The story of gold-rush entrepreneur Nellie Cashman, who is best known as “the Miners’ Angel,” is full of courage, fortitude, faith and determination. Cashman loved Victoria and returned here to die. She was buried in 1925 in Ross Bay Cemetery.
Cashman displayed an unquenchable concern for the sick and those in need. Her life declaration was: “We pass this way but once and we must help those who need our assistance.”
She was born in Midleton, Cork, Ireland, in August 1845, when great famine, starvation and despair ravaged Ireland. With her father dead, Cashman, her mother and her sister fled to America as refugees and settled in Boston. Cashman received a good basic education and her penmanship was excellent.
After the American Civil War, the family travelled to San Francisco, and shortly after, Cashman began her career as a cook, hotel-keeper and supply-store owner.
Cashman shocked her family by announcing her intent to travel to Wild West mining towns to set up her businesses, starting in Pioche, Nevada, a rich silver-mining town. Over the next 50 years, she opened similar ventures in all the northwestern states and B.C.
In 1874, aware of the gold rush to the Cassiar Mountains in northwest British Columbia, Cashman headed for Wrangell, Alaska, with about 200 miners. En route, they stopped in Victoria, and Cashman, as a devout Catholic, introduced herself to the Sisters of St. Ann, who were building St. Joseph’s Hospital in Victoria.
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