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.
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 sometime 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 Tucson 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 resided in the town of Mammoth, Arizona in early 1898. Some reports
say she was working as a cook in a boardinghouse. 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
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
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
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.
The Lady and the Lawman:
4 Historical Stories of Lawmen and the Ladies Who Love Them
A new job and a move to a new state put Railroad Agent Landry Lomax on track to meet Cara Dixon—a spirited woman holding a derringer on a train robber. This stubborn woman is not one he wants around his young sister, but then they end up in the same St. Louis boardinghouse. But could Cara’s gumption help him trap a gang of train robbers?