Story Of Nellie
A short history of Nellie Cashman
She was a small, slender woman just a shade over five feet. Her eyes and hair were jet black and her skin was like the petals of a white rose. She spoke with a decided Irish lilt, was a devout Catholic, and followed the mining boomtowns from Tombstone to Alaska. This unusual lady was Nellie Cashman, called by many the "Angel of Tombstone". John P. Clum, founder of the Tombstone Epitaph, once wrote that Nellie was a "noble woman whose energy, courageous, and self-sacrificing life was an inspiration on the frontier for half a century". Nellie was born in Queenstown, Ireland sometime around 1844. While still a child she and her sister Frances came to America and settled in Boston. Upon leaving Boston they resided in Washington, D.C. for a short period of time. From the nation's capital, the two women sailed to Panama, rode burros across the country, and then took passage on another ship to complete their journey to San Francisco. While she was still a young lady, Nellie made quite a name for herself in mining camps scattered throughout the west: Coeur d'Alene, Virginia City, Pioche, Tombstone and numerous others. In 1875, she led a party of six men, with 1500 pounds of supplies, into Telegraph Creek up in the frozen reaches of the far North, to aid a party of miners stricken with scurvy. Later that same year she helped raise funds to build St. Joseph's Hospital in Victoria. Word of the new mining camps blossoming throughout southern Arizona drew her to Tucson in 1879. She opened Delmonico's Restaurant on the south side of Church Plaza. Her cooking was superb and her new business did well. Then the stories of a new silver strike began to drift in; stories about a camp called...Tombstone. Nellie could not ignore the lure of a new boomtown, so she sold her restaurant to Mrs. J. Smith. Arriving in Tombstone she took a partner, Jennie Swift and the two ladies opened a fruit and provision store. The tiny Irish lass also purchased the Russ House, located at the corner of fifth and Toughnut Streets, and She converted it into a hotel and restaurant. It became known as Nellie Cashman's Hotel in 1882. Nellie invested wisely and in time became the owner of a grocery store and a saloon in addition to her other holdings. She hired a man to run the saloon and would not go near it. Frances died a few years later and Nellie raised and educated her three nieces and two nephews. Although she made a great deal of money it always went to help people who were sick or down on their luck. Frequently her hotel was converted into a free hospital with Nellie serving as nurse. Many of her fund-raising drives received large sums of money from the saloons and the red light district. Back in July 1881 Nellie had brought three Sisters of Mercy to Tombstone to take over the City and County Hospital. Earlier in 1880 she had assisted the Sisters of St. Joseph in Tucson. This was the first non-military hospital in Arizona. Nellie was instrumental in building one of the first schools in Tombstone, and Tombstone's first Catholic Church, located at Safford and Sixth Streets. One Tombstone story relates how a drummer, staying at the Russ House complained about Nellie's beans. A miner, frequently befriended by Nellie overheard this remark. He walked over and placed a six-gun to the man's head and quietly suggested that he eat every bean on his plate and pretend to enjoy them. The drummer ate with enthusiasm and said no more. In 1884, Dan Kelly, Omar Sample, James Howard and Billy Delaney awaiting their execution date at the Tombstone Courthouse for murders they had committed in a Bisbee holdup. An enterprising carpenter built a grandstand and was busily selling seats to any individuals whom wished to view the executions. The doomed men resented such proceeding and complained to Nellie. She gathered several friends and destroyed the grandstands. Before the five men were hanged she converted two of them to Catholicism. Rumors were rife that their bodies were to be given to medical research after they had been hanged Nellie promised them that she would not allow this to happen. To see that it did not she hired men to guard the graves of the five men in Boothill for several days after their burial. This amazing woman left Tombstone when the mines began to close. She traveled extensively even going to Africa, then returned to Arizona to open the Arizona Silver Bell Restaurant in Prescott in 1885. When gold was discovered in Alaska she opened the "Alaskan Delmonico Restaurant". The price of food was so high that one of her meals cost $6. Still if a man was hungry and broke she fed him without charge. After some months she bought a grocery store in which she set aside an area for reading, writing and provided free cigars and tobacco. It was called the "Prospectors Haven of Rest". Nellie Cashman never married though she had ample opportunity. The miners of every camp adored and respected her. Whenever she entered a saloon, dance hall, or other public building every man present would stand. From Dawson, Nellie went to Fairbanks in 1904. From Fairbanks to the upper Koyukuk River country for prospecting and mining. Nellie was known to have driven a dogsled over 750 miles of ice and bitter cold at the age of 80. But the end was near for Nellie. Quite ill she entered St. Joseph's Hospital in Victorian October 9, 1924. Old and feeble this indomitable woman, who had spent her whole life helping others, was flat broke. Death took her on January 4, 1925. Her grave has no stone, but the concrete ledge around it carries an inscription: NELLIE CASHMAN 80 YEARS JANUARY 4, 1925 BORN IN IRELAND Such an epitaph is insufficient for an angel. SINCE this was printed the Sisters from St. Joseph's hospital in Victoria have put a headstone on her grave.