Tombstone History Archives
Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years
Nellie Cashman, the Angel of Tombstone - Transcribed by Phyllis Eccleston
“Nellie Cashman, the Angel of Tombstone:
A Modest Tribute to the Memory of a Noble Woman, Whose Energetic, Courageous, Self Sacrificing Life Was an Inspiration on a Wide Frontier During Half a Century,”
by John P. Clum (originally published in the Arizona Historical Review, 1931)
“He went about doing good.”
This is one of the simple, but sincere and comprehensive tributes recorded in the inspired story of the life of the author of the Sermon on the Mount, and I have not found among the acquaintances of a lifetime anyone who more justly deserves a similar tribute than Nellie Cashman, for, verily, she went about doing good.
For several years I have felt that some record of the life of this remarkable woman should be given a permanent place in the historical archives of the Pacific Coast, and I am sure that this feeling is unanimous with all who knew Miss Cashman at some period of her extended career of usefulness, as well as by those who have learned something of her activities on three national frontiers Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Doubtless others have felt the urge to contribute a biographical sketch of this courageous and tireless worker in many fields, but, like myself, have hesitated because of a lack of specific details so essential to the creation of an effective story of this character.
As late as 1908 I could have obtained much invaluable data from Nellie herself, when I saw her for the last time at Fairbanks, Alaska, but that chance was allowed to slip by with other lost opportunities. Now, in spite of handicaps and regrets, I am determined to set down as much of the unique story of her life as I may be able to do with the memoranda available, encouraged by the hope that my very humble, but very sincere, tribute to the memory of this noble woman may inspire others to extend, or amend, this record until a memorial shall have been constructed which in sentiment and human interest may be commensurate with the activities and achievements of our heroine.
Nellie Cashman led an humble life. Her principal business was to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless, and her chief divertissement was to relieve those in distress and to care for the sick and afflicted. She persisted in good deeds through half a century, and her helpful activities were distributed over a broad field which extended from the arid deserts of Mexico to the bleak and inhospitable regions within the Arctic Circle. She was inclined to associate more generally with men than with members of her own sex, and on several occasions she joined in stampedes with men, tramping with them over rugged trails and sharing the vicissitudes and discomforts of their rude camps. Nevertheless, she maintained an unimpeachable reputation, and her character and conduct commanded the universal respect and admiration of every community in which she lived.
I have before me a copy of The Daily Arizona Citizen (Vol. 1, No. 120), dated July 29, 1879, which contains the following advertisement:
“DELMONICO RESTAURANT Miss Nellie Cashman Has just opened a New Restaurant on the South side of Church Plaza TUCSON ARIZONA Miss Cashman will personally superintend the Cooking and Dining Departments. Patronage Solicited.”
I established the Daily Citizen in Tucson in February, 1879, and one morning a lady visited my office and arranged for the publication of the advertisement quoted above. It was in this matter of fact business fashion that I first met Nellie Cashman. Tucson was still a Mexican pueblo, numbering very few white women among its bona fide citizens, and Nellie was the first of her sex to embark solo in a business enterprise. Her frank manner, her self reliant spirit, and her emphatic and fascinating Celtic brogue impressed me very much, and indicated that she was a woman of strong character and marked individuality, who was well qualified to undertake and achieve along lines that would be regarded as difficult and daring by a majority of the weaker sex.
Being a newspaper man and somewhat of a wanderer myself, it was inevitable that I should encourage the proprietress of the new Delmonico Restaurant to reveal something of her history. Apparently she was about my own age (28), but I soon learned that she had already passed through a number of thrilling experiences which had demonstrated her pioneer spirit, courage, and endurance, as well as her ability to render a good account of herself in the face of the most trying conditions.
The romantic story of Miss Cashman’s frontier experiences began when she joined the stampede to the Cassiar gold diggings in 1877. Just now the average tourist is keenly interested in the plan to extend the famous Cariboo Trail in British Columbia, northward through the old Cassi[a]r district and into Alaska, thus completing the International Pacific Highway from Mexico to the remote Land of the Golden Twilight and the Midnight Sun.
British Columbia is a region of varied and inspiring scenic features. Two great rivers rise in the southern part of this vast province the Columbia and the Fraser. The initial course of both of these rivers is northward for about 200 miles, when each river makes a complete U turn the Columbia to the east and the Fraser to the west and flow thence southward, the Columbia crossing the border line into the United States, while the Fraser turns westward just above the border and reaches the coast at Vancouver. The great loop of the Fraser sweeps around the northern reaches of the Cariboo Range and it was this range that gave the name to the famous Cariboo Trail which was blazed by hardy adventurers away back in the ’50’s. This trail followed the rugged and picturesque course of the Fraser and led to some of the richest placer gold diggings in the world. Over it surged a romantic and colorful traffic, pack animals of many sorts horses, mules, oxen, dogs and it is even alleged that a few camels were in the struggling caravan. Many hopeful prospectors who could not afford to pay for transportation packed their worldly goods on their backs as they trudged along the rugged Cariboo Trail. There are still some relics of the old road houses along the trail Hope, Yale, Spuzzum, Boston Bar, Cache Creek, Seventy Mile House, and Quesnel. Later, when the trail became a highway, there rumbled the freight wagons and rolled the Concord coaches, bearing supplies and passengers and mail to the diggings, and returning with heavy shipments of gold dust guarded by shot gun messengers or cavalry escorts.
In the middle of [the] ’70’s the “pay dirt” along the Fraser and its tributaries had been pretty well worked over, and the gold hunters were in a mood to join in a rush to new fields. The inspiration for such a stampede occurred in 1877 with the announcement of the discovery of gold in the Cassiar District. The Cariboo Range is about midway between the north and south boundaries of British Columbia, while the Cassiar Range crosses the northern border of that province and extends into the Yukon Territory. These asserted new diggings lay across the mountains eastward from Juneau and Skagway, Alaska. Waters from that region flow into the Pacific via the Stikine River, and into the Bering Sea via the Pelly and Yukon rivers, and into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River.
It was toward this bleak Arctic divide that the daring Cassiar stampeders set their faces and with them went courageous Nellie Cashman. The trek led over new and difficult trails, far from the base of supplies. The winter was very severe with heavy snows. The supply of vegetables in this remote and isolated camp was soon exhausted and the miners began to suffer from scurvy. It was in this serious dilemma that Nellie Cashman’s strong character and resourcefulness leaped into action and a calamity was averted. She succeeded in making a special arrangement by which potatoes and some other vegetables were brought in by express, the spuds being given preference over nearly all other shipments. There was no question as to the cost the vegetables must be brought in.
In spite of the long, difficult trail and the deep snows the spuds arrived and the scourge of scurvy was halted and many lives were saved. The determination with which Nellie Cashman undertook to obtain the vegetables and her persistence in the matter regardless of expense and the generous manner in which the vegetables were served after their arrival, won the hearts of the Cassiar miners, and ever thereafter they were her steadfast friends.
Nellie Cashman had proved that she had courage and endurance equal to the hardships and hazards involved in the strenuous life on the trail of the stampeders and in the rude camps of the rugged gold diggers, and that when their health was at stake she hastened to contribute both her energy and her means to their welfare. And so it came to pass that no matter where Nellie went in later years there was sure to be someone about who knew Nellie’s record in the Cassiar District and who hastened to make that record known in the new camp. The stampede to the Cassiar District has retained a place in history chiefly because of the hardships experienced. Practically no gold was found.
In 1878 Nellie returned to California and soon thereafter visited the bustling mining camps of Virginia City and Pioche, Nevada. But both of those noted camps were then on the decline and it was deemed best to seek a permanent location elsewhere. Arizona was just coming to the front as a land of promise for the young and robust, and very soon Nellie was headed for Arizona.
When Miss Cashman came to Tucson in 1879 there were very few white women in that ancient pueblo, and as the proprietress of a public eating house she met a majority of the passing throng and was able, in her own quiet but effective way, to assist many a wanderer who was in need of a word of sympathy and encouragement, or perchance, of more substantial aid when one was down on his luck. And if any were in actual want, or sick, then Nellie was in her element, working out ways and means to relieve the needy and care for the afflicted.
In 1880 Nellie cast her lot with the booming mining camp of Tombstone, where she established herself as the proprietress of the Russ House. It was at Tombstone that I learned more fully to appreciate the sterling qualities of character possessed by Miss Cashman. Tombstone was then a bustling camp. Hundreds were added to its population each month. Illness and accidents occurred among this milling throng of miners and prospectors. There was no hospital at Tombstone, so there were many opportunities for generous, self sacrificing, willing hands to help in these cases of illness or accident or pressing need, and we soon found that Nellie was prompt and persistent and effective with plans for relief. It might be a simple contribution, or an entertainment of some sort, but whatever it might be, Nellie’s plan met with immediate and substantial support. If she asked for a contribution we contributed. If she had tickets to sell we bought tickets. If she needed actors for a play we volunteered to act. And, although Nellie’s pleas were frequent, none ever refused her. In fact, we would have felt offended had we not been allowed an opportunity to assist in some way with each one of Nellie’s benefits. Her benefits were many and varied. One I can never forget. A prospector had been sinking a shaft single handed and had fallen into the shaft and broken both legs. He was discovered in a most pitiable condition. Nellie rushed to his aid and within a day or two secured nearly $500 for his care and comfort.
It might be alleged that these individual instances appealed to Nellie’s sympathetic and emotional nature, and that she acted upon the impulse of the moment, but any such implications vanish before the facts of the major deed undertaken by Miss Cashman in 1880, which involved most serious physical, moral, and financial responsibilities extending over a period of years, and proved in the most convincing manner that the quality of her kindness of heart and self sacrifice were genuine and steadfast. The following record indicates the course of events that finally persuaded our heroine to consecrate some of the best years of her life to a service, which, in the fullness of her religious zeal, she doubtless believed a divine influence had placed in the pathway of her life, not only as a privilege but as a sacred duty.
Nellie Cashman was born in Queenstown, Ireland. Accompanied by her sister she came to the United States soon after the Civil War landing in Boston, Mass., in 1867 or 1868. The two sisters crossed the continent to San Francisco in 1869 soon after the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. In 1870 the sister married Thomas Cunningham at San Francisco. Ten years later, in 1880, Mr. Cunningham died, leaving his widow and five children without sufficient means for their support. Nellie Cashman had just established herself in the Russ House at Tombstone. About a month after the death of Mr. Cunningham, Nellie arrived in San Francisco and without delay took her sister and the five children with her to Tombstone where she did everything within her power to provide a comfortable home for the bereaved family.
In 1883 the widowed mother died leaving the five orphans entirely dependent upon “Aunt Nell.” The support, training, and education of five orphans, ranging from four to twelve years of age, is a grave and trying responsibility that few would willingly undertake. But “Aunt Nell” cheerfully accepted the service demanded by the circumstances, and during the years that followed she faithfully fulfilled her duties and obligations as foster mother. The five orphans were not only supported, but they were afforded reasonable educational opportunities and thus were enabled to start out in life on fairly equal terms with the average youths of the period. All of these children reached maturity. Only one is now living M. J. Cunningham the “Mischievous Mike” of Tombstone back in the ’80’s who now ranks among the most useful and influential citizens of Cochise County, and occupies the responsible position of President of the Bank of Bisbee and the Bank of Lowell. Mr. Cunningham gratefully concedes that his success in life is, in a large degree, attributable to the care, counsel, and encouragement he received at the hands of his foster mother “Aunt Nell.”
And we need not doubt that these five husky Irish American kids provided Aunt Nell with frequent periods of anxiety, opportunities for which were enhanced by the woolly wild environments of a booming mining camp and the wide open spaces of a section of Arizona that was still marked occasionally by the trails of marauding renegade Apaches. “Mike” was next to the oldest of the quintet, and he has confessed a single episode which will serve as an illustration of what might happen to a red blooded kid along the lines of mischief and adventure in those days when Tombstone was young and vigorous and unrestrained. Mike and a boy friend were each the proud possessor of a burro. One day they decided it would be great sport to ride their burros on a prospecting trip out to the Dragoon Mountains some fourteen miles northeast from Tombstone. They made the trip all right and about dark they reached an old ranch house near the foothills of the Dragoons where they decided to remain for the night. Soon after dark they saw signal fires in the mountains, one of which did not seem to be very far from their lonely and isolated camp. Immediately those mountains seemed peopled with lurking renegade Apaches ready to swoop down and massacre the youthful adventurers at the old ranch house.
Mike admits that he and his companion were thoroughly alarmed and sincerely regretted they had not remained within range of the protecting arm of Aunt Nell. They were afraid to attempt to return in the darkness, so they huddled together in the farthest corner of the old ranch house, trembling with fear that the Apaches might raid the ranch, but hoping they would not be discovered even if the Indians did come. Thus the unhappy hours dragged by it seemed many hours to the frightened kids until ten or eleven o’clock when they were further alarmed by the sounds of a team approaching then suddenly a familiar voice dispelled all their fears they were rescued. Mike asserts that Aunt Nell’s voice sounded mighty good to “us kids” at the old ranch house that night.
A prospector on his way to Tombstone had passed the youthful adventurers with their burros headed for the mountains, and having recognized Mike he thought it best to report the incident to Aunt Nell. The result was that Aunt Nell secured a team and buggy which she drove, unescorted, through the night out to the old ranch house in the foothills of the Dragoons, where she discovered the truant kids, piled them unceremoniously into the buggy, and hustled them back to Tombstone and to safety. Mike says he doesn’t think Aunt Nell ever knew what fear or danger was and the old timers who knew Miss Cashman will concur in this opinion. The many years of care and devotion lavished upon her foster family doubtless offer the outstanding reason why Nellie Cashman never married.
The day after the exciting and disastrous prospecting escapade indulged in by the adventurous Mike and his equally daring companion, “Aunt Nell” sent a man out to the old ranch house in the Dragoons for the purpose of salvaging the two burros, which were highly prized by their youthful owners, but which had been abandoned to their fate the night before when the would be prospectors fled in haste to the security and comforts of the Russ House. The faithful animals were recovered, and never thereafter were they urged along trails where they might be in danger of an attack by a band of marauding renegade Apaches.
Feeling confident that the influence of “Aunt Nell” had been a dominating factor in directing the course of events which finally located the youthful “Mike” in Bisbee, thus marking a vital step in his personal career as well as in the industrial development of Arizona I requested Banker Cunningham to tell me briefly, the circumstances that led him to Bisbee and into the bank. Mr. Cunningham has graciously complied with my request, and his brief and simple statement is not only of historical interest and an inspiration to every young man who may read it but it, likewise, fully confirms my suspicions relative to the personal activities and wise counsel of “Aunt Nell” as the instigator of the trek to Bisbee. Here is Mike’s story:
“About the year 1893 I was employed in the office of the District Attorney of Yavapai County, at Prescott, where Aunt Nell visited me. She was well acquainted with W. H. Brophy, who was then general manager of all the mercantile interests of the Phelps Dodge Corporation. She was very anxious that I should have the benefit of a business training under him, and Mr. Brophy readily agreed to this arrangement. Without delay I went to Bisbee and was assigned to duty as cashier in the office of the mercantile department of the Phelps Dodge establishment.
“At that time there was no bank in Cochise County and the store was conducting a semi banking business. After several years this business had grown to such proportions that the Phelps Dodge people decided to eliminate the banking department.
“It was then that W. H. Brophy, general manager of the Phelps Dodge Mercantile Company; J. S. Douglas, prominent in the mining game in Arizona; Ben Williams, general manager of the Phelps Dodge interests in Bisbee; J. B. Angius, local merchant, and myself organized The Bank of Bisbee.
“This bank opened for business on February 19, 1900. Mr. Brophy was the first president. J. S. Douglas was vice president, while I held down the job of cashier. Of the five original incorporators only two are left Mr. Douglas and myself.”
At Tucson and Tombstone Miss Cashman conducted restaurants and she advertised “the best meals in town.” In that business sanitation was a vital feature. Nellie always made it so, and in insisting upon sanitary methods she had to be very strict with her employees. But because of her kindly disposition and the justice of her demands, her instructions were always cheerfully complied with in fact, her employees were always numbered among her good friends. This spirit of respect and esteem is strikingly illustrated by the unique manner in which it was expressed by “Sam Lee.” Sam was a Chinese cook employed by Nellie in Tombstone. He found it necessary to pay a brief visit to his native land and requested leave of absence for that purpose. When he was ready to leave he asked Nellie to give him one of her photographs. “Me tak ‘em picture to China,” said Sam, “me get him Chinaman paint fine picture of you, Miss Cashman, and me fetch ‘em fine picture back to you.” Sam got the photograph and he had his artist friend of China paint a portrait of his esteemed employer, and he “fetch ‘em fine picture back” to America, and that excellent portrait of “Aunt Nell” now occupies a niche of honor among Mike Cunningham’s prized possessions in his Bisbee home. He says “Aunt Nell” told him many times that the painting was executed by a Chinese artist in Hong Kong. A photograph of this portrait is presented herewith.
Nellie Cashman was a devout Catholic, but her ministrations were not restricted to any sect or creed. It was but natural, however, that her most conspicuous activities should develop in connection with individuals and organizations of her own faith, and opportunities of this character often presented themselves to her in Tombstone. A conspicuous incident of this kind occurred in the spring of 1884. Five men, Daniel Kelly, Omer W. Sample, James Howard, Daniel Dowd, and William Delaney, were under sentence of death for murders committed at Bisbee the previous year. Sheriff J. L. Ward announced that the execution of these five men would take place “At the Court House, Tombstone, Arizona, March 28, 1884, at one o’clock p. m.”
The simultaneous execution of five men from the same scaffold was, indeed, an extraordinary event. The murders committed by these men had been unprovoked and cold blooded, and the death sentences of the outlaws met with emphatic popular approval. The public sentiment was so strong against the condemned men that many were eager to witness their execution. Sheriff Ward had invited as many “official witnesses” as could be accommodated within the court yard, but a majority of the would be observers of the gruesome act were excluded.
Inspired by these circumstances and a lust for gold, a brutal hearted, mercenary group leased an adjacent vacant lot and erected a grandstand overlooking the courtyard and prepared to sell standing room thereon to all who were willing to pay a substantial fee to view the execution. This sordid, barbaric enterprise aroused the indignation of the better class of citizens, but there appeared to be no legal way to prevent it.
An outrage upon humane sentiment and common decency was about to be perpetrated, and an ominous, suppressed excitement gripped the community. There was sore need for a tactful, sagacious, and determined leader and at the crucial moment such a leader appeared in the person of Nellie Cashman.
The condemned murderers were undeserving of succor, other than of a spiritual nature. It was in these circumstances that Nellie Cashman interested herself in their welfare and volunteered to assume the role of Mother Confessor to the unfortunate prisoners while awaiting execution. Only two of the condemned men were Catholics when Nellie undertook her good will responsibilities as spiritual adviser, but so sincere and appealing were her ministrations that very soon the other three humbly and gratefully accepted the tenets of her faith. It easily may be imagined how Nellie’s great soul rejoiced at this result, and we may not doubt that her gentle and sympathetic influence sustained and soothed the doomed men during their last hours on earth.
The unhappy prisoners were greatly depressed when they heard the sounds of the busy hammers constructing the grandstand and realized that the plan was to turn their execution into a public show for gain and the gratification of a morbid throng, and thus make the occasion a Roman holiday. Earnestly they pleaded with Sheriff Ward to forbid it, but he bluntly told them that he had no authority to interfere, and it was obvious that, for political reasons, he had no desire to do so. Then, as a last resort, the distressed men confided their objections to their Mother Confessor. Nellie Cashman’s soul which was the soul of honor if ever there was one had been in violent revolt against the impending outrage from its inception, and the fire of her Celtic spirit blazed from her eyes as she listened to the pleadings of her spiritual charges. But even though her eyes flashed, her manner was calm and confident as she replied consolingly: “Please don’t worry; just leave it to me, and I assure you that not a single foot of the space on that grandstand will be occupied at the time of the execution.” And this assurance satisfied and comforted the doomed men because their confidence in their Mother Confessor was unbounded.
But Nellie Cashman had embarked upon a desperate enterprise one that would prove an exacting test of her tact and courage. In view of the tense feeling prevailing in the community, it would be an easy matter to arouse the mob spirit and precipitate a riot. This must be avoided. obviously Nellie realized the dangers that threatened in the delicate situation, for she observed the utmost caution in the development of her plans, and she disclosed those plans only as their progress made it necessary to do so.
The first precaution of this daring and strategic leader was to clear the field for her contemplated activities. She assumed an unusually light hearted manner to the public in order the better to conceal the storm that raged within. Very quietly she conferred with the chief of police and several dependable leading citizens to whom she suggested that in view of the suppressed excitement incident to the impending execution an effort should be made to induce everyone to retire before midnight. This suggestion met with enthusiastic approval, and the result was that the streets of Tombstone were practically deserted by midnight.
The next important action taken by our Mother Confessor was to get into communication with a score or more of her rugged and reliable miner friends and to obtain their promises to assemble at a designated rendezvous exactly at two o’clock the next morning, equipped with sledges, crowbars, heavy drills, picks, hammers, and saws. The men readily promised to assemble, although they did not know what they were expected to do.
Promptly at two a.m. on that fateful day of the execution Nellie Cashman was looking into the stern faces of a formidable group of strong and resolute men. Quickly she revealed her purpose to demolish the offensive grandstand. “You lead us to that grandstand and we’ll do the wrecking,” was the spontaneous response of the men as they caught up their wrecking tools. “Come on men,” was Nellie’s curt command as she led the way to the court house. Then seizing a sledge from one of the men she rushed forward and with a well directed blow shattered the first splinters from the grandstand. A very busy hour followed.
When the dawn came and the throngs were once more astir upon the streets of Tombstone they discovered that the grandstand had been reduced to a mass of kindling wood and deposited at the bottom of a convenient arroyo. There was no profiteering during that execution.
The chief instigator in the grandstand enterprise was a carpenter named Constable. After the execution Nellie impressed upon her miner friends the fact that this carpenter had shown himself to be a most undesirable citizen. Very soon Constable discovered that he was out of employment and was becoming increasingly unpopular. Shortly thereafter he left Tombstone exiled through the dominating influence of Nellie Cashman.
Another thing oppressed the doomed men. There was a persistent rumor asserting that their bodies were to be delivered into the custody of medical students for dissecting purposes. This thought was particularly repugnant to three of the prisoners, and they confided their feelings in the matter to Nellie. “Please don’t worry,” Nellie said to them for the second time, “a faithful guard will see to it that your graves are not desecrated.” And so it happened that watchful eyes saw the five bodies decently interred within the old pioneer cemetery, and just as it was growing dark on the evening of the day of the execution and on the ten succeeding evenings two old prospectors with their blankets and coffee pot and frying pan strolled leisurely away from Nellie’s restaurant and disappeared quite unobserved into the gathering gloom of the night. But instead of continuing on a search for treasure, they detoured to the newly made graves of the men who had paid the supreme penalty for their desperate deeds. There they spread their blankets and throughout that night and the ten succeeding nights they faithfully maintained the vigil that had been promised the deceased by their Mother Confessor. None of the bodies was molested.
These incidents prove that Nellie Cashman was not only resourceful in the matter of plans, but that she had the sagacity and will power to carry those plans to success.
Later in the same year Nellie Cashman was the unobtrusive and unsung heroine in an emergency episode which doubtless resulted in the saving of the life of one of the best men that ever came into Tombstone E. B. Gage, superintendent of the Grand Central Mining Company. A miners’ strike had been declared and some of the strikers were in an exceedingly ugly mood. Mr. Gage had maintained his opposition as would be expected by all who knew the resolute character of the man. Finally, the strikers planned to kidnap and hang the fearless mining superintendent. Nellie learned of the plot and the hour of its proposed execution which was set for midnight on a certain date. About ten o’clock that night a team and buggy were driven slowly up to the residence of Mr. Gage on the hill just south of the city. Very quietly Mr. Gage accepted an invitation to a seat in the buggy, and without the slightest indication of haste or excitement the team was driven slowly back to and through the city. But as soon as the travelers were well beyond the city limits on the road to Contention, the driver urged the team forward at a fleet pace, and this pace was maintained until the railway station at Benson was reached. There Mr. Gage boarded a train for Tucson. The driver of the team who had called for Mr. Gage and successfully conveyed them to Benson thus snatching him from the grave danger that threatened was none other than Nellie Cashman courageous, resourceful, efficient Nellie Cashman.
Believe it or not, Arizona’s U.S. Marshal, George A. Mauk, was once quite a small boy, and although he selected California as his native state, his parents made haste to transplant him to Tombstone where environment seemed more likely to fit him for his present job. Anyhow, George was one of the gang that trained with the Cunningham kids and was therefore, indirectly, under the jurisdiction of “Aunt Nell.”
Adjoining the Russ House Restaurant were a couple of vacant lots which the gang utilized as a baseball park. Of course, George blames the Irish for starting the fights, but, as a matter of fact, the marshal is recognized as an entertaining scrapper, himself. Anyhow, he recalls that occasionally if not oftener the game terminated in a fight, with “Aunt Nell” rushing in to separate the combatants in a rude, but effective manner. Not that she disapproved of fighting being Irish but to teach the kids self control and true sportsmanship. Having established an armistice, and to show the boys that her heart was in its right place “Aunt Nell” would lead the gang over to her pie factory where each member was served with a generous cut. Then everyone was smiling and happy particularly “Aunt Nell.”
Although George hesitates a bit as he says it, nevertheless he is now quite certain that some of those asserted “fights” were mere sham battles, premeditated and prearranged and enacted for the sole and lofty purpose of obtaining MORE PIE. Looking at the marshal today, it is difficult to believe that he ever was a part to such deceptive tricks. But “boys will be boys,” and, anyhow, George says the trick worked all right.
Mr. Cunningham recalls the following incident which suggests the quiet, unobtrusive manner in which Nellie Cashman “went about doing good” many of her deeds of kindness and mercy and charity being known only to the recipients and herself. In this instance Con Delaney remembered that Miss Cashman has befriended him and his family in a time of great need, and although that kindness had been extended nearly two decades before and Nellie had left Arizona and was then located in the Far North at Dawson, on the Yukon nevertheless, “Con” remembered, even though no one else in Arizona did, and he finally determined to express his gratitude to “Aunt Nell” through her nephew, Mike,” and he did so by sacrificing one third of the price offered for a mine he had for sale. Here are the details of this episode kindly given me by Mr. Cunningham.
“About the time the bank opened in 1900, an Irishman by the name of Con Delaney, outwardly a rather rough looking person, came into the bank and wanted to sell his half interest in the “Broken Promise” mining claim in this district and asked me what I would give him for the interest. I offered him $500. In a very few, but very positive words he indicated that I might go to H . He left the bank and I let the matter drop.
“A week or so later Con came back to the bank and told me to make out the papers for the sale of his interest. I did so and he transferred his one half interest to me for $500. I had the deed placed on record and this brought the transaction to the attention of Joe O’Connell, a local attorney. Joe called at the bank and asked me how much I had paid Con for his interest. I told him frankly ‘$500.’ Joe replied: ‘I offered him $750.’ Of course we were both curious to know why Con had turned down Joe’s offer, so I looked Con up. I found that he was in poor health and actually needed the money I had paid him. This made his action appear all the more mysterious, until Con told Joe this story which is true. ‘In the early eighties I arrived in Tombstone from Ireland with my wife and seven children. We were destitute, and Nellie Cashman rustled up a place for us to live and provided food, etc., until I was able to obtain work. Nellie proved herself a real friend in our great need. I have never forgotten her kindness, and this seemed to be an opportunity to get even with Nellie through Mike so I had to turn down your offer of $750.’”
The Catholic church at Tombstone is located at the northwest corner of Safford and Sixth streets. This edifice was erected in 1882 with funds contributed by Nellie Cashman from her private purse, supplemented by subscriptions secured through her personal solicitation. This church is in a fair state of preservation; is now served at regular intervals by a priest from Benson, and stands as a monument to the energy, devotion, and dauntless spirit of that remarkable pioneer woman who instigated and accomplished its construction.
The stampede into Lower California during the summer of 1883, inspired, as usual, by the lure of gold, involved a succession of hardships and resulted in total failure. At that time I was residing in Washington, D. C., and my personal recollections of the enterprise are practically nil. The narrative entered here is based largely upon such details as have lingered in the memory of M. J. Cunningham, Nellie’s nephew, who was a very young chap in 1883.
The asserted new gold field was located in the vicinity of a little Mexican town called Muleje, situated on the west coast of the Gulf of California opposite the city of Guaymas, and it should be remembered that, considering the means of transportation available at that time, the journey from Tombstone to Guaymas was a somewhat formidable undertaking in itself. The personnel of the party was both limited and select, consisting of less than a dozen men and Nellie Cashman. This group of bold stampeders included M. E. Joyce, one time supervisor of Cochise County, and Mark A. Smith, later United States Senator from the State of Arizona. Having consigned her foster brood to the care of a dependable relative and donned a flannel shirt, overalls, substantial foot gear, and a campaign hat, Nellie Cashman was “all set” to play her full part in this adventure like the “regular fellow” she was.
Mr. Cunningham tells me that he remembers very distinctly the exciting and spectacular scene on that memorable day when this little company of daring and confident gold hunters took their departure from Tombstone on the famous old Modoc stage. At Guaymas the party chartered a Mexican boat to convey them across the gulf. Having arrived at Muleje they set out on foot in search of the alluring but elusive gold nuggets. During the unhappy days that followed they tramped many tedious miles over an arid desert country under the scorching rays of the summer sun. Eagerly they sought for traces of gold in the sand and gravel but always their prospecting was in vain.
Incessant travel and toil in this inhospitable region proved an acid test to their endurance. These strenuous hardships without discovering a fleck of the royal metal had thoroughly exhausted and discouraged the little band of deluded prospectors, and their unfortunate condition was rendered desperate when they realized that they were consuming their last gallon of water and were face to face with the possibilities of a horrible death from thirst.
In this alarming dilemma, the unfailing resourcefulness and marvelous vitality of Nellie Cashman came to the rescue. She was in better physical condition than any of the men, and when she volunteered to go in search of water her male companions gratefully acquiesced. And the spirits of the men were greatly revived by Nellie’s confident and near cheerful mood when leaving, as she assured them of her faith that a good angel would guide her to water and enable her to return with an ample supply in time to save their lives.
And Nellie’s faith was fully justified, for that good angel led her to an old Catholic mission located in that remote and isolated region. Without a thought of resting her weary feet, she obtained some goat skin water containers, which she had some Mexican helpers fill quickly and placed on the backs of burros. Thus equipped, and accompanied by several Mexicans, she hastened back to camp with an abundant supply of water just in time to save the lives of her distressed companions. Mr. Cunningham says “Aunt Nell” told him repeatedly that upon her return to the camp she found the men practically famished from thirst.
After this near fatal experience the search for gold was abandoned, and the party made its way, as speedily as possible, back to the coast, where they were delayed a few days waiting for a boat. Finally the boat arrived and the party embarked for Guaymas, but they had not proceeded far on their voyage when the captain of the craft appeared in a half crazed condition due to an over indulgence in “hard likker.” This situation menaced the lives of all on board. Very promptly the bronzed and tattered prospectors roped the frenzied captain, bound him securely, and stowed him away below decks. Then, with the aid of a couple of sailors, they navigated the boat in safety to Guaymas.
But their trouble and hardships were not yet ended, for at Guaymas the entire party were arrested and ignominiously cast into prison presumably because they had brazenly violated the most sacred law of the high seas by roping the ship’s captain and holding him as a prisoner. After languishing several days in the ill smelling and unsanitary Mexican jail, they finally obtained their freedom through the kind intercession of Mr. Willard, who was then the American consul at Guaymas. Upon their escape from jail, they lost no time in effecting their escape from Guaymas and Mexico. Mr. Cunningham also recalls the fact that when this party returned to Tombstone “they were certainly a mighty tough looking bunch of prospectors.”
J. A. Rockfellow, that experienced trail blazer and worthy pioneer now residing in Tombstone, has reduced the story of the stampede into Lower California to its lowest terms in the following sentences:
“I was living in Tucson at the time and became much interested in the adventure. I had some notion of joining, but did not. Nellie, however, was game. She went with the boys, dressed in overalls, shared all the hardships of the trip and was one of the best sports in the party. They had real hardships, too. So much that they nearly lost their lives. With all this roughness, Nellie was a modest little woman.”
Recently I received a letter from Fred J. Dodge, an outstanding citizen of Tombstone in the early ’80s (an undercover man for Wells, Fargo & Co.), now residing at Boerne, Texas, which contains the following paragraph:
“Nellie Cashman was one of the most wonderful women I ever met. She was unique. Though she seemed to prefer to associate with men, there never was a spot on her moral character. I knew her in Nevada and in California before either of us reached Tombstone. In every place where I knew her she was the queen of the Irish miners, and held the respect of the “Cousin Jacks” (Cornishmen) as well. Indeed, this high opinion of her was held by all right thinking men. She was very outspoken, and sometimes made enemies by her uncensored expressions of opinion. I have always regarded Nellie as a most remarkable and admirable woman.”
The Florence Tribune (Arizona) of November 20, 1897, reprints the following news item from the Tucson Star:
“Miss Nellie Cashman, one of the most favorably known women in Arizona, arrived from Yuma yesterday. Miss Nellie is preparing to organize a company for gold mining in Alaska. Her many friends in Arizona will wish her success, for during her twenty years residence in the territory she has made several fortunes, all of which have gone to charity.”
The stampede to the Klondike during the first six months of 1898 presented a most unusual, strenuous, and picturesque spectacle and demanded a high degree of daring and endurance of those who participated and persisted to the finish. There were no established means of transportation between Skagway or Dyea at the head of the Lynn Canal and Dawson at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers. The distance between those points was about 600 miles, and the trail included the difficult and dangerous Chilkoot Pass; great mountain lakes with their constant menace of sudden and disastrous storms, and the perils of rocks and snags and swift currents in the rivers the most formidable and treacherous of which was the famed White Horse Rapids, in Fifty Mile River, midway between Marsh Lake and Lake Labarge.
The Canadian officials very wisely demanded that each stampeder should take in sufficient food to last at least six months. All of the argonauts had to walk from tide water at Skagway or Dyea, over one of the mountain passes to one of the lakes at the headwaters of the Yukon, and every pound of supplies had to be sledded or packed over every foot of the same trail. After a camp had been established beside one of the lakes, lumber had to be “whip sawed” and boats constructed. All of these things had to be accomplished during the period of the Arctic winter and in spite of the too frequent blizzards that came shrieking out of the North.
And then during the last days of May and the first days of June, when the snows of the lower altitudes had melted and the ice had gone out of the lakes and rivers, these hardy, weather beaten, and camp stained adventurers loaded their supplies and themselves into their home made crafts and embarked upon the final lap of the stampede that precarious voyage to Dawson which would still further tax their strength and test their nerves and provide thrills they would remember a lifetime.
There never was but one stampede to the Klondike, and never will there be another like it. Its strenuous conditions constituted a defiant challenge to courage and endurance from start to finish. The count made by the Northwest Mounted Police showed that about 7000 home made crafts went down the Yukon that summer carrying approximately 20,000 persons, of whom nearly 400 were women occasionally a mother with a babe at her breast.
Nothing was farther from my thoughts than that I would find among the women at Dawson anyone I had known before. The only inefficient article in my equipment on that trip was my camera. Darkness was imperative when changing the films. A genial photographer at Dawson granted me the use of his dark room for that purpose. While I was thus intently engaged a visitor entered the studio and addressed the photographer with great earnestness. Her appeal was for a subscription to aid the local Sisters’ Hospital. I had not seen Nellie Cashman for fifteen years not since we were both in Tombstone. As I have said, I had no thought of meeting anyone I knew in Dawson. But when the distinct tones of that rich Irish brogue reached my ears I recognized the speaker on the instant and the nature of her appeal further established her identity. Forgetful of all proprieties, I called out, “Hello, Nellie Cashman!! How did you get to Dawson?” Obviously Nellie recognized my voice as promptly as I did her’s, for she called back to me, “Hello, Mayor Clum!! Where in the world did you come from?” Since the days of ‘81 Nellie had always addressed me at “Mayor.”
The photograph I made of Nellie at Dawson with my inefficient camera, showing her standing in front of her little store, is reproduced here. It is a bum picture, but anyone who knew Nellie will, at least, recognize her sturdy form. The features are not so good, but still recognizable to those who remember. And then, there is the sign, “Hotel Donovan,” which looms in evidence of the fact that although she was temporarily under the British Flag, Nellie’s heart was still loyal to the Emerald Isle.
On my desk as I am writing this is a copy of the Yukon Midnight Sun, Vol. 1, No. 2, dated “Dawson, Northwest Territory, Monday, June 20, 1898.” G. B. Swinehart, editor and proprietor, promised to publish the Midnight Sun every Monday evening and to deliver the same at the following subscription rates: “One year $15. Six months $8. Three months $5. Single copies 50 cents.” The copy of the second issue now before me contains 12 pages of three columns each, and the pages measure 9 by 12 inches. Obviously, the early issues of the Yukon Midnight Sun were printed on a job press.
This very interesting souvenir of Dawson at the peak of its boom was picked up by me on my visit there thirty two years ago and brought to my home in Washington. Eventually it was placed in an old atlas where it reposed neglected and forgotten until about a month ago. No sooner had I recovered this relic than I began searching its pages in the hope that the Midnight Sun would shed some light on the doings of Nellie Cashman in and about Dawson at that time. I scanned the advertisements in vain. Then I perused the local items and here is what I read:
“Misses Nellie Cashman and Georgie L. Osborne returned Friday morning from a trip up the creek, where they solicited for the benefit of the hospital. They were quite successful and speak in grateful terms of the generosity and liberal donations of the miners. Miss Cashman is the pioneer woman in this country and is widely known for her good deeds.”
The thrill of joy this find gave me easily may be imagined. My visit to Dawson in 1898 was very brief, for although I voyaged down the Yukon with the Klondikers, I was not one of them. My job was to direct the organization and extension of Uncle Sam’s postal service in Alaska, and I was merely passing through the Yukon Territory en route to my broad field of official activities to the westward. My only official duty at Dawson was to pay my respects and express my appreciation to the Canadian officials who had done everything within their power to facilitate my trip through the country under their jurisdiction. I arrived at Dawson on June 21 which I marked the summer solstice and the sixty or seventy hours I spent there were all daylight hours, which were passed in a maximum of activities and a minimum of sleep. Dawson was then a wide open and woolly wild mining camp of some 20,000 homeless adventurers milling about the streets and resorts. I saw Nellie several times. I recall distinctly the circumstances of our meeting at the photograph studio, and that later she gave me a gold nugget everyone in Dawson had gold nuggets at that time. Beyond this I can only remember that she was robust, active, prosperous, and popular even as she was wont to be in those early days of Tombstone. I particularly regret that I have forgotten what she told me of her trip to Dawson, but the declaration in the Midnight Sun that “she is the pioneer woman in this country” would indicate that she came in “over the ice” during the winter in advance of the throng that drifted down in the boats after the ice went out. And it would be characteristic of Nellie Cashman to do that very thing.
It may be mentioned in passing that when Nellie Cashman climbed the Chilkoot Pass in the fall of 1897 she was less than 200 miles from the scene of her strenuous experiences in the Cassiar District twenty years before.
In 1923 when Nellie was on her last visit to her old stamping grounds in Arizona the Tucson Star published an interview with her from which we quote the following excerpt:
“Miss Cashman related a little incident to her early gold rush days in the Yukon Territory that was evidently a favorite with her, for, as she finished, she thwacked her knee and laughed like a boy.
“It all happened in Dawson when that mushroom city was celebrating a British holiday. Miss Cashman was busy in her little grocery store when a loyal British miner entered.
“‘I say, Nellie, where’s your flag?’ he asked.
“‘Outside,’ she meekly replied.
“‘Beg pardon, but it’s not. I didn’t see a Union Jack as I came in.’
“Nellie took his arm and led him to the porch. She pointed to the Stars and Stripes hanging from the wall, above which, in neat arrangement, were several British postage stamps bearing pictures of the Union Jack.
“‘There’s my flag,’ she said, ‘and there’s yours.’ Whereupon the Irish and the English joined in a hearty laugh.”
That story sounds quite like Nellie, and, in imagination, I can see her “thwack her knee” and hear her “laugh like a boy.”
Peter A. Vachon, of Dawson, Yukon Territory, and Fairbanks, Alaska (and, incidentally, my son in law), now residing at Seattle and Santa Monica, recalls that he first met Nellie Cashman at Dawson in the fall of 1898, where she was operating a small grocery store and grub staking prospectors so much so that she frequently had difficulty in meeting her own obligations. But whenever her bank account approached the red ink stage she would buttonhole Alex McDonald (The Klondike King) or Jim McNamee, who made a barrel of money on Bonanza and Hunker creeks, and they would supply her with sufficient gold dust to put her back on easy street. She was generous to a fault, always helping some worthy but hard up miners in fact, Nellie’s Dawson store was popularly referred to as “The Prospectors’ Haven of Retreat.”
Nellie was a staunch supporter of the Catholic Church and the Saint Mary’s Hospital at Dawson, but she was friendly with all denominations and always eager to aid any prospector or miner whom she thought was even half honest regardless of his belief or creed.
At one time Nellie was desperately ill at Dawson with an infected intestine, and her life was despaired of. But after submitting to a major operation, in which a section of the intestine was removed, Nellie recovered rapidly and before very long she was again on the job apparently as good as new. Once more she had demonstrated her marvelous vitality.
Mr. Vachon relates this humorous incident:
“At one time I went to the office of the Gold Commissioner as a witness for Nellie in the recording of a mining claim which had been located by a miner she had grub staked. The law in that province requires that the location shall be made by the person filing the notice for record, and the oath administered affirms that this condition has been complied with. The form of the oath is something like this:
“‘I, Nellie Cashman, solemnly swear that I was on such and such a creek on such and such a day and date, and that I staked claim No. so and so, according to the laws of the Dominion of Canada. So help me God.’
“Nellie took the Bible in her left hand, raised her right hand, and in her keen Irish brogue she said: “So help me God, I never was there,” and then she kissed her thumb instead of the Bible. Her little speech was so sudden, so serious, and so absurd that I just laughed right out in meeting. Then the recording officials laughed, too. They knew that Nellie would not attempt to file on ground she was not entitled to, and so they were not too exacting in the matter of the form of her oath.”
Nellie was an optimist of the highest order. She never held post mortems over past failures, but on the contrary she confidently envisioned an ample fortune awaiting her in the very shaft she was sinking at that moment. This dominating mental trend is aptly illustrated in the following incident. Mr. Vachon was a mere youth when he arrived in Dawson in 1898, where he and Nellie became great friends, and she always addressed him as “My boy.” After Nellie had transferred the scene of her mining activities to Coldfoot, Alaska, she met Mr. Vachon in Fairbanks and this is what she said: “My boy, I’ve got it this time, and when I hit the pay streak in the shaft I’m sinking now I’ll strike it so damned rich that I won’t know what to do with my money.” (That word “damn” was the limit of Nellie’s profanity.)
Those who helped Nellie Cashman to get a fresh start whenever she was “broke” men like Mr. Gage, who was deeply grateful for services rendered, and others whose obligations were less, as well as bonanza kings like Mr. McDonald and Mr. McNamee did so without any thought of reimbursement. In fact, whatever they gave to Nellie was considered an indirect donation to charity, for they were quite sure that, sooner or later, their gifts and her winnings would all be disbursed to the needy and afflicted, to churches and hospitals, and, therefore, it was only a matter of time until Nellie would be broke again, and it would be up to them to provide her with another “stake.” The fact that Nellie never was permitted to stay broke for any length of time is ample evidence of the high esteem in which she was held by those who so willingly aided her in those recurring periods of stress.
R. C. (Dick) Wood, head of the R. C. Wood Mortgage & Loan Co., Inc., of Seattle, Wash., has sent me a letter in which he says: “I knew Nellie Cashman when I was a little kid in Tombstone and renewed this acquaintance when she came up to Dawson in the Rush of ‘98. We met again in Fairbanks, Alaska. I saw her there frequently when she was en route to and from the Koyokuk where she had staked some placer gold claims which she operated under the name of The Midnight Sun Mining Company. But I think the principal lure of the far north mining camp to her was that she might be near the prospectors and miners to whom she was doctor, nurse, and missionary. Nellie as a devout Catholic and spent much of her time with the Sisters and working with and for the Sisters’ Hospitals.
“During those later years when she was outfitting at Fairbanks for the long, difficult, and hazardous trips with the dogs, over the winter trails to her mining camp above the Arctic Circle, we tried our best, because of her advanced age, to dissuade her from undertaking those strenuous journeys, but invariably she would assume her characteristic resolute attitude and in her most approved Celtic brogue would reply: ‘Young feller, those prospectors up there need me and need me badly and that is the country in which I expect to live the rest of my days.’
“Nellie often told me that Mike Cunningham had pleaded with her to abandon her rough and ready life in the North and accept the comforts of a good home at some point where he could see to it that she was properly cared for but that she always had refused.”
Because Dick Wood was a banker in Fairbanks he is able to furnish this very interesting statement: “Mike Cunningham always saw to it that Nellie was well provided with money. On one or two occasions she gave me for safe keeping checks aggregating as much as $10,000. These were checks Mike had sent her, but because of her pronounced independent nature, she did not want to spend Mike’s money and, if I remember correctly, some of those checks from Mike were four or five years old.”
This statement furnishes further proof of the true nobility of Nellie Cashman’s character. Whatever she may have done for Mike had been in the nature of a sacred duty and was a free will offering, and even in her declining years when Mike was anxious to express his gratitude and was abundantly able to do so Aunt Nell hesitated to utilize his generous contributions until her personal efforts had failed and illness and infirmities made the cashing of the checks imperative.
The last time I saw Nellie Cashman was in 1907, or 1908, at Fairbanks, Alaska. When the Klondike boom was over and business was slowing down in that section, Nellie left Dawson and trekked still further westward into the vast domain of Alaska. She may have had a premonition that she was embarking on what was destined to be her final stampede, for she voyaged several hundred miles down the mighty Yukon to the mouth of the Koyukuk River, and then struggled on to the headwaters of that stream to Coldfoot. This was the farthest north mining camp in Alaska, which some of the most robust and daring of the gold hunters had established in the midst of those remote waste places within the Arctic Circle and there Nellie Cashman staked and recorded the last of her mining claims.
When winter came Nellie lined up her dog team and mushed over the trail several hundred miles to Fairbanks, where, fortunately, I was able to render her some minor assistance. She was still hardy and hopeful and confident and self reliant as of yore otherwise she could not have withstood the hardships and dangers so frequently encountered on those Arctic winter trails.
On the occasion of Nellie’s final visit to “the states” the first lap of the journey from Coldfoot was by dog team over the winter trails and occupied seventeen days. While she was visiting at Bisbee “Mike” endeavored to convince “Aunt Nell” that she had done her full share of this world’s work: that she should take advantage of a well earned rest, that, in fact, she was too old to undertake further hardships and privations on the rough trails and in the rude camps of the Far North. But his efforts to persuade her to remain in Arizona and rest in comfort were in vain. She insisted that she had valuable placer claims and staunch friends in Coldfoot, and that she must return there to encourage her friends and develop her claims. Nellie had directed her own destinies too long to brook interference now. And thus it happened that her indomitable will and dauntless courage set her face once more toward the gold and the cold of Arctic Alaska.
Finally, during the summer of 1924, Nellie became very ill in her cabin at Coldfoot. She was brought down the Koyukuk river in a small boat by an Episcopal deacon and conveyed up the Yukon and Tanana rivers to Fairbanks where she was placed in St. Joseph’s Hospital. There it was discovered that she was suffering from double pneumonia, and the physicians marveled that she had survived the long trip from Coldfoot a journey of fully one thousand miles. But again her dauntless will and amazing vitality came to her rescue, and under the care of the sisters, she was able to leave the hospital in a few weeks.
In spite of adversities, brave Nellie Cashman was still the determined, aggressive pioneer prospector. She was still planning to raise more funds to complete that last shaft which would surely yield the vast fortune she had so persistently sought in vain. She did not yet realize that her days in the rude mining camps of the frontier were numbered; that hardships and toil and the passing years and illness had sapped her strength and shattered her iron constitution. She refused to quit. She must go back to “the states,” obtain some money, then return to complete that last shaft at Coldfoot north of the Arctic Circle.
But Nellie was too frail to be permitted to travel alone, and her friends induced her to accompany another woman who was going “outside” at that time. Fortunately they were able to reach Victoria, B. C., where Nellie was placed in the Sisters’ Hospital. Her condition was serious. Her strength and resistance were gone it was then she realized the end was near and she resolutely composed herself to meet it. She had not long to wait, for a few weeks later she bravely and quietly entered upon the greatest of all adventures. Her dauntless spirit calmly passed into The Great Beyond on January 4, 1925, and her remains rest in the Catholic cemetery at Victoria.
Nellie Cashman endured the test of many strenuous years and left an enviable record that looms untarnished and unique in the annals of our frontiers. She was a genuine, dependable, progressive, and sustaining member of every community in which she lived ever ministering to the needs of others and giving generously of her unlimited store of mercy and charity. As a thoroughbred pioneer and seasoned “sourdough” she had no rival among her own sex, and there were few, if any, among the male adventurers who could qualify in her class. Although she was primarily a business woman, she had trekked many weary miles over the hot sands or the drifted snows; she had braved the desert sun and the Arctic blizzard; she had scaled rugged and precipitous mountain passes, and guided her frail craft through the swift and angry currents of dangerous rapids. She was one of the first of a band of daring women to invade the frozen, uncharted fields of the North, and a little later, with her favorite team of huskies, she followed the winter trails until she became known as the champion woman musher of her time.
On June 20, 1898, the Yukon Midnight Sun said: “Miss Cashman is the pioneer woman of this country and is widely known for her good deeds.” And Nellie carried on in that same role to the end of the trail. She never wavered in her devotion to her church, and her faith in her chosen creed was absolute and unfaltering, and we may not doubt that, amid those lessening circles of latitude in her meditations upon the bright promise of immortality she sometimes recognized a happy simile of the silent passing of the soul, in the unique splendors of the Arctic midnight sun when sunset merged into sunrise and a new day burst gloriously upon the page of time without even a shadow of farewell to the day that seemed not to have an end.
Even so let us hope that to Nellie the pale shadow of death was but the weird dawning of the day eternal. After a half century of well doing she had reached the end of that long, long trail. She had finished her course she had kept her faith, and as well deserved reward, she had at last struck it rich in the Elysian Fields beyond The Great Divide.