|A pioneer, prospector and businesswoman, Nellie Cashman lived and worked in the mining camps of the West, from Arizona to Alaska. She spent the 1880s and 1890s in Arizona, first running a restaurant in Tucson and later operating a boarding house and restaurant in Tombstone. For her tireless efforts helping others, she became known as "the miner's angel."
An Irish immigrant, Cashman lived in Boston, San Francisco, and British Columbia before moving to Arizona in 1879. While in British Columbia, she opened a boarding house and grubstaked or financed many miners who were developing claims. In Tucson, she launched Delmonico's Restaurant. Then a year later, she moved to Tombstone and established the Nevada Boot and Shoe Store and later a boarding house and restaurant, the Russ House. Cashman also operated another hotel and restaurant with her sister, Fannie Cunningham. In 1884, Fannie died, leaving "Aunt Nell" to raise her five children. Cashman remained single and assumed the responsibility of supporting and educating her nieces and nephews.
Nellie Cashman became very active in Tombstone, helping others who suffered from accidents and illnesses during the 1880s, when the town lacked a hospital. She also organized support for one of the town's first schools and raised funds for Tombstone's first Catholic Church. In addition, she invested in claims and partnered with miners to develop them.
Cashman moved frequently, living in Kingston, New Mexico from 1887 to 1888 before she heard about a new mineral find in western Arizona, in the Centennial-Harrisburg vicinity of the Harqua Hala Mountains. Cashman bought claims there and sold supplies to miners, living there for a few years. During the early 1890s, she lived in other Arizona towns, including Jerome, Prescott, Globe, and Yuma.
Cashman's great interest in prospecting continued and she left for Alaska in 1898 to strike it rich in Klondike. There she ran a restaurant, purchased claims and grubstaked many miners while also helping to establish St. Mary's Church and Hospital. During the early twentieth century, she continued to operate businesses and travel, often by dog team. In 1924, Cashman set a record as the champion woman musher, traveling 750 miles in 17 days with her dog team, from Koyukuk to Seward, Alaska.
In the summer of 1924 she became ill. After traveling to Fairbanks, she was diagnosed with double pneumonia. She died in 1925 in Victoria, British Columbia at the age of 81.
The former Russ House, where Cashman ran a boarding house, has been restored and is now the Nellie Cashman Restaurant at 431 S. 5th Street in Tombstone.
For additional information see the following books:
Chaput, Donald. Nellie Cashman and the North American Mining Frontier. Tucson:
Westernlore Press, 1995.
Fischer, Ron. Nellie Cashman: Frontier Angel. Honolulu: Talei Publishers, 2000.
Ledbetter, Suzann. Nellie Cashman Prospector and Trailblazer. El Paso: Texas Western
Press, University of Texas at El Paso: 1993.
Nellie Cashman - Courtesy of Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, Archives Division
Nellie Cashman Boarding House/Restaurant, Tombstone, Arizona - Courtesy of Anita Skinner, Russ House