural
hideouts for thieves, murderers, and other
outlaws seeking refuge from the law.
In 1886, Henry’s father
died leaving Mary to care for three children and the family farm.
However, within just a few months she remarried a man by the name of C.N.
Walker, who Henry hated. Starr felt that Walker was inferior because
his veins contained no Indian blood. Walker was also abusive and he
and Henry had immediate problems. Within just a few short months of
his mother’s remarriage Henry left home.
By the age of
sixteen, while Henry was working on a ranch near Nowata, in
Indian Territory, he had his first run-in with
the law. As Henry was driving a wagon to town two deputy marshals caught
him with whiskey and arrested him for "introducing spirits into
territory." Though he plead guilty to the offense, he maintained
that he was innocent, having borrowed the wagon without knowing that the
whiskey was in it.
Starr returned to Nowata
and continued to work as a cowboy, but it wasn’t long before he had
another run-in with the law. In December 1891, he was arrested for
stealing a horse, again he denied the charge, but was locked up at
anyway. His cousin paid his bail and Starr hit the road, with a
warrant for his arrest hanging over his head. After jumping bail, Henry
had made a conscious choice to live on the wrong side of the law.
The warrant for Starr’s arrest was given to Deputy Marshals Henry C.
Dickey and Floyd Wilson who were quickly on Henry’s tail.