Folk Figure, Old West Outlaw. Eloping at the age of 17 to a gambler named Hart, Pearl was on the fast track to outlaw fame.
Born in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. brought up in a respectable middle-class family and received a good education. Pearl would leave her abusive husband numerous times only to reconcile and return and in the midst of all this give birth to two children, Little Joe and Emma.
In 1893, the couple traveled to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, here he worked as a sideshow barker and she found odd jobs. While in Illinois she became enthralled with the Wild West shows and was especially fascinated by Annie Oakley, who she saw performing. Inspired by seeing strong women and fascinated by the heroes and legends of the Wild West, she soon mustered the courage to leave her shiftless husband and boarded a train to Trinidad, Colorado. There, she became a popular saloon singer. Pearl was disappointed in the "West" not finding the glamour and heroes she had been so enamored with, instead working as a cook in a café and taking in laundry to supplement her income.
She ran into her ex, Frank, while living in Phoenix and he persuaded her to move to Tucson with him. They lived well for a brief period but once the money ran out, he became abusive again. Frank ended up enlisting in the military service during the Spanish-American War, leaving Pearl alone. By 1899; she had hooked up with a miner named Joe Boot when she received a letter from her brother that her mother was ill and needed money for medical bills.
In May of that same year, the two of them decided to rob the Globe to Florence stagecoach near the settlement of Troy and Kane Springs Canyon. Pearl cut her hair, dressed in men's clothing, and was armed with a .38 revolver. Boot held a gun on the victims while Pearl stole two firearms and money. They gave each passenger a $1.00 for food, took the driver's gun and fled south towards Benson. They worked their way up the San Pedro River hoping to get far away from the crime. The stagecoach driver unhitched a horse, road to town and alerted the sheriff, W. E. "Bill" Truman.
Taken to the Globe jail, Hart played up her part as a lady bandit, giving autographs and entertaining those who just wanted to get a glimpse of the "Bandit Queen." A few weeks after her capture, Pearl escaped from the jail on October 12, 1899, with another prisoner by the name of Ed Hogan. As the posse quickly pursued the pair, Pearl's legend began to grow throughout the west. But her freedom would be short as the law soon found her and returned her to the jail.
She and Boot came to trial for robbing the stagecoach passengers in October 1899. During the trial, Hart made an impassioned plea to the jury, claiming she needed the money to be able to go to her ailing mother. Judge Fletcher M. Doan was shocked and angered by the jury's not guilty finding and scolded the members for failure to perform their duties.
Immediately following the acquittal, the pair were rearrested on the charge of tampering with U.S. mails. The pair were convicted during their second trial, Boot receiving a sentence of thirty years and Hart a sentence of five years. Both were sent to Yuma Territorial Prison to serve their sentences.
Pearl became an even bigger celebrity while she was in prison and the warden, who liked the attention, accommodated her with a larger than usual cell as well as a few other perks. While there, her legend grew as she "entertained" visitors and reporters, often posing for pictures.
After just 18 months in prison, she was paroled on December 19, 1902 and moved to Kansas City. In 1904, while running a cigar store, she was arrested for receiving stolen property. She was declared innocent of the charge. There are claims that she lived a private life with her husband of 50 years, George Calvin "Cal" Bywater. She is acknowledged as the only known female stagecoach robber in Arizona's history earning her the nicknames of "Bandit Queen" or "Lady Bandit".
Bio by: Memorial Flower
George Calvin Bywater
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