Pearl Hart by Vickie McDonough

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

My novella in Lady and the Lawman collection:
On Track for Love by Vickie McDonough
Missouri, 1875
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?
Vickie will give away one print copy of Lady and the Lawman to a US winner. To enter for a chance to win the book, please answer this question:
Would you have been an outlaw or a lawman?
About Vickie McDonough:
Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a sweet 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 a best-selling author of more than 50 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold.
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20 thoughts on “Pearl Hart by Vickie McDonough”

  1. Welcome Vickie- wow that’s a hard question. I think I would of been an outlaw, but one that only wanted to help to poor. A Robin Hood type Outlaw. I’m a law abiding citizen, so for me to pick an outlaw was surprising to me, but that was what my subconscious thought of when I read the question.
    Hart was a heck of a woman with all she was involved in. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I believe I would have been an outlaw in my younger years. The way things were back then it would have been awfully hard to walk a straight path all the time. I think life was rough then.

  3. Good morning thats a difficult question. I think i would have been an outlaws wife. Keep the home fired burning. Guilt by association.

  4. Hi Vickie, welcome to the junction. What a question! Lawman is what I would normally say, but that was before I had my DNA checked. Now that I know I share an ancestor with Jesse James, I’m not so sure. Given certain circumstances, I might have landed on the other side of the law.

  5. Being an outlaw means being on the run and not very appealing so I would be a lawman since life was tough at that time.

  6. Interesting story. Some of these women were just amazing, not willing to fit into any mold. No doubt about it, I would be a lawman (law woman? 😉 ). Not only do I not have the fortitude to be on the run, I am such a rule follower it’s not funny.

  7. Hi Vickie!! Welcome back. It’s so good to see you and what an interesting post. I wish I could’ve known what Pearl Hart was like but I’m sure she must’ve been something. I guess jail time took the wildness out of her.

    Best of luck with Lady and the Lawman. The stories look so good.

  8. TV and books often romanticize outlaws and make them appealing, but a lawman, of course, would be the right decision.

    Thank you for offering the giveaway!

  9. Wow this is interesting. I have never heard of her I don’t think. She really had a life that was full of ups and downs. Would I be an outlaw or a lawman? Honestly neither. But if I could only choose between the two I would be a lawman. And the town I was lawman for would me my town and I would protect and defend it fiercely.

  10. hmm, well i would choose lawman . the thrill of catching the criminal seems fitting. good blog. and welcome

  11. Having had numerous items stolen from our farm this year I find nothing glamorous or worthwhile about being an outlaw, even Robin Hood style. That may be harsh but wondering every day whether something else will be missing tomorrow from our shop is very stressful. I do now know the deputy who serves our part of the county.

  12. Very interesting blog! Thanks for sharing! Even though I have actually worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice I think I would have been an outlaw back in the Wild West days!

  13. I would have been a lawman, I like to do the right thing, no matter what. This article was very interesting, Thank you so much for sharing it. Have a Great weekend. God bless you.

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