Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Arizona Outlaw Pearl Hart

Pearl Hart reading over her statement

The evolution of the new woman takes many strange phases. A late and unique one is that of her appearance in the character of Dick Turpin. There have been many female stage-robbers in books and stories, but only one in the flesh. Viewed psycho­logically, the statement of such a woman is curious. Starting with one of the hum­drum tragedies that are lived in so many lives, the story of her life is told by herself until it reaches the startling climax with which telegraphic reports have made us familiar. Pearl Hart, the woman who "held up" the Globe stage at Cane Springs Canon, Arizona, on May 30th of this year in company with a male partner, had lived the hard life of the frontier after a disastrous matrimonial experience beginning when she was but sixteen years old. She claims that she was driven to desperation by news of the dangerous illness of her mother. She had no money. She could get none, although she tried in various ways, until, finally, familiar with the exploits of the Western Dick Turpins, she determined to imitate them. She is a small woman, weigh­ing less than a hundred pounds, with features of the most common type. Donning a set of man's clothes and taking the necessary revolver, and securing a male companion, she appeared on the highway. The leveled revolvers quickly brought the coach and its occupants to a standstill. Then, under the cool eye of this bit of a creature, the passengers handed over some four hundred dollars. The attempt to escape, the chase, and the capture that followed—the whole story furnishes an interesting side-light on life in the Southwest.

When I was but sixteen years old, and while still at boarding-school, I fell in love with a man I met in the town in which the school was situated. I was easily impressed. I knew nothing of life. Marriage was to me but a name. It did not take him long to get my consent to an elopement. We ran away one night and were married.

"I was happy for a time, but not for long.  My husband began to abuse me, and presently he drove me from him. Then I returned to my mother, in the village of Lindsay, Ontario, where I was born.

Pearl Hart holding
up the stage
"Before long, my husband sent for me, and I went back to him. I loved him, and he promised to do better. I had not been with him two weeks before he began to abuse me again, and after bearing up under his blows as long as I could I left him again. This was just as the World's Fair closed in Chicago, in the fall of 1893. Instead of going home to my mother again, as I should have done, I took the train for Trinidad, Colorado. I was only twenty-two years old. I was good-looking, desperate, discouraged, and ready for any­thing that might come.

"I do not care to dwell on this period of my life. It is sufficient to say that I went from one city to another until sometime later I arrived in Phoenix. I came face to face with my husband on the street one afternoon. I was not then the innocent school-girl he had enticed from home, father, mother, family and friends—far from it. I had been inured to the hard­ships of the world and knew much of its wickedness. Still, the old infatuation came back. I struggled against it. I knew if I went back to him I should be more unhappy than I was, but I lost the battle. I did go back. We lived to­gether for three years, and I was happy and good, for I dearly loved the man whose name I bore. During the first year of my married life a boy was born to us and a girl while we were together at Phoenix.

"He was not content. He began to abuse me as of old, and I left him for the third time, vowing never to speak to him again. I sent my children home to my dear old mother and went east, where I supported myself by working as a servant. I heard of my husband occasionally. I tried to forget him, but could not. He was the father of my children and I loved him, in spite of all the abuse he had heaped on me.

Guarding camp
"Two years after I had left him the third time, he found out where I was. He came to me and begged me to go back to the West with him, making me all kinds of smooth promises. I went back. I fol­lowed him to Tucson. After the money I had saved had been spent, he began beat­ing me, and I lived in hell for months. Finally, he joined McCord's regiment and went to the war. And as for me—why, I went back to Phoenix and got along as best I could.
"I was tired of life. I wanted to die, and tried to kill myself three or four times. I was restrained each time, and finally I got employment cooking for some miners at Mammoth. I lived there for a while, living in a tent pitched on the banks of the Gila River. The work was too hard, and I packed my goods in a wagon and started to go to Globe. I had to return to my old camp because the horses were unable to pull us through. A man named Joe Boot wanted to go to Globe, too, and we made an arrangement with two Mormon boys to freight the whole outfit to Globe for eight dollars. We camped out three miles from Globe, and next day moved in, and I went to work again in a miners' boarding-house. Then one of the big mines shut down and that left me with nothing to do.

"I had saved a little money. One of my brothers found my address and wrote me for some money to help him out of a scrape. I sent him all I had, and was just about to move on to some other town when my husband appeared again. He had been mustered out of his regiment and had followed me to Globe. He was too lazy to work and wanted me to support him. We had another quarrel and parted. I haven't seen him since and I hope I never shall see him again.

"On top of all my other troubles, I got a letter just at this time saying my mother was dying and asking me to come home if I wanted to see her alive again. That letter drove me crazy. No matter what I had been, my mother had been my dearest, truest friend, and I longed, to see her again before she died. I had no money. I could get no money. From what I know now, I believe I became temporarily insane.

"Joe Boot, the man who freighted his goods over to Globe with me, told me he had a mining-claim and offered to go out with me and try to dig up enough metal to get a passage home to Canada. We went out to the claim and both worked night and day. It was useless. The claim was no good. I handled pick and shovel like a man, and began wearing man's clothes while I was mining there. I have never worked so hard in my life, and I have had some pretty hard experi­ences, too.

Holding her pet wildcat
"When we found there wasn't a sign of color in the claim, I was frantic.  I wanted to see my mother. It was the only wish I had. Boot sympathized with me, but he had no money and could not get any. He proposed that we rob the Globe stage. I protested. He said it was the only way to get money. Then I weakened so far as the moral part of it was concerned, but said I was afraid to rob a stage. It seemed a desperate undertaking for a woman of my size. Joe finally said it was easy enough and no one would get hurt. 'A bold front,' he said, 'is all that is necessary to rob any stage.'

"'Joe,' I said, `if you will promise me that no one will be hurt, I will go with you.'

"He promised, and we made our plans.

"On the afternoon of the robbery we took our horses and rode over the mountains and through the can­ons, and at last hit the Globe Road. We rode along slowly until we came to a bend in the road, which was a most favor­able spot for our undertaking. We halted and listened till we heard the stage. Then we went forward on a slow walk, till we saw the stage com­ing around the bend. We then pulled to one side of the road. Joe drew a 'forty-five,' and said, 'Throw up your hands!' I drew my little thirty-eight' and likewise covered the occupants' of the stage. Joe said to me, ‘Get off your horse.' I did so, while he kept the people covered. He ordered them out of the stage. They were a badly scared outfit. I learned how easily a job of this kind could be done.

"Joe told me to search the passengers for arms. I carefully went through them all. They had no pistols. Joe motioned toward the stage. I ad­vanced and searched it, and found the—brave passen­gers had left two of their guns behind them when ordered out of the stage. Really, I can't see why men carry re­volvers, because they almost invariably give them up at the very time they were made to be used. They certainly don't want revolvers for playthings. I gave Joe a 'forty-four,' and kept the 'forty-five' for myself. Joe told me to search the passen­gers for money. I did so, and found on the fellow who was shaking the worst three hundred and ninety dollars. This fellow was trembling so I could hardly get my hand in his pockets. The other fellow, a sort of a dude, with his hair parted in the middle, tried to tell me how much he needed the money, but he yielded thirty-six dollars, a dime and two nickels. Then I searched the remaining passenger, a Chinaman He was nearer my size and I just scared him to death. His clothes enabled me to go through him quickly. I only got five dollars, however.

"The stage-driver had a few dollars, but after a council of war we decided not to rob him. Then we gave each of the others a charitable contribution of a dollar apiece and ordered them to move on, Joe warning them all not to look back as they valued their lives.

"Joe and I rode slowly up the road for a few miles, planning our future move­ments. We turned off the well-traveled road to the right. We sought the roughest and most inaccessible region that we could find. We passed at right angles over canons, and re-passed those same canons the same day, to cover a trail that we knew would be a hot one before many hours. This undertaking, to throw the officers off the track, was most hazardous, and as I look back upon that wild ride, that effort to escape from the consequences of our bloodless crime, I marvel that we did not lose our lives. As it was, we had many very close escapes. Our horses were likewise in per­ilous positions several times. It seems to me now that nothing but the excitement of the hour could have carried me through this awful ride, over the perilous trails and the precipitous canons. To-day I cannot tell how we ever got through the ride that day. Many noises in the great mountains and canons led us to believe that our pursuers were at hand, but these turned out to be the work­ings of our guilty con­sciences.

In the jail yard
"Just at dark that night we came out on the road near Cane Springs. Here Joe left me to take care of the two horses, and went to see if the road ahead was clear. He reported things all right. We then rode toward Riverside, passing that place in the dark about ten o'clock. We continued on for six miles, then crossed the river and camped for the rest of the night and the next day, hobbling our horses as soon as it became dark. We started for the railroad. Our horses were much worn, but in the night we came to a big hay­stack and got a small feed for each of them, then pushed to within six miles of Mammoth. We were well known there and had to be very careful. We first lay down in the bushes, but we heard wagons pass, and, afterward, men on horseback, which made us very uneasy. We kept quiet until the sounds ceased, then crawled and walked up the side of a big sandstone hill where there were many small caves, or holes, of a circular shape, not much larger than a man's body.

"Upon reaching this spot of safety we found it to be the home of wild or musk hogs, which abound in this locality. These hogs will fight if they have to. However, our peril was so great that we could not hesitate about other chances, and we selected a hole into which we could crawl. Joe started in and I followed. Of course, we had to look out for rattle­snakes, too, which made our entrance very slow. After we had crawled about twenty feet, Joe stopped, saying he could see two shining eyes ahead and was going to take a shot.

"I confess I felt very creepy, but we were between the devil and the deed sea and I listened to hear Joe, from his point ahead of me, tell of his success. The animal was shot and killed, and proved to be a big musk-hog. We soon found the powder-smoke annoying, and as we could not turn around we backed to near the entrance for fresh air. We stayed there all day, and what a long day it was!

"When it got dark we saddled our horses. Joe stole into Mammoth for food and tobacco, and got back without arous­ing suspicion. After passing Mammoth, we crossed the river and went as far as the school-house, where we hid ourselves and the horses in the bushes at the farther end of a big field. We secured feed for our animals here, and filled a cotton bag with straw to carry. Tired out, we forgot our troubles and slept soundly. At daylight Joe got some food, and we started on; but after going ten miles our horses showed signs of distress, and I realized how much depended on our animals and would have done anything to secure rest and food for them. I remonstrated with my partner about the condition of things, proposing to put our horses in a field and capture others; also to abandon the horses and walk, or to separate for our own safety. His answer was a peremptory no and we pushed on, passing a Mexican squatter's settlement and coming to a wide ditch. My horse jumped across, but Joe's horse fell in, and for a while I thought they would both be drowned. They finally got out. I sat in my saddle perfectly helpless during the struggle.

"This day, which proved to be our last day of freedom, at least for a while, we spent sleeping and cooking. The rain fell in torrents and we were very uncomfort­able. At night we again started, and rode until five o'clock in the morning. Just after daylight we came across a mountain lion and gave chase for two miles, but could not get a shot. After this we lay down, but were destined not to sleep long. About three hours after lying down we were awakened by yelling and shoot­ing. We sprang up and grabbed our guns, but found we were looking straight into the mouths of two gap­ing Winchesters in the hands of the sheriff's posse. Re­sistance was worse than useless, and we put up hands. At the time of our capt­ure we were within twenty miles of Benson, the railroad station we were mak­ing for. Had we reached Benson, I be­lieve we should have escaped.

Dressed as an ordinary woman
"We were taken as prisoners first to Benson, thence through Tucson to Casa Grande by rail, and then to Florence. We were kindly treated. The worst thing we suffered was from the curious who came to look at and make fun of us. It would have given me pleasure to meet some of these curious fellows as we met the men in the stage, just to see what they were made of.

"On the 20th, I was transferred to the Tucson jail, as the accommodations here were better adapted to a woman, but I did hate to leave Joe, who had been so considerate of me during all the ups and downs of the wild chase we had been through. His entire trouble was brought on by trying to get money for me to reach mother. We took an oath at parting never to serve out a term in the peniten­tiary, but rather to find that rest a tired soul seeks. It is, of course, public that I tried to kill myself the day they separated me from Joe at Florence and to-day I am sorry I didn't succeed."

From the Cosmopolitan Magazine October 1899.

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