Nellie Cashman: Goldhunter

‘Nellie Cashman: Goldhunter, a one-hour radio documentary, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland under the Sound & Vision scheme, broadcast at 6pm on Monday January 3rd 2022 on C103.

This documentary explores the life of Nellie Cashman (1845-1925), Nurse, Restaurateur, Businesswoman, Philanthropist and Gold Hunter – a woman that has only recently been commemorated in her home town of Midleton in Cork, yet is celebrated in North America and Canada, as one of only 4 women ever indicted into the Alaskan Mining Hall of Fame as the ‘Gold Rush Queen’.

Nellie Cashman was a true pioneer, an adventurous soul with a philanthropic spirit.  Born near Cobh, Co Cork in 1845 to parents Patrick and Fannie Cashman, her father died at 5 and shortly after, the remainder of the family emigrated to the USA.  They settled in Boston for a time, eventually moving to San Francisco in the 1860s. Cashman soon after travelled to a silver-mining district called Pioche, Nevada, where she set up a boarding house in 1872.  It was also in Pioche that she became involved in the local church, a passion that Cashman nurtured her whole life.

The following year she joined a team of prospectors heading to the Cassiar District in British Columbia – considered a very dangerous trip for a woman at the time.   However, Nellie showed that she was not to be discounted when in the winter of 1873, she led a rescue mission of six men to a mining camp in the district that had a dangerous shortage of supplies.  Risking her own life to do so, the team struggled in dense snow for nearly 3 months, reportedly surviving avalanches to get to the camp.

Spending some time in the 1880s in Tombstone, Arizona, where she knew Wyatt Earp and has had her character written into both tv series and films about the Wild West, she became a local personality while running a supply store, boarding house and restaurant. Following the death of her sister and her husband, she became guardian to her 5 nieces & nephews, while still managing to fit it some prospecting gold tours around the Arizona region during that decade.

Her final two decades were spent in Alaska from the 1900s onwards, where she kept hunting for gold and precious metals well into her 70s.  It is said that Cashman was exceptional when you consider that a mere 1% of miners in the Yukon at the turn of the century were female.

In 1944 the US Postal Service honoured her with her own stamp, while a restaurant named after her still exists today in Tombstone.  She has also been inducted into the Alaskan Mining Hall of Fame, along with only four other women out of approximately 100 names.

And yet, it took until 2015 for Nellie to be remembered in her own home town of Midleton in Cork, when a monument was finally unveiled in her name.

This one-hour radio documentary seeks to remember the life of Nellie Cashman with her descendant Jim O’Fallon in the USA and Joe McCarthy the East Cork Municipal District Officer, along with through interviews with those who have spent time researching into her remarkable life and seeking to commemorate her memory, including Jane Haigh & Claire Ruldolf Murphy, based in Alaska and authors of ‘Gold Rush Women’.  Not only will the narrative of Nellie Cashman be recounted in this case, but the historical background to the Gold Rush will be addressed, as will the often overlooked involvement of women in the prospecting movement.

In this way, this one-hour radio documentary seeks to rebuild the story of ‘Nellie Cashman: Gold Hunter’ for a modern audience and ensure that she is finally remembered in her home town, county and country.


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