Nellie Cashman was a restless adventurer who ranged the Old West for fifty years prospecting for gold and spreading good cheer wherever she traveled. She made, lost, or gave away, a number of fortunes during her lifetime.
She was always willing to grubstake some prospector on the slim chance that he might strike it rich, in which case she would share in the bonanza. More likely, she would lose her investment. But that never dampened her enthusiasm for “bucking the tiger,” or betting against the odds. She loved to make money and she spent most it on charitable causes.
One of her grubstakes did pay off handsomely, netting her $100,000, enough for a secure retirement. But Nellie gave most of it away. Her philanthropy earned her the respectful title, “Angel of the Mining Camps.”
Nellie ran restaurants and boarding houses, never refusing a meal or a room to some hungry, down and out miner who had no money to pay. There were no benefits for the widow and her children when a miner was killed in an accident, so Nellie would head straight for the saloons on Allen Street with her hat turned upside down, collecting money. She always left with a hat full.
The Tombstone Epitaph, had this to say about Ms. Cashman in a September, 1880 edition: “Nellie Cashman, the irrepressible, started out yesterday to raise funds for the building of a Catholic Church. We don’t know what success attended her first effort, but will bet that there is a Catholic Church in Tombstone before many more days if Nellie has to build it herself.”
Nellie participated in many worthy causes. Her requests for donations brought her in contact with cowboys, miners, gamblers, and the ladies of the evening. The source of donations never bothered her. She said: “Whether the money comes from an upstanding citizen, or a member of the outlaw faction makes no difference to me,” she said. “The money doesn’t know the difference either. What matters is what it is used for, and I see to it that in one way or another, it helps humanity.”
Good words to live by.