seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Astronomer William Edward Wilson

William Edward Wilson, Irish astronomer, is born at Greenisland, County Antrim, on July 19, 1851. He is the only son of John and Frances Wilson of Daramona House, Streete, County Westmeath, and is privately educated.

Wilson becomes interested in astronomy and travels to Oran in 1870 to photograph the solar eclipse. In 1871 he acquires a reflecting telescope of 12 inches (30.5 cm) aperture and sets it up in a dome in the gardens of Daramona House. He uses it to experiment on the photography of the moon with wet plates and also begins to study solar radiation using thermopiles. In 1881, he replaces the original telescope with a Grubb reflector of 24 inches (61 cm) aperture and a new dome and mounting that has an electrically controlled clock drive. The new telescope is mounted in a two-story tower attached to the house with an attached physical laboratory, darkroom and machine shop.

Wilson’s main research effort, in partnership with P.L. Gray, is to determine the temperature of the sun using a “differential radio-micrometer” of the sort developed by C.V. Boys in 1889, which combines a bolometer and galvanometer into one instrument. The result of their measurements is an effective temperature of about 8000 °C for the sun which, after correction to deal with absorption in the earth’s atmosphere, give a value of 6590 °C, compared to the modern value of 6075 °C.

Some of Wilson’s other astronomical projects include observations on the transit of Venus, determination of stellar motion, observations of sunspots and a trip to Spain to photograph a solar eclipse. He takes a great many excellent photographs of celestial bodies such as nebulae. His astronomical findings are published in a series of memoirs such as Experimental Observations on the Effective Temperature of the Sun.

Wilson is elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1875 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1896. He receives an honorary doctorate (D.Sc.) from the University of Dublin in June 1901. He serves as High Sheriff of Westmeath for 1894.

Wilson dies on March 6, 1908 at Daramona at the relatively young age of 56, and is buried in the family plot in Steete churchyard. He had married Caroline Ada in 1886, the daughter of Capt. R.C. Granville, and they have a son and two daughters. His son donates his telescope to the University of London, where it is used for research and teaching, finally becoming a feature in Liverpool museum.


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Birth of Joss Lynam, Civil Engineer & Mountaineer

Joss Lynam, Irish civil engineer who is well known as a mountaineer, hillwalker, orienteer, writer and sports administrator, is born James Perry O’Flaherty Lynam in London on June 29, 1924. He is one of Ireland’s most influential figures in outdoor activities.

Lynam is born to Irish parents Edward and Martha (née Perry), both Galway natives. He and his older sister, Biddy, are both raised in London where his father works as curator of maps in the British Museum. This is where he is first introduced to orienteering and cartography. The family frequently returns to the west coast of Ireland to holiday. Here he finds his love for mountaineering and climbs his first mountain, Knocknarea in County Sligo, with his aunt.

At 18, Lynam joins the British Army and trains as an officer. He is deployed to India in 1944 under the Corps of Royal Engineers where he spends the remainder of World War II. While there, he participates in his first of many Himalayan expeditions, climbing Kolahoi Peak. When he returns in 1947, he immediately moves to Dublin and enrolls in Trinity College Dublin, after encouragement from his parents, where he begins to study engineering. He graduates and receives his degree with Upper Second Class (2.1) Honours.

Lynam is a civil engineer by profession but devotes most of his life developing the sport of mountaineering in Ireland. He climbs extensively in Ireland, Great Britain, the Alps and in India. He is leader, or deputy leader, of expeditions to Greenland, the Andes, Kashmir, Tian Shan, Garhwal, Tibet and India, including the 1987 expedition to Changtse, that is the forerunner to the successful first Irish ascent of Mount Everest in 1993.

With his involvement in developing adventure sport in Ireland Lynam is active in promoting access and developing waymarked trails. He is involved in the creation and administration of the Federation of Mountaineering Clubs in Ireland (now Mountaineering Ireland), the Association for Adventure Sports, Bord Oiliúint Sléibhte (Irish Mountain Training Board), Tiglin (National Outdoor Training Centre), Outdoor Education Ireland, and Cospóir (now Sport Ireland) and the National Waymarked Ways Advisory Committee (part of Sport Ireland).

Lynam is a founder member of the Irish Mountaineering Club (IMC) serving as president from 1982-1984. He is also a founder member of both the Irish Orienteers and Three Rock Orienteering club. He is president of the Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme‘s expeditions commission in the 1990s.

Lynam writes and edits many guide books on walking and climbing in Ireland and helps create and is editor of The Mountain Log (the journal of Mountaineering Ireland).

In 2001, Lynam is awarded an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin in acknowledgment of his volunteer work and remarkable achievements. He celebrates his 80th birthday by climbing the Paradise Lost Route and then goes on to abseil down Winder’s Slab for his 82nd birthday, both routes in Dalkey Quarry. Both climbs are to raise funds for cancer research, as he had been undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Disease.

As a result of a short illness, which is being treated at St. Vincent’s University Hospital Dublin, Lynam dies on the January 9, 2011, aged 86. His funeral is held in the Church of St. Therésè, Mount Merrion, Dublin and then continues to Mount Jerome Cemetery and Crematorium.

After Lynam’s death, his two daughters, Clodagh and Ruth, donate his papers to his alma mater, Trinity College Dublin. These papers cover a vast range of topics such as his life and career, family, childhood, experience of war, his involvement with different mountaineering clubs, and his many writings. The collection also contains photos and slides that he captures himself of landscapes and mountaineering, and consists of maps that are collected by him and his father. There is so much material in the collection that it takes a year for the collection to be catalogued by an archivist.

Lynam’s ashes are scattered by his daughters over the Knocknarea Mountain on the February 12, 2011, being the first mountain he climbed. The Lynam Lecture is introduced in 2011 by Mountaineering Ireland in his memory and his achievements in climbing, hillwalking and mountaineering in Ireland and around the world. Every December the Lynam Lecture is held by leading national and international mountaineers and discusses the development and future of mountaineering in Ireland. Past speakers include Ines Papert, Frank Nugent and Paddy O’Leary.


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Birth of Astronomer William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse

William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse, Anglo-Irish astronomer, naturalist, and engineer, is born in York, England on June 17, 1800. He is President of the Royal Society (UK), the most important association of naturalists in the world in the nineteenth century. He builds several giant telescopes. His 72-inch telescope, built in 1845 and colloquially known as the “Leviathan of Parsonstown,” is the world’s largest telescope, in terms of aperture size, until the early 20th century. From April 1807 until February 1841, he is styled as Baron Oxmantown.

Parsons is the son of Lawrence Parsons, 2nd Earl of Rosse, and Alice Lloyd. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with first-class honours in mathematics in 1822. He inherits an earldom and a large estate in King’s County (now County Offaly) in Ireland when his father dies in February 1841.

Parsons marries Mary Field, daughter of John Wilmer Field, on April 14, 1836. They have thirteen children, of which four sons survive to adulthood: Lawrence, 4th Earl of Rosse, Rev. Randal Parsons, the Hon. Richard Clere Parsons, and the Hon. Sir Charles Algernon Parsons.

In addition to his astronomical interests, Parsons serves as a Member of Parliament (MP) for King’s County from 1821 to 1834, president of the British Science Association in 1843–1844, an Irish representative peer after 1845, president of the Royal Society (1848–1854), and chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin (1862–1867).

During the 1840s, Parsons has the Leviathan of Parsonstown built, a 72-inch telescope at Birr Castle, Parsonstown, County Offaly. He has to invent many of the techniques he uses for constructing the Leviathan, both because its size is without precedent and because earlier telescope builders had guarded their secrets or had not published their methods. Details of the metal, casting, grinding and polishing of the 3-ton ‘speculum’ are presented in 1844 at the Belfast Natural History Society. His telescope is considered a marvelous technical and architectural achievement, and images of it are circulated widely within the British commonwealth. Building of the Leviathan begins in 1842 and it is first used in 1845, with regular use waiting another two years due to the Great Famine. Using this telescope he sees and catalogues a large number of nebulae, including a number that would later be recognised as galaxies.

Parsons performs astronomical studies and discovers the spiral nature of some nebulas, today known to be spiral galaxies. His telescope Leviathan is the first to reveal the spiral structure of M51, a galaxy nicknamed later as the “Whirlpool Galaxy,” and his drawings of it closely resemble modern photographs.

Parsons dies at the age of 67 on October 31, 1867 at Monkstown, County Dublin.

Parsons’s son publishes his father’s findings, including the discovery of 226 New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (NGC) objects in the publication Observations of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars Made With the Six-foot and Three-foot Reflectors at Birr Castle From the Year 1848 up to the Year 1878, Scientific Transactions of the Royal Dublin Society Vol. II, 1878.


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Birth of Isaac Weld, Writer, Explorer & Artist

Isaac Weld, Irish topographical writer, explorer, and artist, is born on Fleet Street, Dublin on March 15, 1774. He is a member of the Royal Dublin Society.

Weld’s name stems from his great-grandfather Nathanael Weld’s close friendship with Sir Isaac Newton, and as such both his grandfather and father are also named Isaac. His father is a close friend of Charles James Fox. His sister marries George Ensor, and their half-brother is Charles Richard Weld, traveler and author of A Vacation Tour in the United States and Canada (London, 1855), which is dedicated to his brother, Isaac. He is sent to the school of Samuel Whyte at Grafton Street and from there to another private school Barbauld at Palgrave near the town of Diss in Norfolk. From Diss he proceeds to Norwich as a private pupil of Dr. William Enfield. He leaves Norwich in 1793.

In 1795 he sails to Philadelphia from Dublin and spends two years traveling in the United States and Canada, partly as an adventure and partly as research into suitable countries to which the Irish can emigrate. He visits Monticello and Mount Vernon and meets George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He travels on horseback, by coach and by canoe in Canada with local native guides. He returns in 1797 “without entertaining the slightest wish to revisit it.” He finds the Americans to be obsessed with material things and prefers Canada. His published Travels (1799) quickly goes into three editions and is translated into French, German, Italian, and Dutch.

Weld writes on slavery that “there will be an end to slavery in the United States…[as] negroes will not remain deaf to the inviting call of liberty forever.” With regard to Americans in general, he states, “Civility cannot be purchased from them on any terms; they seem to think that it is incompatible with freedom.” On Washington, D.C., he writes “If the affairs of the United States go on as rapidly as they have done, it will become the grand emporium of the West, and rival in magnitude and splendour the cities of the whole world.”

Weld visits Killarney, navigates the lakes in a boat he made from compressed brown paper, and publishes Scenery of Killarney (1807), illustrated with his own drawings. He is also well known for his drawings of American life and, in particular, the Niagara Falls.

In May 1815 Weld sails from Dún Laoghaire to London in the 14 horsepower (10 kW) steamboat Thames, the first such vessel to make the passage. He compiles the Statistical Survey of the County of Roscommon (1838) for the Royal Dublin Society, of which he is Honorary Secretary and Vice-President. In later life, he spends much time in Italy and particularly Rome, where he develops a friendship with Antonio Canova.

Weld dies at his home, Ravenswell, near Bray, County Wicklow, on August 4, 1856, and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin.

Weld is part of the Weld family of New England. His ancestor, Thomas Welde, is a Puritan minister from Suffolk, England who is one of three brothers who emigrated to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1632. His great-great-grandfather, Thomas Weld, helps to publish the Bay Psalm Book, the first book published in America. His great-grandfather, Nathaniel, is graduated at Harvard College. He leaves Massachusetts for Kinsale and then Blarney Castle, County Cork, in 1655 to be a Puritan Chaplain with Oliver Cromwell. He later moves to Dublin.

The family that stays in America grows in wealth and influence and includes such notables as Governor of Massachusetts William Weld, Isabel Weld Perkins, and Theodore Dwight Weld.


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Death of Antarctic Explorer Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, dies of a heart attack in Grytviken, South Georgia on January 5, 1922. He is one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Born in Kilkea, County Kildare, Shackleton and his Anglo-Irish family move to Sydenham, London when he is ten. His first experience of the polar regions is as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott‘s Discovery Expedition of 1901–04, from which he is sent home early on health grounds, after he and his companions Scott and Edward Adrian Wilson set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S. During the Nimrod Expedition of 1907–09, he and three companions establish a new record Farthest South latitude at 88°S, only 97 geographical miles from the South Pole, the largest advance to the pole in exploration history. Also, members of his team climb Mount Erebus, the most active Antarctic volcano. For these achievements, he is knighted by King Edward VII on his return home.

After the race to the South Pole ends in December 1911, with Roald Amundsen‘s conquest, Shackleton turns his attention to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end, he makes preparations for what becomes the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster strikes this expedition when its ship, Endurance, becomes trapped in pack ice and is slowly crushed before the shore parties can be landed. The crew escapes by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrates, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately South Georgia Island, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles and Shackleton’s most famous exploit.

In 1921, Shackleton returns to the Antarctic with the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition on a 125-ton Norwegian sealer, named Foca I, which he renames Quest. When the party arrives in Rio de Janeiro, he suffers a suspected heart attack. He refuses a proper medical examination, so Quest continues south, and on January 4, 1922, arrives at South Georgia. In the early hours of the next morning, Shackleton summons the expedition’s physician, Alexander Macklin, to his cabin, complaining of back pains and other discomfort. According to Macklin’s own account,he tells Shackleton he has been overdoing things and should try to “lead a more regular life,” to which Shackleton answers, “You are always wanting me to give up things, what is it I ought to give up?” “Chiefly alcohol, Boss,” replies Macklin. A few moments later, at 2:50 AM on January 5, 1922, he suffers a fatal heart attack. At his wife’s request, he is buried there.

Away from his expeditions, Shackleton’s life is generally restless and unfulfilled. In his search for rapid pathways to wealth and security, he launches business ventures which fail to prosper, and he dies heavily in debt. Upon his death, he is lauded in the press but is thereafter largely forgotten, while the heroic reputation of his rival Scott is sustained for many decades. Later in the 20th century, Shackleton is “rediscovered”. He rapidly becomes a role model for leadership as one who, in extreme circumstances, kept his team together in a survival story described by cultural historian Stephanie Barczewski as “incredible.”

In his 1956 address to the British Science Association, Sir Raymond Priestley, one of his contemporaries, says “Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton,” paraphrasing what Apsley Cherry-Garrard had written in a preface to his 1922 memoir The Worst Journey in the World. In 2002, Shackleton is voted eleventh in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.


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Birth of Molesworth Phillips, Companion of Captain Cook

molesworth-phillipsMolesworth Phillips, sailor and companion of Captain James Cook, is born in Swords, County Dublin on August 15, 1755.

Phillips is the son of John Phillips of Swords. His father is a natural son of Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth, whence Phillips acquires his Christian name. He first enters the Royal Navy, but on the advice of his friend Sir Joseph Banks he accepts a commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Marines on January 17, 1776. In this capacity he is selected to accompany Captain Cook on his last voyage, extending over nearly three years. He sails with Cook from Plymouth on July 12, 1776, and is with the marines who escort Cook when he lands at Hawaii on February 14, 1779.

In John Webber‘s painting “The Death of Captain Cook” Phillips is represented kneeling and firing at a native who is clubbing Cook. Phillips is himself wounded, but, after swimming back to the boat, he turns back and helps another wounded marine to the boats.

On November 1, 1780 Phillips is promoted to captain. On January 10, 1782 he marries Susanna Elizabeth, third daughter of Dr. Charles Burney (1726-1814), and sister of Frances Burney and of James Burney, Phillips’s friend, who, like him, had accompanied Cook on his last voyage. He has no further active service, but is promoted brevet major on March 1, 1794, and brevet lieutenant colonel on January 1, 1798. From 1784, for the sake of his wife’s health, he lives for a time at Boulogne, but after the French Revolution he resides chiefly at Mickleham, Surrey, not far from Juniper Hall, where Frances Burney entertains numbers of French emigres. From 1796 to 1799, during the alarm of a French invasion of Ireland, Phillips feels it his duty to reside on the Irish estates at Beleotton, which he had inherited from an uncle. On January 6, 1800 his wife dies.

After the Treaty of Amiens, Phillips visits France in 1802, and he is one of those who are seized by Napoleon on the renewal of the war. He is detained in France until the peace of 1814. During this detention he makes friends with the Prince of Talleyrand and other well-known Frenchmen. After his return to England he becomes acquainted with Robert Southey, Mary and Charles Lamb, who describe him as “the high-minded associate of Cook, the veteran colonel, with his lusty heart still sending cartels of defiance to old Time,” and with John Thomas Smith (1766-1833), whom he supplies with various anecdotes for his Nollekens and his Times.

Phillips dies of cholera at his house in Lambeth on September 11, 1832, and is buried in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, where an inscription commemorates him and James and Martin Burney (1788-1852).

(Pictured: Etching of Molesworth Phillips by Andrew Geddes, circa 1825, bequeathed by Frederick Leverton Harris, 1927, National Portrait Gallery, London)


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Clare O’Leary Climbs Mount Everest

clare-o-learyClare O’Leary, Irish gastroenterologist, mountain climber and adventurer, becomes the first Irishwoman to successfully climb Mount Everest on May 18, 2004. She is accompanied by veteran mountaineer, Pat Falvey, who also sets a record by becoming the first Irishman to climb Everest from both sides.

O’Leary is born in 1972. She develops an interest in medicine, and cancer in particular, when her uncle dies from lung cancer during her childhood. After graduating from University College Cork, she spends over ten years training and working at the Cork University Hospital.

O’Leary makes her name in mountaineering in 2004, when she becomes the first Irish woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, having failed on her first attempt in 2003 due to gastroenteritis. She climbs as a member of the Wyeth Irish Everest Expedition, led by Falvey. She also becomes the first Irish woman to ascend the Himalayan peak Ama Dablam and to climb the Seven Summits — the highest mountains on each continent. In 2008, she joins the Beyond Endurance expedition led by Falvey to the South Pole, making her the first woman to successfully ski to the South Pole.

In 2012, O’Leary and Mike O’Shea set out on an ongoing series of expeditions that they call the Ice Project. Their aim is to cross all of the world’s largest ice caps. Some of these expeditions include crossings of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, the Greenland ice sheet, and Lake Baikal. In 2014, they attempt to ski to the North Pole after their first attempt in 2012 is cancelled due to a logistics problem, hoping to be the first Irish people to reach the North Pole. This attempt also has to be abandoned after they are injured in a sled accident.

In 2013, the railway path between Bandon and Innishannon in County Cork is named the Dr. Clare O’Leary Walk to commemorate her achievements. In November 2018, she is awarded an honorary doctorate by National University of Ireland Galway.

O’Leary lives in Clonmel, and is in a relationship with O’Shea. She currently works as a consultant gastroenterologist and general physician at South Tipperary General Hospital. She is also a patron of the Cork University Hospital Charity.


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Birth of Antarctic Explorer Tom Crean

Tom Crean

Thomas “Tom” Crean, Irish seaman and Antarctic explorer, is born on February 25, 1877 in the farming area of Gurtuchrane near the village of Annascaul on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.

Crean leaves the family farm to enlist in the Royal Navy at the age of fifteen. In 1901, while serving on Ringarooma in New Zealand, he volunteers to join Captain Robert Falcon Scott‘s 1901–04 Discovery Expedition to Antarctica, thus beginning his exploring career.

He is a member of three major expeditions to Antarctica during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, including Captain Scott’s 1911–13 Terra Nova Expedition. This sees the race to reach the South Pole lost to Roald Amundsen and ends in the deaths of Scott and his polar party. During this expedition, Crean’s 35 statute miles solo walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans leads to him receiving the Albert Medal for Lifesaving.

After his Terra Nova experience, Crean’s third and final Antarctic venture is as second officer on Ernest Shackleton‘s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, on Endurance. After Endurance becomes beset in the pack ice and sinks, Crean and the ship’s company spend months drifting on the ice before a journey in boats to Elephant Island. He is a member of the crew which makes an open boat journey of 800 nautical miles from Elephant Island to South Georgia, to seek aid for the stranded party.

Crean’s contributions to these expeditions seals his reputation as a polar explorer and earns him a total of three Polar medals. After the Endurance expedition, he returns to the navy. When his naval career ends in 1920 he moves back to County Kerry. In his home town of Annascaul, Crean and his wife Ellen live quietly and unobtrusively and open a pub called The South Pole Inn.

In 1938 Crean becomes ill with a ruptured appendix. He is taken to the nearest hospital in Tralee, but as no surgeon is available to operate, he is transferred to the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork where his appendix is removed. Because of the delay of the operation an infection develops and after a week in the hospital he dies on July 27, 1938, shortly after his sixty-first birthday. He is buried in his family’s tomb at the cemetery in Ballynacourty.

Crean’s name is commemorated in at least two places – 8,630 foot Mount Crean in Victoria Land and the Crean Glacier on South Georgia. A one-man play, Tom Crean – Antarctic Explorer, has been widely performed since 2001 by its author Aidan Dooley, including a special showing at the South Pole Inn, Annascaul, in October 2001. In July 2003, a bronze statue of Crean is unveiled across from his pub in Annascaul. It depicts him leaning against a crate whilst holding a pair of hiking poles in one hand and two of his beloved sled dog pups in the other.


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Death of Nellie Cashman, Philanthropist & Gold Prospector

nellie-cashmanNellie Cashman, nurse, restaurateur, businesswoman, Roman Catholic philanthropist in Arizona, and gold prospector in Alaska, dies on January 4, 1925, in Sisters of St. Anne hospital, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Cashman is born in Midleton, County Cork, one of two daughters of Patrick and Frances “Fanny” (Cronin) Cashman. Along with her sister, she is brought to the United States around 1850 by her mother, first settling in Boston. As an adolescent, she works as a bellhop in a Boston hotel. In 1865 she and her family migrate to San Francisco, California.

Of the thousands lured by the gold rush fever of the 19th century, few had the staying power or generous spirit of Cashman. She follows gold miners into British Columbia, where, during the early 1870s, she operates a boarding house while learning elementary mining techniques and geology. For the next 50 years, the precious metal leads her to Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, the Canadian Yukon, and north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. In addition to successfully prospecting and running mines, one time owning 11 mines in the Koyukuk District of Alaska, she operates boarding houses, restaurants, and supply depots.

The quality that truly establishes Cashman’s place in mining lore is her charity, which earns her the titles “Angel of Tombstone” and “Saint of the Sourdoughs” while sometimes obscuring her career as a successful miner. As early as 1874, while visiting Victoria, she leads a dangerous rescue effort to free a group of miners trapped by a severe winter storm. Later, during the glory days of Tombstone, Arizona, she helps establish the town’s first hospital and Sacred Heart Church, its first Roman Catholic church. Although she is known to be tough and aggressive in defending her claims, she is also big-hearted. Upon the deaths of her sister and brother-in-law, she takes in her nieces and nephews and raises them as her own.

Around 1889, Cashman is active in the gold camp at Harqua Hala, Arizona, and comes close to marrying Mike Sullivan, one of the original discoverers of gold in that area. Along with mining, she contributes a number of excellent articles to Tucson‘s Arizona Daily Star, in which she discusses history, techniques, types of claims, and personalities in the field.

Cashman spends the last 20 years of her life on Nolan Creek, in the Koyukuk River Basin of Alaska, then the farthest north of any mining camp in the world. She is among about eight women who join a group of approximately 200 miners to brave the harsh environment and isolation in hopes of striking the “big bonanza.” Once a year, she leaves for supplies and equipment, traveling hundreds of miles to Fairbanks, by sled, boat, or wagon. Her spirit of adventure apparently never dies. In 1921, during one of her trips to the outside, she is interviewed for Sunset, a California publication. Then 76, Cashman tells the writer that, although she loves Alaska, she is not so tied to it that she would not pull up stakes if something turned up elsewhere.

Nellie Cashman dies on January 4, 1925, in Sisters of St. Anne hospital in Victoria, one of the hospitals she had helped fund some 40 years earlier. The United States Postal Service honors her with a stamp on October 18, 1994 as part of its “Legends of the West” series.


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Birth of James Graham Fair, Mining Tycoon & U.S. Senator

james-graham-fair

James Graham Fair, banker, mining tycoon, and United States Senator from Nevada, is born in Clogher, County Tyrone on December 3, 1831. He is credited with discovering the Big Bonanza, one of the richest pockets of gold and silver on the Comstock Lode.

Born in what is now Northern Ireland in 1831 to Scotch-Irish parents, Fair immigrates with his family to the United States when he is a boy and grows up on a farm in Illinois. Following the 1849 California Gold Rush, he travels to California. He earns a reputation for understanding ore bodies, inspiring his eventual employment as superintendent of various mines.

The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada provides Fair with new opportunities. In 1865, he becomes superintendent of the prestigious Ophir Mine. Two years later, the Hale and Norcross Mine in Virginia City hire him as assistant superintendent, but the owners dismiss him within a year for unclear reasons.

While at the Hale and Norcross, Fair meets John William Mackay, whose success at the Kentuck Mine made him a millionaire. The two Irish immigrants recognize common interests and form an alliance. Mackay gives Fair the position of superintendent of the Rising Star Mine in Idaho, a property he had recently acquired. The venture proves unsuccessful, but it solidifies a working relationship between the two.

Fair works quietly with Mackay and investors James C. Flood and William S. O’Brien to obtain control of the Hale and Norcross Mine. Fair turns it to profit with better management. He and Mackay combine their expertise to acquire and explore other claims. In 1873, largely through Fair’s persistent search in the Consolidated California and Virginia Mine, the partnership discovers the famed Big Bonanza, one of the richest ore bodies in history. Fair and the others become extremely wealthy. He uses his assets to defeat the incumbent William Sharon for a seat in the United States Senate, which he holds in an undistinguished way from 1881-1887 as a Democrat.

Fair develops real estate in San Francisco and acquires mining property outside Nevada. Theresa Fair, his wife, is respected in Virginia City for donations to causes including those of the Catholic Church and the Daughters of Charity. When she divorces her husband in 1883 for habitual adultery, national public opinion turns against the senator. During his bid for reelection, he finds little support. Even Mackay fails to come to his aid, and he easily loses his seat to William Morris Stewart in 1887. He then moves back to San Francisco.

James Fair dies on December 28, 1894 in San Francisco of diabetes mellitus at the age of 63. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.