Guide to Quaise Asylum Records 1837–1841

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Research Library at the Nantucket Historical Association. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the internet.


The Quaise Asylum was constructed in 1822 to harbor the town’s poor. Ten inmates lost their lives during the great fire in 1844 that burnt the asylum down. This collection records Captain Alexander Coffin, who settled at Quaise Asylum in 1939, his correspondence, receipts for produce, and his journals. These sources provide a general look at how the Captain maintained the farming business at Quaise.

Collection Details

Collection Number:
Quaise Asylum Records
Quaise Asylum
Nantucket Historical Association
Material is in English.

Information for Users

Restrictions to Access: No restrictions. Open for research.

Restrictions to Use: No usage restrictions.

Copyright Notice: Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation: [identification of item], in the Quaise Asylum Records, Nantucket Historical Association.

Acquisitions Information:

Purchased by the Nantucket Historical Association in August 2001.

Sensitive Materials Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Nantucket Historical Association assumes no responsibility.

Related Collections

  • Quaise Farm, once the poor farm or asylum, P5957 of PH165 Photographic Print Collection, Nantucket Historical Association.
  • Image of the record of the deaths at the Quaise Asylum, MS427 James Cook Hussey Journal, Nantucket Historical Association.

Subject Headings

  • Corporate Name
    • Quaise Asylum
  • Topical Term
    • Agriculture
    • Charities
    • Poor -- Services for.
    • Asylums.

Biographical Information

The Town of Nantucket established the Quaise Asylum in 1822, after an extensive debate at the Annual Town Meeting. Quaise, meaning “end point” in Algonquian, is an isolated area three miles northeast of Nantucket town. From the start, the asylum housed around 130 citizens, who were poor, elderly, unemployed, or disabled. Residents of the asylum had either applied for permits to live there or had been sent to live there by relatives.

In February 1844, a great fire destroyed the asylum, killing ten residents. A new building was constructed on the same site; in 1854, it was taken down in sections and moved to Orange Street. In 1905, it was renamed Our Island Home and housed the sick and elderly of Nantucket who could no longer care for themselves. The building was repurposed as the Landmark House, apartments for elderly and physically challenged residents, in 1981.

The old House of Corrections, which had been erected at Quaise in 1828, was moved and placed alongside the Old Gaol, where it stood until 1956 when it was taken down.

Scope and Content

This collection is comprised of the correspondence to and from Captain Alexander Coffin; receipts for items purchased and work performed, as well as lists of produce grown on the farm; a journal kept by Alexander Coffin describing weather and activities at the farm; and three account books listing produce sent to town and accounts with individuals for milk, vegetables, meat and others products.


Folder 1 Correspondence, 1839–1841

Folder 2 Records of farming products, 1837–1840

Folder 3 Journal and three account books, 1841

Processing Information

Processed by Cindy Li, June 2022.

Materials in this collection were digitized with support from Connie and Tom Cigarran.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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