Nellie was a resourceful woman who knew what she wanted and planned how to get to where she wanted to be. Her first gold rush was in 1874, when she joined in the the gold stampede to the Cassiar. When she first arrived in British Columbia she was wearing men's trousers, and a fur hat, which was considered very un-ladylike at the time but it was part of her plan to be prepared wherever she went.
Nellie Cashman became known as the "Angel of the Cassiar". Her generous spirit and concern for others is why people gave her this name. Nellie was a woman who planned ahead. She heeded the warning:
"If you are going to the Klondike I'll tell you what to do, Better take a ton of grub - or better yet - take two!"
Before going to the gold fields she stocked up on all the supplies that she thought she would need. When she arrived she found that she was one of the few people who were prepared. Lack of food was becoming critical and starvation was a problem. She saved many from starvation by selling the fresh potatoes and other fresh vegetables to the miners. They were quite willing to buy the food because they had money but no food. To have food was to be considered a millionaire even if your pockets were empty.
After that rush she went to Tucson, Arizona, and then on to Tombstone, Arizona to open up another restaurant. She continued her generous ways wherever she went. Her nephew said that:
"She was rewarded with modest wealth. But she was constantly giving it away to the poor and needy and various projects of her church."
When she heard the news of the Klondike gold strike in 1897 she went off to Alaska. A few weeks later she headed over the Chilkoot Pass alone. When she reached Dawson City she opened another restaurant. As before this restaurant was a success. There was always a demand for good food by hungry men.
In 1904 she went to Fairbanks and opened a grocery store. Throughout her time in Alaska she had been accumulating claims and by 1907 she had accumulated quite a few claims on Nolan Creek which she occasionally worked on. She often mushed the 350 miles to Nenana from her claims on Nolan creek to get supplies. By this time she was 78.
Eventually she contracted pneumonia and died in January of 1925. Because of her giving spirit she was well known outside the arctic and when she died her eulogy was published in papers as far away as New York.
Nellie Cashman | Mollie Walsh | Belinda Mulrooney
The Other Woman | Klondike Kate | Ethel Berry
© Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Beckett and Sarah Teel
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