Pearl Hart was of French descent, born about 1870 near Toronto, Canada. In her teens she was known for her attractiveness and wit. She was also known for her willingness to date many young men.
Consequently, she married at about age 17, but the marriage was not a happy one. Her husband often abused her and so, at the age of 22, she tried to escape by taking a train to Trinidad, CO. In about 1892 she arrived in Phoenix. There she met her husband again who, in hopes of winning her back, had followed her. For a few years the couple lived a wild life on Washington Street in Phoenix, and it is said that Pearl learned to smoke, drink and even use morphine. However, marital problems started up again and continued until her husband joined the army at the time of the Spanish-American War.
After her husband left, Pearl found it very difficult to survive. She "got along as best she could." Eventually, she grew very depressed and tried to kill herself three or four times. Each time she was prevented by acquaintances.
Finally, Pearl managed to secure a job working for some miners in Mammoth. While there, she met a man who called himself "Joe Boot" (probably an alias). He convinced Pearl that they would do better if they moved to Globe. Unfortunately, on the day they decided to move it began raining heavily. For three days they struggled to pack their belongings over the old Howard and Reduction Toll Road (still visible south of Globe), but they were unsuccessful. It was only after they hired two Mormon boys to help them that they were able to complete the move.
In Globe, Pearl and Joe worked a mining claim for awhile but were unsuccessful. Then Pearl received a letter from her family informing her that her mother was dying. They said she should return home quickly. Pearl later wrote, "That 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 and Joe decided to rob the Globe-to-Florence stage.
On May 29, 1899, at Cane Spring in the Dripping Springs Mountains, just south of the Pinals, Pearl and Joe stopped a stage which had three passengers: A salesman with $380, a "tenderfoot" with $36 and a Chinaman with $5. Pearl and Joe took it all, even the salesman's watch. Feeling somewhat badly about leaving her victims penniless, Pearl returned to each a dollar ... "enough to eat on." Then the two bandits disappeared to the south.
Shortly thereafter Pearl and Joe were caught by Pinal County Sheriff W. E. Truman. They were placed in the Florence Jail on June 4. The fact that Pearl was a woman bandit immediately caused a great public sensation. The sheriff found the publicity extremely annoying and therefore decided to send Pearl to the Pima County Jail in Tucson, keeping Joe in Florence.
Pearl continued to gain notoriety in Tucson. Some newspaper writers even began to sympathize with her because of what she said were the reasons for the robbery. They also were impressed with her contention that she "would never 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." She had become a strident voice for "women's emancipation."
While in Tucson she also became fond of an inmate trusty called "Ed Hogan" (actually a petty thief named Sherwood). Hogan was allowed to roam freely throughout the jail and grew emotionally attached to Pearl.
On the night of October 12 Hogan cut a hole through the wall of Pearl's cell and allowed her to escape. They both fled to Deming, NM. U.S. Marshal George Scarborough apprehended them there, and Pearl was returned to Florence. Both Pearl and Joe Boot were then placed on trial in Florence, and Pearl was sentenced five years, while Boot got thirty. They were both sent to the Territorial Prison in Yuma to serve out their sentences.
While in Yuma, Pearl's notoriety increased. It is said that guards hung out considerably around her cell, causing "enthusiasm that was harmful to discipline." Newspapermen constantly interviewed her on "the perils of a life of crime," and camera men were always asking her to pose with a six-shooter or a Winchester.
Finally, on December 19, 1902, Pearl was pardoned ... two years before her sentence was to expire. Governor Alexander Brodie explained that the prison "lacked accommodations for women prisoners." The truth, however, was far different: Pearl was pregnant. As the father had to be someone who worked in the prison, the warden was stunned. If the truth were found out, the scandal would be ruinous, so he convinced the governor that she should be released.
After Pearl was released, no one really knows what became of her. Some have said that in 1904 she was living in Kansas City with a gang of pickpockets, but her later whereabouts are completely unknown. She disappeared.
EXCEPT ... there is a legend in Globe that before World War I Pearl Hart returned to Globe and married a cowboy named Calvin Bywater (in Mexico). They went to live near the old Christmas mine in the Dripping Springs Mountains, not far from Cane Spring. She became a hard-working, law-abiding, stout ranch woman who smoked cigars copiously and punctuated her sentences with salty profanities.
When once asked by a census worker where she was born, she replied, "I wasn't born anywhere." And she was always known only as Pearl Bywater."