Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Last Stage Robber--and It's a Woman!

You've probably never heard of Pearl Hart, but she committed one of the last stage robberies in the Old West. Pearl was born in Lindsay, Ontario, to affluent and religious parents, who afforded her with the best education available. She was enrolled in boarding school at the age of sixteen, where she met her future husband, who seemed to have various first names, but most often was referred to as Frederick Hart.

By Unknown photographer (Historian Insight) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Frederick Hart was known to be a drunkard and gambler. Pearl eloped with Hart, but quickly learned he was abusive, so she returned to her mother's home. They reunited and separated several times, resulting in two children, which Pearl left with her mother.

Pearl's husband worked a stint at the Chicago World's Fair, where Pearl developed a fascination with the cowboy lifestyle while watching Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. After the fair, the couple moved to Colorado. Hart described this time in her life: "I was only twenty-two years old. I was good-looking, desperate, discouraged, and ready for anything that might come. I do not care to dwell on this period of my life. It is sufficient to say that I went from one city to another until some time later I arrived in Phoenix." During this time Pearl worked as a cook and singer. There are also reports that she developed a fondness for cigars, liquor, and morphine during this time.

Hart ran into her husband again, and they lived in Tuscon for a time. But things went badly, and the abused started again. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Mr. Hart signed up. Pearl shocked observers by declaring that she hoped he would be killed by the Spanish.

Pearl Hart in Cosmopolitan in 1899
Pearl resided in the town of Mammoth, Arizona in early 1898. Some reports say she was working as a cook in a boarding house. Others say she operated a tent brothel near the local mine. While she did well for a time, the mine eventually closed, and her financial status took a nosedive. About this time she received a message asking her to return home to her seriously ill mother.

Hart had an acquaintance known as "Joe Boot" (most likely an alias), who worked at a mining claim he owned. When the mine didn't yield gold, Hart and Boot decided to rob the stagecoach that traveled between Globe and Florence, Arizona. The robbery occurred on May 30, 1899, at a watering point near Cane Springs Canyon, about 30 miles southeast of Globe. Pearl had cut her hair short and dressed in men's clothing, and she was armed with a .38 revolver.

The trio stopped the coach, and Boot held a gun on the robbery victims while Hart took $431.20 and two firearms from the passengers. Reports say Pearl returned $1 to each passenger to aid them in getting home. Less than a week later, a sheriff caught up to them and both were put in jail. Boot was held in Florence while Hart was moved to Tucson since the jail lacked facilities for a lady.

The room Hart was held in was not a normal jail cell but rather made of lath and plaster. Taking advantage of the relatively weak material, Hart escaped on October 12, 1899. She left behind an 18-inch hole in the wall. Just two weeks later, she was recaptured near Deming, New Mexico. After their trials, both Hart and Boot were sent to Yuma Territorial Prison to serve their sentences.

Pearl Hart in prison
In December 1902, Pearl received a pardon from Arizona Territorial Governor Alexander Brodie. After she left prison, Hart disappeared from public view for the most part. She had a short-lived show where she re-enacted her crime and then spoke about the horrors of Yuma Territorial Prison. Tales from Gila County claim that Hart returned to Globe and lived there peacefully until her death on December 30, 1955, other reports place her death as late as 1960.

Hart's exploits have been popular in western 
pulp fiction. The musical The Legend of Pearl Hart was based upon Hart's life, and her adventures are mentioned in the early 1900s film Yuma City. Pearl Hart was the subject of an episode of Tales of Wells Fargo that aired on May 9, 1960, played by Beverly Garland. She was also the subject of a Death Valley Days episode from March 17, 1964, titled "The Last Stagecoach Robbery", with Anne Frances playing the part of Pearl.

No One Is Too Tough to be Loved 

Join seven Texas Rangers on the hunt for a menacing gang, who run straight into romances with women who foil their plans for both the job and their futures.

In Partners in Crime by Vickie McDonough
Micah McCullough, a Texas Ranger working undercover in the Markham gang, is tasked with guarding Laurel Underwood, a silversmith, who was kidnapped to create plates for printing counterfeit money. Laurel knows she doesn’t have the expertise. Her only option is to stall and seek escape. What will the outlaws do when they learn her secret?

Bestselling author Vickie McDonough 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 is an award-winning author of nearly 50 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold. Song of the Prairie won the 2015 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Gabriel’s Atonement, book 1 in the Land Rush Dreams series, placed second in the 2016 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Vickie has recently stepped into independent publishing.


  1. I've never heard of Pearl before! Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. I hadn't heard of her either--at least not until I was searching for an idea to write my post about. She must have been one wild woman.

  3. Pearl Hart is a new historical figure to me. Thank you for sharing this nformation.

  4. Happy to. Thanks for being a faithful visitor of our blog.

  5. Vickie, great post. I had never heard of Pearl Hart.
    blessings, Tina

  6. This was very interesting! Pearl Hart's story was unknown to me.