Paul Wellman's book, "A Dynasty of Western Outlaws" said that the relocations of the Indians, the dislocations of the Confederate populations during and after the Civil War bred both crime and criminals.
The conflict grew a wave of lawlessness never before experienced both in the time it lasted, and in the number of successive generations in which it perpetuated a dynasty of outlaws. This spanned three quarters of a century from Quantrill to Pretty Boy Floyd.
He shows how the Quantrill's Guerrillas (1861-65) led to the James Younger Gang (1866-82), the Dalton Gang (1891-92), the Doolin Gang (1892-96), the Jennimgs Gang (1897-98), the Cook Gang (1893-95) and how they tie into Belle Star Gang (1880-89) and Jim Reed, Sam Starr, Hop Starr, Henry Starr, Cherokee Bill, Jim French, Al Spencer, Frank Nash, John Callahan, Eddie Adams, Verne Miller, Adam Richetti and Pretty Boy Floyd in the 1930s.
Some connections were blood ties, but all the connections were by a long train of unbroken personal connections, and a continuing criminal heritage and tradition handed down from generation to generation. All of the outlaws came from and committed crimes in the region of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (I sometime wonder if William Freeman Keith could have somehow believed himself to be part of this connection?)
In 1894, Ed Reed (Belle's son) was also employed as a Katy R.R. guard. He was also deputized and a U.S. Marshal, during the fall of 1894 and winter of 1895. That year several trains and stores were robbed by the Bill Cook gang which included Jim French, and Crawford Goldsby (Alias Cherokee Bill.)
Jesse and Frank James, Cole and Bob Younger, Jim Reed and others robbed banks and trains in 1870 through the 1880s. It is true, Belle Starr knew them all. She may have ridden with them, as Glenn Shirley claims, but there is no actual evidence that she did. The legends started when an item appeared in the New York Times bearing a Fort Smith dateline, February 5, 1889 heading "A desperate Woman Killed" It went on to say Belle Starr was the wife of Cole Younger, but left him after the war and joined a band of outlaws that operated in Indian Territory. Her second husband was an Indian by the name of Jim Starr.