Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Other Belle of the Old West


Hi friends,

This is a hard post for me to write. I've been with Heroes, Heroines, and History since the conception stage, but I've decided to step down. I'm not writing much these days, and not sure if I will in the future due to some physical issues. It's been a great run here at HHH. I've learned a lot as I researched my posts, and I made many friends. Before I go, I have a new post for you.

Belle Siddons

Most of us know about the notorious Belle Starr, but have you ever heard of Belle Siddons? In the Old West, Belle Siddons was known by many names: Madam Vestal, Lurline Monteverde, and Montel Holman. She was born around 1842 in Missouri and was raised on a wealthy Southern plantation in a politically powerful St. Louis family. Belle Siddons was the definition of a Southern belle, beautiful, educated, and poised. She attended Seminary School in Lexington, and 
after graduation, she made her societal debut in Jefferson City, Missouri. Several society columns made mention of her. She was a well-connected young woman with a bright future.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Siddons decided to use her wiles to benefit the rebel cause and became a Confederate spy. She gathered information from numerous love-struck Union soldiers to pass on to the rebels. She made no secret of her duplicitous behavior, and in 1862, a Union general became aware of her activity and issued a warrant for her arrest. Belle wasted no time in fleeing, but it wasn't long before the authorities caught up with her. She had incriminating maps in her possession, and she proudly admitted to being a spy when questioned. Siddons was sentenced to one year in the Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis. After only four months, they released her under the condition she would serve as a nurse for the remainder of the war.

After the war ended, Belle spent her time lobbying in the capital city, where she met and married Kansas City surgeon Newt Hallet. Belle's new husband taught her to play cards. Finding that she was naturally good at the game, Belle became famous as a dealer of the game 21.

They later moved to Texas. He spent his days patching up patients with Belle as his nurse, and often at night, he'd play cards and gamble. Sadly, the seemingly happy marriage was short-lived, when Newt died from yellow fever in less than two years. Distraught over the loss of her husband and the need to support herself, Belle left Texas and followed the Gold Rush, making her way to the gambling halls of South Dakota.

Soon after arriving in Deadwood, South Dakota, Madam Vestal gained the name "Queen of the Black Hills." She would sit silently at the roulette table, in full costume of velvet gowns and ruby jewelry, shuffling cards, pistol on one side and stacks of money on the other. For those who crossed her path, losing to the beautiful Madam Vestal became a badge of honor. Belle's wealth grew until she was able to purchase her own dance hall, bar, and gambling establishment.

Belle met and fell in love with stagecoach robber and former guerilla raider Archie McLaughlin. Together, they forged a plan, and once again, Belle used her skills and beauty to become a spy to retract information from stagecoach drivers, which she then passed on to her lover. Unfortunately, Siddons overconfidence got the best of her, and one night she let slip that there was going to be a robbery. Bounty Hunters caught McLaughlin and he was tried and hung.

Guilt over Archie's death engulfed 
Belle. She spent the next few years wandering the West, drinking heavily, and visiting opium dens. She even attempted suicide. Eventually, she stopped in Nevada, where she married Eugene Holman. For a time, life was better, but then Belle reverted to drinking again and Holman left her.

There are two stories regarding Belle Siddon's death. One, that she died from a drug overdose and another that she died in jail. No one seems to know the truth. Though blessed with a good start in life, like so many others, Belle chose a path that led her to drug addiction and much sadness. Still, her colorful legend has become the subject of many tall tales and Wild West stories.

Here's a link to an actual newspaper article about Belle Siddons:

Thanks for reading my many posts over the years. I've enjoyed your comments and getting to know some of you. I especially appreciate those who have read my books and left reviews. If you'd like to keep in touch, you can find me at or on Amazon, Pinterest, and Facebook. Blessings!

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Vickie McDonough is the CBA, EPCA and Amazon best-selling author of 54 books and novellas. Vickie grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie’s books have won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, OWFI Best Fiction Novel Award, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice awards. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, making cards, gardening, and traveling. To learn more about Vickie’s books or to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website:


  1. Thank you, Vickie, for your many years of interesting posts! I have enjoyed them and your books.

  2. Thank you for posting today, Vickie, we will miss you! But thankfully there are years of your posts available in the archives of HHH and newcomers can enjoy them. It was interesting to learn of "the other" Belle.

    1. Thanks, Connie. I appreciate your being such a faithful follower off HHH.

  3. Thanks you! I enjoyed learning about "the other Belle" and I wish you the very best!.