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It was probably the last stage coach robbery in Arizona. Though many reports claim it was the last in the United States, there was one in Nevada in 1916.
Perhaps the only reason it was news was that one of the bandits was a woman — a gun-toting, trousers-wearing woman.
The other bandit may not be well remembered, but the woman became a bit of a legend.
From the Arizona Daily Star, Thursday, June 1, 1899:
WE HAVE A WOMAN BANDIT_____
Stage Held Up By a Man and Woman._____
They Secure Three Hundred and Fifty Dollars, a Six Shooter and a Gold Watch from the Passengers._____
Associated Press Night Report,
PHOENIX, Ariz., May 31.—Arizona has a woman bandit. She helped a male companion to hold up the Globe and Florence stage yesterday. The robbery took place near Riverside, a station half way between the two towns. Neither of the robbers wore a mask, and though the smaller wore men's clothing, there was no doubt of her sex. The description of the two fitted a man and woman who had been at Florence the day before.
There were three passengers on the stage from whom 0, a six-shooter and a gold watch were taken. While the male robber was searching the victims, his companion kept them terrorized with a shotgun. A posse is hunting for the bandits.
Sheriff Wakefield of this city also received a dispatch as follows:
FLORENCE, May 31.—Stage held up at Cain Springs Canyon yesterday about 5 o'clock, p.m., by two persons, one a medium sized man, resembles a Swede, weighs about 160 pounds; the other small of stature, long black hair, supposed to be a woman, wore a white brimmed hat; wore black and bay horses, with blind bridles, leading one to suppose they were traveling by wagon.
One may deduce that the bandits did not really wear black and bay horses, but rode them instead. This was surely either a mistake in the dispatch or one made in the transcription.
Have any readers guessed the identity of the woman bandit? Many think it was the only stage robbery by a woman, but in 1879, Jane Kirkham was killed while robbing a state coach.
The bandits were apprehended in short order. A notice appeared as a mere paragraph in some news briefs.
From the Star, Tuesday, June 6, 1899:
Sheriff Truman of Pinal county passed through Tucson Sunday morning on the west bound train, having as prisoners the man and woman who so successfully held up the Florence stage on May 31. The capture reflects great credit to Sheriff Truman.
Prisoner accommodations were not suitable for female prisoners, so the woman was transferred to the Pima county jail to await trial. Perhaps she grew tired of waiting, because she escaped a few months later. She was finally named in the article.
From the Star, Friday, Oct. 13, 1899:
Pear Hart Escapes from the County Jail.
Early yesterday morning Pearl Hart, the woman stage robber, escaped from the county jail, and at this writing has not been captured. Pearl Hart was a prisoner of the Pinal county officials, but was taken from the Florence jail and brought to this city as the accommodations at the Pinal county jail are not suitable for women prisoners. Since her confinement here Sheriff Wakefield and his deputies have used every precaution for her safekeeping, and they naturally feel much chagrined over her escape.
Since her confinement in the Pima county jail Pearl Hart has occupied a room directly over the rear room of the county recorder's office. This room adjoins the small room containing the stairway leading up to the tower of the building. A door opens from the small room on to the second floor of the court house at the had of the stairs leading down to the main entrance. Between the two rooms mentioned there is nothing but a lath and plaster partition. The door leading from the tower into the court house is generally locked, but on the night of the escape it apparently was not. It is evident that after everything was quiet some one entered the court house, walked up the stairway and entered the tower room through the unlocked door. It was the work of but a very few minutes to cut a hole through the wall into Pearl Hart's room. She held a sheet to catch the plaster on her side. After the hole was cut through she put a table underneath, and placing a chair upon that, crawled through the hole. From the size of the aperture it is evident that Pearl Hart must have required considerable help in getting through. After joining her accomplice in the escape, it was only necessary to open the door and descend the stairway into the street. As there is no night watchman for the court house outside the jail, it was an easy matter to gain the street without detection.
In all probability horses were in waiting and the pair made a bee line for the border. It is claimed that she may have left the city on the west bound passenger train, but this is hardly a possibility, as the risk of detection was too great. To those who have seen Pearl Hart either in her proper attire or the masculine dress she commonly wore, it can readily be imagined how difficult disguise would be.
Ed Hogan, serving a sentence for drunk and disorderly conduct, is also missing and the theory is that he assisted Pearl in her escape. He had but ten more days to serve and had been given some liberty as a trusty. When the jail was locked up on Wednesday night Hogan was missing and it is presumed that he hid himself in the city until about midnight and then returned to the county building to assist in the escape, an understanding having been reached during his confinement as to the method of escape.
Pearl Hart has added another chapter to her remarkable experience of the past few months, but whether she will be successful in remaining out of jail for any length of time remains to be seen.
It was reported on the street late last night that Pearl had been captured afoot and along on the road between here and Florence. None of the jail officials, however, knew anything of the reported capture.
Pearl's whereabouts remained a mystery for a week. From the Star, Saturday, Oct. 21, 1899:
No clue as to the whereabouts of Pearl Hart has yet to be obtained. All manner of theories have been advanced as to where she is, but they all lack foundation of facts. Sheriff Wakefield has given the matter much attention and has neglected no chance of investigation, but if he has obtained any definite clue to work upon wisely keeps his own counsel. It is rumored that Pearl was traced as far as the vicinity of Bowie and from that point is believed to have gone north in the direction of Globe and probably is hiding in the mountains of Graham or Gila county. As a matter of fact, however, it seems more reasonable to believe that she is either in hiding in the city or else escaped to Sonora below the line.
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