Legendary people of the history of the Yukon and the gold fields of Canada.
Early Life of Nellie Cashman
Nellie Ellen Cashman was born in 1845 in County Cork, Ireland, during the infamous Irish Potato Famine that forced thousands to flee the starvation of Ireland. In 1850 the family consisting of Nellie, her mother Frances, and sister Fannie sailed to America, landing in Boston, Massachusetts. By the year 1865, they headed west to San Francisco, California.
Nellie was a free spirit, worked hard with her mother, ran a border house, and always looking for a chance to explore the west. Rumors were circulating of the Klondike Gold finds, and in 1874, Nellie left for the Cassiar Mountains in British, Columbia. She immediately set up a boarding house for miners and worked with the Sisters of St. Ann to seek donations for a hospital. Nellie was a devout Catholic and charged nothing to the mine rs for their rooms. Instead, she asked for donations for the hospital.
The Rescue of The Miners in The Yukon
Sometime during the 1870s, a severe snowstorm in the Yukon, British Columbia, about one hundred miners were trapped and snowed in. at the gold field. The men ran out of food and medical supplies and began suffering scurvy. Nellie heard of the plight of the starving miners. With no thought of the danger, she put together six men and pack animals loaded with 1500 pounds of supplies, including orange juice.
Nellie was only five feet tall, weighing about one hundred pounds, yet she trudged through the ten-foot snowdrifts, through wolves and freezing weather. The Canadian Army officers begged her to risk her life for the rescue mission. But Nellie was determined and knew the miners had no chance without the supplies. It took the rescue team seventy-seven days to reach the miners.
As the story subsided, the Canadian officers were sent to find her and as they entered the camp, there she was making tea over the fire. She had nursed the men back to health as they now called her The Angel Of The Yukon.
Nellie Moves To Tucson And Tombstone, Arizonia
In 1880, Nellie moved to Tucson, again opening a boarding house, along with a restaurant called Delmonicos. She was known for simple home-cooked meals and continued to make a profit. In 1884, her sister Fannie died, leaving her five children orphans. Without a thought, Nellie stepped in, taking responsibility for caring for the children.
Nellie sold her business in Tucson and moved to Tombstone, setting up her business again and helping the community of Tombstone. This time she was instrumental in building a church. It is believed that Wyatt Earp let her use his saloon for Sunday services until the church could be completed.
It wasn't long before Nellie heard about the Dawson Gold Field. So off Nellie went to Koyukuk and the Dawson Camp. This time Nellie bought a claim for herself. She now owned Claim No. 19 and then sold it for over $100,000. She gave it all to charity.
Mining regulations prohibited unmarried women from filing claims in the gold fields. Instead, they could only purchase claims already filed.
Timeline Of Nellie Cashman
- 1845 Nellie was born in County Cork, Ireland
- 1850 Cashman Family Immigrates to America
- 1870 Nellie rescues miners in the Yukon
- 1880 Nellie moves to Tucson, Arizona, then Tombstone
- 1898 Nellie back to Gold Camp, Dawson, Alaska
- 1907 Nellie dog-sleds to Brooks Mts, Yukon, age 60
- 1923 Nellies gives returns to Victoria, British Columbia
- 1925 Nellie takes the last trip to Seward, Alaska, catches pneumonia
- 1925 Nellie dies, Victoria, British Columbia
- 1925 Nellie was buried at Ross Bay Cemetery, British Columbia
- 1994 Nellie honored with Commemorative U.S. Postage Stamp
- 2006 Nellie inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame
- 2014 Monument erected in Middleton, County Cork, Ireland
- Nellie Cashman Day, August 26, celebrated yearly in Tombstone, Arizona
Legacy of Nellie Cashman
When Nellie died in 1925, newspapers eulogized her in New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. She was remembered for her inspiration, humanitarian works, and devotion to others. Nellie was a grand figure of the Old West, instrumental in setting up hospitals, boarding houses, and restaurants. At the Dawson Gold Field, she owned Claim No. 19 and sold it for $100,000. And gave it all to charity.
It seems possible that she probably saw the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) since she was so often in the Yuko. The Northern Lights is a spectacular, colorful display of lights and is considered the Holy Grail of skywatchers. An American Inuit legend says the lights are the Spirits playing with a Walrus head.
Many books and articles have been written about the life of Nellie Cashman and her life of helping others.