|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.
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