Heather Blanton Finds An Angel on the Loose

In my new book releasing today, Penelope, Book 6 in the Love Train series, my heroine has to pretend to be a nun. This is, of course, a substantial obstacle to the hero who fights falling in love with her. He has to wonder, though, what kind of a nun can’t keep her veil on and doesn’t know her Bible? But when called upon to help an abused Indian girl, Penelope rises to the task with plenty of heart.

The way this story went put me in mind of a young Catholic girl who, while she didn’t don a habit, impacted the West forever with her faith.

In 1850, at about the age of five, Nellie Cashman immigrated to Boston from Ireland with her sister and widowed mother. The three spent almost fifteen years together there, but then relocated west to San Francisco around 1872. Nellie and her mother, both of whom apparently had an adventurous streak, decided to move on to the bustling, untamed mining town of Pioche, NV. They only stayed a few years, but Nellie was deeply involved with

the Catholic church there, helping with fundraisers and bazaars.

When her aging mother decided Pioche was a little too wild for a senior citizen, she and Nellie returned to San Francisco. Nellie, however, didn’t stay. She left her mother with her married sister and headed north alone to British Columbia to another rough-and-rowdy mining town. She opened a boarding house in the Cassiar District and tried her hand at mining.Now, most girls in this situation, hanging around with such an unsavory crowd, might get into mischief, forget their morals. Herein lies the quirky thing about Nellie: she loved to help people, sometimes through hell and high water…and avalanches.

In the winter of 1874-75, Nellie took a trip to Victoria where she helped establish the Sisters of St. Ann Hospital. Over the coming decades, she would continue to be a stalwart supporter of this hospital and several others. She is most famous, though, for what she did upon leaving Victoria.

Traveling back to Cassiar, she heard a blizzard had stranded dozens of the folks from the district. They were trapped, hungry, and experiencing a scurvy epidemic, to boot. Nellie immediately hired men and sleds, acquired medicine and supplies and started out for Cassiar. It took the group 77 days in unimaginable conditions to reach the miners. Nellie then worked tirelessly to nurse the folks back to health.

Her feat was so astounding, so fearless, the story was picked up by the newspapers. With good cause, she came to be known to the miners as their “Angel of the Cassiar.”

Nellie was a legitimate legend.

She was also a restless girl, constantly on the move from one raunchy mining town to the next. After the death of her sister, she continued to feed her wanderlust, but with five nephews and nieces in tow. To keep food on the table, she bought and sold restaurants, and even owned and worked her own claims.

She spent several years in Tombstone, AZ where she rubbed shoulders with larger-than-life figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Nellie’s faith, however, was as ingrained on her heart as cactus on the dessert. Even in wild-and-wooly Tombstone, she worked to build the city’s first hospital and Roman Catholic church.

Nellie worked tirelessly to make the world a better place and still managed to raise five upstanding citizens while keep her mines working. When she passed away in 1925, she did so in the Sisters of St. Anne hospital that she had funded for nearly fifty years.

Today Heather is giving away 5 copies of Penelope! For a chance to win one, tell Heather what ways you think we can make an impact in our local communities or neighborhoods.

Buy PENELOPE on Amazon!

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49 thoughts on “Heather Blanton Finds An Angel on the Loose”

  1. Praying for our community. Trying to help out neighbors without expecting anything in return. Try to help a child/youth as a mentor. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

    • Praying for our community! Yes! How many of us never think to do that? What a great reminder. Thank you!

  2. I think volunteerism is a profound way to give back to one’s community and neighborhood. Most of us have some kind of talent which we can share with others through volunteering.


    • And it doesn’t have to be life-absorbing and time-sucking. I think people forget that. Volunteering can be what works on your schedule. Thank you!

  3. What an admirable woman. It is amazing how much she was able to accomplish pretty much all on her own.
    Most communities today struggle with homelessness and those who find it hard to make ends meet. We have several agencies that work with these groups. We volunteer with the Red Cross and have gotten involved with several other agencies that deal with these issues either as Red Cross volunteers or on our own. One of the first projects I would approach would be providing housing for those who need it. Many, especially veterans, do not want to be confined to a building and prefer to camp out. There is public land in many cities and towns that could be developed into a regulated place for the homeless to camp. A community bathroom and shower facility would be included. Some cities have constructed small, one room shelters like little cabins set up the same way with a community bath house. This would be a boon for homeless singles and couples. Both these options could also give them an address which any are lacking to qualify for other aid and a job. The large number of families needing shelter needs to be addressed either by public housing or subsidized housing. Transportation, food assistance, job training, and medical care are just a few of the other issues that need to be dealt with that would help with the problem of getting people back on their feet.

    • Amen to all that. The homeless need a handout, sure, but they also need a hand up. Getting them in a shelter is a big way to help.

  4. Praying and volunteering your time and donating food for the food pantries and clothing to organizations who help people get back on their feet. Tithing to your church.

    • Absolutely. Food pantries and clothing closets are such great projects for churches. Thank you for commenting!

  5. The biggest way to help your community is to do exactly as Nellie did and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around you.

  6. Reaching out to people whom God puts in our paths — loving, caring, and helping as Christ did. We will recognize them by the Holy Spirit’s nudging.

    • Oh, amen to that. He puts people in our paths every day. Helping can be as simple as praying for someone in the coffee shop or doing more, if the Lord leads. Thank you!

  7. 77 days to help those stranded miners, Heather??? Wow! That woman makes me tired – and feel like such a slug, too. Nellie Cashman is a saint, always helping and caring for others, yet she never had a husband and children of her own. So interesting.

    I’ve started PENELOPE and am loving it!! Well done, my friend.

    • Yeah, the girl was a little dynamo. I often wonder how productive we’d be if we didn’t have TV, wifi, youtube… And thank you for the kind words!

  8. Pray and move your feet. Help doesn’t have to be huge. It could be a word of encouragement, an offer of friendship, food, a gas card, etc. The smallest thing can make the biggest difference.

    • Right now, I’d say a gas card is waaay more than a little thing. It’s probably a huge blessing! Thanks for reading!

  9. Volunteering your time for community projects, donating blood for your area, and looking in on older people that live alone to see if they are all right or need something.

    • All of those are great, especially checking on the elderly in the heat waves of summer!

    • That’s great. I’ve heard of some other churches doing that as well and the turnout is huge! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  10. Volunteering at a variety of organizations, doing kind things for individuals, and of course praying for people in general and in specific people.

  11. Welcome, Heather! We’re so happy to have you. Nellie Cashman was an amazing woman. I’ve just started PENELOPE and am really loving the story. The fact she doesn’t know anything about being a nun is so funny. I laughed when her wimple blew out of her hands and she used a veil. I wish I had more time to read because I need to see how Penelope’s relationship with Lucky plays out. They’re great characters. I’m so happy that I was able to get in on this Love Train series. I just noticed your numbers on Amazon and am doing a happy dance!! Woo-Hoo!

    • Yep, Praise GOD for sure! He humbles me every day. He must find this story entertaining, too! As a Charismatic Christian, I am a far cry from a Catholic so the ignorance was real and fun to write! bwahahaa! Thank you for reading. There are some seriously good books in this series!

  12. More nonprofits for young/unwed mothers. be it clothes and baby things, child care while they get on their feet, or shelter, resources and people that are there for them. So that even if they are alone they have something outside of abortion to turn to.

    • One of my favorite ways to see the church work! I have strong opinions on abortion so these kinds of places mean a lot to me. Thank you reading and commenting!

  13. Join the Friends of the Library for your local library! When you volunteer with Friends you help raise money for your library. Our libraries need us–and they’re so important for our communities.

    Plus, when you volunteer with Friends you get to spend a lot of time around books–bonus! Haha

    Thanks for the post!

  14. I think we can make an impact by volunteering some of our time, maybe as mentors at schools, churches , nursing homes and other places. Just giving up some of our time to help others.

    • Time is our most valuable commodity and the hardest to give, but what a blessing it is when we give it away! Thank you for commenting!

  15. Welcome Heather. I already have Penelope. I think the biggest thing we can do to impact our community is prayer. Where/who does God want us to reach out to. We can get involved in our churches community out reaches. We can get to know the people in our community as friends and let God guide us from there When our tow kiddos were young and growing up, I had them involved with me with prayer for our neighbors, helping shovel driveways with snow, walking by and talking to neighbors, helping bake cookies and delivering them. etc.

    • That’s great. Modeling what a good neighbor looks like. We all need to be doing more of that! Thanks for commenting, Lori!

  16. I actually live in a wonderful little community that honestly is one of the few communities that, we help each other out as much as possible. Volunteer work or just simply stopping to help out a neighbor. Case in point, we had only lived here for a little over a year. When we had gravel delivered for our very steep driveway we didn’t have no way of spreading the gravel as the truck was unable to get up our driveway. My husband was spreading the gravel by shovel when a neighbor came by and went home and returned with his tractor ? to help my husband. Whom he didn’t know. Community is everything and there’s stories like this one that warms my heart that there are some extremely generous people left in this world! This community hands out out food boxes to anyone, fire department has benefits for anyone in need, as does the local rescue squad holds fundraisers for all kinds of community needs. People just show up with whatever is needed and helps.

    • Sheila, you should name the community and let us all give them a shout-out. That is awesome. What a wonderful place! Thank you for commenting and sharing that!

  17. If I had tons of money, I would love to build a small to medium-ish building that in one room would store a restaurant that serves food every morning, in the next room, I would have a food store that had groceries for free and in the last room, it would hold clothing for free. Alas, I don’t have tons of money, so on major holidays, I make cookies for the mail carriers, the grocery store clerks, the post office people are the Walgreens clerks (it’s a pharmacy and a store in one that carries over the counter medications, candy, soda and about 3 shelves of cans and jars of ready made food). I once made a Thanksgiving dinner for the grocery store people working on Thanksgiving Day, but can’t anymore because my driver moved out of state and I can’t drive.
    I think the person who suggested praying has a great idea.

    • YOU are making more of a dent than you realize. Those cookies are a real blessing. And if you ever want to vacation in Kansas City and serve somewhere, I recommend https://www.healinghousekc.org/ because they do what you’re talking about. It is amazing what Bobbi Jo Reed has done there. I spent a week there last summer. It was awesome.

  18. What a story and what an adventurer, but mostly what a determined lady. It seems whatever she touched turned golden. How can we make our communities better. Get to know your neighbors. This comesx from someone who lived in one p0lace for 37 years and ionly knew a couple of my neighbors. But when Ii became involved, I got to know some amazing people and one of them saved my husband’s life. So my advice is 1. GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS and 2. GET INVOLVED.

    • Yes, we need to draw our community close and be a blessing to them…and let them bless us! Thank you for commenting!

  19. I think volunteering in the communities does a lot for everyone. I have had neighbors help me shovel snow in the winter and things like that which is very helpful. I usually try to help in what ever ways I can. Right now food banks are very important because food has become so expensive.

    • I would say that supporting your local food bank is a huge blessing to folks now! Thank you for commenting!

  20. I think helping with the baby formula shortage & diaper shortage. Helping contact women who need help with this with women who can help also contributing with monies. I have donated a lot of diapers to my local bank that is collecting them for this cause. Also helping with the food bank. Blessing to all of you for helping in any way you can.

    • Thanks for the reminder about the formula shortage. A disgraceful thing in what used to be the land of plenty. Yes, we should all be thinking of ways to help young mothers and their children in this trying time!

  21. I already have your book and I’m still reading it. I’m loving it by the way!! Speaking from the position of a retired teacher, kids need a positive influence in their lives. Volunteer to read with struggling children or work with them on their math. Find kids maybe in your church that need extra help or attention for whatever reason. Volunteering your time is crucial. Pregnancy centers are also needing mentors. Money is necessary but so is building relationships with others in need. Be that mentor that someone desperately needs.

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