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The Nellie Cashmans Restaurant Sign
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Nellie Cashman’s work attitude definitely set her apart from others not only in her time, but would today as well. She was born in County Cork Ireland in 1845, which was around the time of the great potato famine in Ireland. She and her family moved to the United States in 1850 after her father either died or left them around that same time. They moved to Boston, which had a rich Irish immigrant population and lived there. Around 1865 the family moved to San Francisco, at the height of the mining boom in the Western Territories.

Nellie, seeking her own fortune, traveled with her family to other mining camps. She first began to earn a reputation among the miners at a mining camp in Lincoln County Nevada. She and her mother opened a boarding house there and earned a reputation as excellent cooks who were moral and upstanding women, something rare in most mining camps in those days. The majority of camps consisted of numerous bars and places of prostitution.

Nellie left that area when the mining started declining and traveled to mining camps in British Columbia and then the area that is today Alaska. She did well opening up boarding houses in these areas and served food and acquired mining claims. Nellie did well there but left in 1876 to return to San Francisco to take care of her aged mother. By this time Nellie had established herself as a strong business woman who had the means to open up several businesses.

It was this Nellie Cashman that moved to Tucson Arizona and opened up a restaurant called Delmonicos. This restaurant offered, and advertised, the best meals in the city. It was only a few months after this establishment opened though that she hightailed it to the up and coming mining town of Tombstone, the mines booming and attracting thousands to its area.

Nellie Cashmans Restaurant

Nellie bought the Russ House and opened up a restaurant and boarding house in Tombstone in the early 1880’s. This is the same house that bears the name of “Nellie Cashman’s” restaurant in Tombstone today. Nellie not only operated a successful business but cared for a lot of the down and out miners in the camp, becoming known as “The Angel of Tombstone.” She helped raise money to build Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and even helped bandits from a failed robbery attempt in Bisbee keep their dignity as they were executed in Tombstone.

When I pulled into Tombstone this was the first building I went to, though it was mostly because I was starving. I ordered one of their breakfasts and was thoroughly delighted, it was not only delicious but amazingly generous as well. The dining room is rather small but a lot of historical photos of the building and Nellie adorn the walls. I was very polite to the staff and enjoyed the breakfast, though I was tempted to start trouble because of the stories. It is said that those who are rude to the servers, angry, or just belligerent are the ones that encounter the ghosts of Nellie Cashmans restaurant. Things have happened to these diners, mustard and ketchup sprayed on their clothes, or even teapots have burst open spilling offenders with water. Other things that happen include things moving around, lights turning on and off and voices heard in other rooms when no one is present.

Nellie Cashmans Restaurant Bench in front of it

The employees and owners don’t believe it is Nellie, perhaps because she died in Alaska in 1925, but perhaps it is others that act to protect the one the building is named after. It is rumored that one gentlemen during the 1880s did not like Nellie’s cooking and started complaining, Doc Holiday, who was also there pulled his gun and asked him to comment again, he quickly responded that it was the best meal he ever ate. The respect and love that Nellie generated was great in all of the camps she worked at, and it seems that it survives to this day in Tombstone even in the ghosts that dwell there.

Updated August 12th, 2009