Thursday, August 25, 2011

Karen M. Nutt: Pearl Hart and the Last Stagecoach Robbery

Jack and Karen

Copyright © 2011 Karen Michelle Nutt
Raised by religious parents, Pearl (Taylor) Hart was provided the best available education. At sixteen, she was enrolled in a boarding school where she became enamored with a young man with the last name of Hart. It’s unclear what his given name was, but recorded accounts do state he was a rake, drunkard and gambler. Pearl and Hart eloped, but the marriage didn’t last. Hart was abusive. They reconciled many times, but Pearl finally left him. During their time together they had two children, a boy and a girl, which Pearl sent home to her mother who was then living in Ohio.
By 1898, Pearl Hart was living in Mammoth, Arizona. It’s sketchy how she earned a living there. Some claimed she worked as a cook in a boardinghouse, while others claimed she ran a brothel near a mine. Her financial outlook didn’t last when the mine closed. When she received news her mother was ill, she didn’t have the money to return home. Joe Boot (most likely an alias) was a good friend. Hoping to raise the money, the two worked Joe’s mining claim. When the mine didn’t produce gold, the two decided to rob the Globe to Florence Stagecoach.
On May 30, 1899 at the watering point near Cane Springs Canyon, they set the plan in motion. To disguise herself, Pearl cut her hair short and dressed in men’s clothing. Not something a Victorian woman at the time would do. She was armed with a .38 revolver and Joe Boot carried a Colt .45. Since the stagecoach hadn’t been robbed in years, the coach didn’t have a guard. Bart held the gun on the victims while Pearl took two firearms and $431.20 from the passengers. Before they rode off, Pearl decided to return $1 to each of the passengers.
Sheriff Truman led the posse who found Joe and Pearl on June 5, 1899. They were both asleep when they came upon them. Joe surrendered quietly while Pearl fought to avoid capture. Both Pearl and Joe were sent to Yuma Territorial Prison. Joe became a prison trusty, driving wagons to prison chain gangs outside the wall. One day, while driving a wagon, Joe escaped and was never seen again. At the time of his escape, he completed less than two years of his sentence.
The warden liked the attention Pearl Hart attracted and provided her with an oversized cell that included a small yard. He allowed her to entertain reporters and other guests as well as pose for photographs. Pearl was pardon in December of 1902 from Alexander Brodie. The sudden release is unclear. At the time, Pearl claimed she was needed in Kansas City to play the lead in a play written by her sister, about her life of crime. Later, a rumor emerged following the death of all parties involved, alleging Pearl was pardoned because she had become pregnant. There’s no evidence that Pearl had a third child. If the rumor was true, perhaps Pearl instigated the ploy herself to secure her release.
After leaving prison Pearl Hart had a short-lived show where she reenacted her crime and then spoke of the horrors of Yuma Territorial Prison. She also worked under an alias for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Accounts of her later years are sketchy. Some claim she returned to Globe and lived there until her death in 1955.

# # #
Thanks for the informative article, Karen.
And yes, Karen's giving away a free book!
Answer the questions and you’ll be entered in the drawing to win one e-book copy of Wanted.
  • What makes a hero or heroine in your eyes?
  • Who’s your favorite cowboy? It can be from TV, Movies or a favorite book. It doesn’t have to be the hero of the story either.
  • Is there a villain you loved to hate?
Please be sure to include your email address with your comment, because if Karen can't reach you, we'll have to pick another winner.


  1. A real Hero and Heroine are those that put there best out there, to help even if it means getting involved where they don't want to.

    My fav cowboy of all times is John Wayne...

    Oh my fav Villian, now that's a hard one to answer, but I would have to say villian that uses children as weapon...

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks so much for coming by. You're right John Wayne is one of the best. :)

  3. HI K!!


  4. Hi Karen, fun post! I like witty heroines and heroes. The man with no name (aka Clint) is one of my favorite cowboys, but I love John Wayne, too. A villain I love to hate? The head vampire in Salem's Lot by Stephen King.
    Thanks for the history lesson--I enjoyed it! Ann

  5. Karen, I loved the post about Pearl Hart. You covered some things I hadn't heard.
    What makes a heroine or hero for me is a strong sense of duty and determination to accomplish a goal. My favorite cowboy is FALLON by Louis L'Amour. A villain I loved to hate is Mark Harmon in CROSSFIRE TRAIL with Tom Selleck as the hero.

  6. i did not now and i live there near the prison for about 5 years wow i like the story and would love to read it all the cover is great

  7. Wow Karen, that was interesting. Sounds like a gutsy woman even if she did break the law.



  8. Great info Karen. I think the women outlaws are more interesting than the male.

  9. hotcha12,

    Aren't cowboys the best. :)

    Thanks for stopping in to say hi.

  10. Ann,

    Clint looks good in a cowboy hat. He was sure young and really cute in Paint Your Wagon.

  11. Ann,

    I haven't thought about Salem's Lot in a long time. Yeah, the head vampire was really scary.

    Thanks so much for popping in to say hi. :)

  12. Caroline,

    Pearl Hart was definitely a character.

    I haven't seen CROSSFIRE TRAIL. I'll have to check it out.

    Thanks so much for coming by.

  13. desitheblonde,

    So you live near the prison where Pearl spent some time? Interesting.

    I'm glad book cover and Wanted has you intrigued.

    Thanks so much for coming by.

  14. Margaret,

    Pearl definitely did as she pleased. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    Thanks so much for coming by.

  15. Paty,

    I agree, the woman outlaws intrigue me, too.

    Women were limited in their legal rights and with strict rules of how they should act in society. They married, obeyed their husband and had too many children to count.

    But there were those women who stood out. Not just less fortunate forced by circumstances and need to become outlaws, but women with larger than live characters and interesting personalities who became doctors, nurses and stagecoach riders--just to name few.

    I admire their courage.

  16. It's a shame that Hart was driven to such desperation to have to rob a stagecoach so she could get back home. I want to beleive that was why she was released, because the implications of pregnancy in prison is pretty nasty.

    Thank you for the history lesson, it was really interesting.

    A great hero/ine to me is someone who goes out of their way to help others and to improve the world in some way.

    My current favorite cowboy is Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly (he and his crew did deliver a herd of cattle in one episode!)

    Villain- Hexxus from Ferngully, the evil spirit voiced by Tim Curry, such an awesome acting job.

    melorabrock {at} gmail {dot} com

  17. Melora,

    I recently watched the whole Firefly short-lived series on DVD. I wish it would have made it. I really liked the cowboy/scifi/steampunk atmosphere of the show. Malcolm Reynolds did make a good hero with just enough bad boy persona to give him an edge.

    Thanks for coming by and saying hi. I'm glad you enjoyed Pearl Hart's story.


  19. The last stagecoach robbery took place on December 5, 1916 near Jarbridge, Nevada by Ben Kuhl. Your article entitled "Pearl Hart and the Last Stagecoach Robbery" is incorrect.


Romancing The West welcomes you to show your appreciation of our guest blogger by leaving a comment. If there's a contest, don't forget to leave your contact information. Thanks!