Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Legacy of Pearl Hart

by Carly Power

After being pardoned from Yuma Prison in 1902, not much is known of Pearl Hart. She is said to have started running a cigar shop, and in 1904 was charged with receiving stolen goods. 

There is also a story that years later an old woman showed up at the Yuma Jail and wanted to have a tour of the facilities. When she was about to leave she was asked who she was and she stated, loud and proud: 

“I am Pearl Hart – the Lady Bandit”.

There are rumours that Pearl appeared on a vaudeville stage, starring in a performance written about her, by her sister Catherine. She is also said to have toured with Buffalo Bill’s show, however, no proof of this has been found. 

Pearl seemed to have gone off the map. That is until a census taker outted her. She had married a rancher named Calvin Bywater, and they lived near the Dripping Springs Mountains, not far from where Pearl had robbed the stage. Pearl lived out the rest of her life quietly, passing away at the age of 79. She was lovingly remembered by her nieces and nephews. 

Pearl’s story has continued to captivate audiences, even a century after the crime. Her story has inspired many people to recreate the story. There have been many publications, such as Jane Candia Coleman’s historic fiction: “The Bandit Queen”, and there have been stage performances such as: “The Legend of Pearl Hart”. She has even inspired the music industry. The band Volbeat produced a song titled “Pearl Hart”, and there is an all-girls band out of the UK named “The Pearl Harts”. Pearl has even inspired fashion; Canadian company “John Fluevog Shoes” has a pair of mary-jane style shoes that are dubbed “Pearl Harts”. These are just several examples of how Pearl Hart’s story has interested people over the past 100 years, and will surely continue to do so.

Pearl Hart in Prison

by Carly Power

Pearl Hart arrived at the Yuma Territorial Prison on November 18, 1899. Pearl was granted unlimited visitation rights and was often visited by the press and public. 

She made a spectacle for the crowds, and was never a disappointment for the long travelers who wanted to catch a glimpse of the Lady Bandit. On several occasions she made dramatic, fake, attempts of suicide. The attempts were intended to glean headlines, not insure death. 

She became popular in the outside world, however that was not exactly the case inside the prison. She was known for irritating the other inmates by preaching the bible to them, and even telling them that they need to change their sinful ways. Pearl also often instigated arguments involving other female inmates.

Pearl did spend time productively in the prison. She spent time making lace and fancy work, which sold well among visitors. Pearl also wrote poetry while behind bars, and some of her poems were even printed in local publications at the time.

Pearl was pardoned on December 13, 1902. Pearl ended up serving only 36 months of her sentence, being officially released for the lack of accommodations for female prisoners. She was to leave Arizona for the remainder of her sentence. Before she left the prison she left a note in her cell that displayed her radical characteristics once again. The note read: “If she (her mother) has died since my arrest God pity those who kept me from her. I shall have no pity and shall devote my entire life to killing all who detained me”. 

There is a rumour that the real reason for her release was because she had become pregnant while in custody. This posed a problem since she had only been alone with prison staffers. It is quite possible that the pregnancy story was a fake. There is no proof that Pearl was pregnant, nor that she gave birth to a child after prison. This could be another example of Pearls cunning ways.

The Trials of Pearl Hart

by Carly Power

Pearl had to wait several months in prison before her trial date, which worked to her advantage. Pearl’s story was making national headlines.

In a report of the crime Pearl was described as: “a delicate, dark haired woman, with little about her that would suggest the ability to hold up a stage loaded with frontiersmen. She had refined features, a mouth of the true rosebud type, and clear blue eyes that would be confiding and baby-like were it not for the few lines that come only through the seamy side of life. In weight she is not over 100 pounds, in form slight and graceful.” The world was shocked that a woman like Pearl could have committed this crime.

While awaiting trial she received national attention, and used these opportunities to share her side of the story with the world. She claimed to have received a letter about her ailing mother, whom could not afford the needed treatment. Pearl stated: “The letter drove me crazy… I had no money.  I could get no money. From what I know now, I believe I became temporarily insane.” Pearl had begun to gain the nations sympathy.

Pearl's mugshot 
On November 16, 1899 Pearl and Joe were tried together. The jury found Joe guilty and sentenced him to 35 years in jail. Pearl, however, made a famous speech for her innocence that persuaded the jury. She stated that she “would not consent to be tried under a law she or her sex had no voice in making, or to which a woman had no power under the law to give her consent.” Pearl had won over the jury.

Although the jury found her accomplice guilty, they acquitted Pearl, This infuriated Judge, Fletcher Doan. Before Pearl could leave the court house she was rearrested for unlawfully carrying a gun. The second trial fell on November 18, 1899, and this time the jury found her guilty.


Pearl was sentenced to 5 years at the Yuma Territorial Prison.

Pearl Hart - The Crime That Shocked the Wild West

by Carly Power

On May 30th 1899, a stagecoach was traveling from Globe to Florence, AZ. Unbeknownst to those aboard the stagecoach, two bandits were waiting for them by a watering hole in the Dripping Springs Mountains AZ. 

When the bandits saw it approaching they jumped in front of the stage, and with guns drawn demanded that it come to a halt! One of the bandits held the stage at gunpoint, while the leader of the two robbed the passengers. The bandits took approximately $400, a watch, and a revolver from the passengers. Surprisingly, before riding away, the leader returned $1 to each person aboard the stage; so that once they arrived in Florence they would have “enough to eat”.

The bandits got away… but only for a few days. When Sheriff W.E. Truman and his posse caught up to the bandits, fast asleep by a campfire, they were shocked at what they found… the leader of the bandits was a woman: Pearl Hart, of Lindsay, Ontario.

The accomplice’s name, was Joe Boot. Pearl and Joe were taken to the Florence Jail for preliminary hearings and held over without bond to answer to the grand jury. However, due to a lack of accommodations for female prisoners, Pearl was sent to the Pima County Jail in Tucson.

While in Tucson it was not long before Pearl had devised a plan to escape. She became close with a man named Ed Hogan; an inmate trustee, who     was allowed to roam the jail freely. On October 12 1899, Ed cut a hole in Pearl’s cell, and together they escaped. They traveled all   the way to Deming, New Mexico before U.S. Marshal George Scarborough caught them. 

Pearl was then sent back to Florence to await trial.

Pearl Hart - Life in Lindsay

by Carly Power

Every account of Pearl Harts life is different. The first difference amongst various accounts was what her name was when she was born. The name accepted by most is “Pearl Taylor”.  The second biggest difference is the dispute over where she was born. Pearl herself claimed to have been born and raised in Lindsay, However, some historians believe that this story is a fake, and she is really from Toledo, Ohio.  

Pearl attended the Loretto Academy in Lindsay, however, she left school at the age of 16 to elope with an older man by the name of Fred Hart.  After Pearl had become classified as an outlaw, one of her old school friends wrote the Arizona Historical Society and described Pearl as a teenager: “She was a pretty girl and had a wonderful figure and voice. She could… sing like a mockingbird. She was lithesome, blithe, and witty, gushing with fun and jollity. She was also a wonderful dancer. She possessed one detrimental fault. She was too amorous, accepted too many dates with handsome young men, which finally caused her undoing”.

In 1893 Pearl and Fred attended the Chicago World’s Fair. Pearl watched Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows, and is said to have been captivated by Annie Oakley’s sharp shooting performance as well as  the speech by social activist Julia Ward Howe. Soon after Pearl andFred moved to Arizona. They found work at saloons in mining towns. Unfortunately, Pearl was not in a happy marriage. Fred regularly abused her, and twice he abandoned her pregnant. Each time, Pearl returned to Lindsay to leave her child with her mother before returning to Arizona. 

In 1899 Pearl claims to have received a letter stating that her mother was sick, and that they could not afford the treatment that she would need. It was then that Pearl and, her new boyfriend, Joe devised the plan to rob the stagecoach.