Laura Bullion, 1876 – 1961
Laura was born in Texas in 1876 to a Native American father Henry Bullion and German mother Fredy Byler. Her father was an outlaw and acquainted with William Carver and Ben Kilpatrick of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, whom Laura met when she was 13 years old.
At 15 years old she became romantically involved with Carver and began working as a prostitute at Madame Fannie Porter’s brothel in San Antonio. Laura was nicknamed “Della Rose” or “Rose of the Wild Bunch” by the gang and soon became an official member. She would sell stolen goods, forge signatures and gather supplies. She may have also disguised herself as a man and taken part in heists.
After Carver left her for a prostitute named Lillie Davis, Laura became involved with Kilpatrick. On the 3rd July 1901, the gang robbed the Great Northern train as it passed through Montana and stole $60,000. After the robbery, they divided the cash and split up; Laura and Kilpatrick fled to Knoxville, Tennessee.
On the 6th of November that year Laura was arrested with $8,500 of stolen banknotes in her possession. Just over a month later, Kilpatrick was arrested. They were both convicted of robbery and Laura was sentenced to 5 years in prison, while Kilpatrick was sentenced to 20 years. She served three and a half years of her sentence and was released in 1905.
Upon her release, Laura moved to Memphis and adopted the name Freda Bullion Lincoln, claiming to be a war widow. She retired from crime and spent the rest of her life as a housekeeper and seamstress. She died of heart disease on the 2nd December 1961 at 85 years old. Her grave marker reads “The Thorny Rose”.
Pearl Hart, c. 1871 – unknown
Pearl Hart photographer by an unknown photographer, c. 1900.
Photo supplied by Sophie Munro
Pearl was born to a middle-class family in Ontario Canada. At 16 years old Pearl fell in love with a gambler, Frank Hart. The two eloped but Pearl soon discovered that her husband was an abusive drunk.
In 1893 they traveled to Chicago for the Columbian Exposition, where Hart found work as a tout. While wandering the exposition, Pearl became enamoured with the legends of the Wild West. She visited the Women’s Building which displayed the works of female artists and was enthralled by a performance from sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
Perhaps inspired by this experience, Pearl left her husband soon after and travelled to Colorado. There she worked as a cook and saloon singer until she realised she was pregnant. Pearl returned to her family in Ohio and gave birth to a son. She then travelled alone to Arizona where she worked as a cook and laundress.
Around 1895 she reconciled with her husband and had a daughter, but after her savings had dwindled he left them to join the Spanish-American War in 1898. For a time Pearl operated a tent brothel near a mine where she met a miner Joe Boot. When the mine closed, both were in dire financial straits and decided to rob a stagecoach.
The robbery took place on the 30th May 1899 and the pair stole around $450. Pearl had cut her hair short and wore men’s clothing. She curiously returned $1 to each passenger before she and Boot fled. They got lost in the Arizona wilderness and were arrested on the 5th June after their campfire drew the attention of the Sheriff’s posse.
Pearl was taken to Yuma Territorial Prison, but escaped on the 12th October by digging a hole through her cell wall’s fragile plaster. Though her freedom was brief and she was swiftly recaptured, the incident added to her growing celebrity as the “Bandit Queen”. At Pearl’s trial she made the feminist statement “I shall not consent to be tried under a law in which my sex had no voice in making”. Regardless she was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Pearl was imprisoned at Yuma Territorial Prison but was pardoned in December of 1902.
Following her release, she joined Buffalo Bill’s West Show then in 1904 opened a cigar store. She disappeared from record soon after and her later years remain a mystery.
Sophie Munro is a passionate amateur historian from Devon, UK. For more fascinating stories of weird and wonderful women find her at instagram.com/