In 1800s mining camps, petite, persuasive Nellie Cashman, with a lyrical Irish brogue, opened boarding houses and restaurants within a matter of days upon entering town. Her ability to serve appetizing and affordable meals lasted over 50 years.
Born in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, around 1845, Nellie was 5 years old when she immigrated to Boston with her widowed mother and younger sister Fanny. By the time she was 20, the family was living in San Francisco.
After her sister married, Nellie set off for the brawling mining district of Pioche, Nevada, to run the Miner’s Boarding House. But it was prospecting that lured Nellie to the Silver State — she would go wherever a strike looked promising. And as soon as she arrived in town, she set about opening a restaurant and boarding house, providing food and shelter to miners.
Nellie traveled from Nevada to the lucrative gold fields of Cassiar in the northwest section of British Columbia.
Shortly after she left Cassiar, a winter storm stranded the remaining miners, cutting off their supplies. Nellie hired a handful of men, bought over 1,500 pounds of provisions, and headed north again, this time to rescue the miners. Her heroics made front-page headlines and Nellie’s reputation as the miners’ angel was born.
When Nellie decided on a project, it was as good as done. The Sisters of St. Ann in Victoria, British Columbia, decided to build a hospital, so Nellie persuaded her fellow prospectors to open their bags of gold dust and donate to the cause. St. Joseph’s Hospital became her haven through the years. Nellie often visited the sisters when she needed a respite from the stark living conditions of mining camps.
Leaving the frozen frontier, Nellie settled in Tucson in June 1879, running the Delmonico Restaurant, which advertised “the best meals in the city.”
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