Guide to the Dame, Coolidge, and Butman Family Collection, 1869-1989

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.

Collection Details

Collection Number:
Dame, Coolidge, and Butman Family Collection
Dame family, Coolidge family, Butman family
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 Dame, Coolidge, and Butman Family Collection, Nantucket Historical Association.

Acquisitions Information:

Gift of Marcia Butman (Acc. RL2003.63, RL2015.36, RL2018.15, and RL2018.20); Elizabeth J. Coolidge (Acc. RL2015.31).

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.

Subject Headings

  • Personal Name
    • Campbell, Olive D. (Olive Dame), 1882–1954.
    • Dame, Lorin Low, 1838–1903.
    • Dame family.
  • Genre Term
    • Journals (Diaries).
    • Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.

Biographical Information

Lorin Low Dame (1838–1903) was born in Newmarket, N.H., to Samuel and Mary Ann Dame. In 1845, the family moved to Lowell, Mass., where Lorin attended public high school. From 1856 to 1860, he studied at Tufts College and after graduation became a high school principal in Braintree, Mass. The Civil War intervened and late in 1862, Lorin mustered into the 15th Battery, Massachusetts’ Volunteer Light Artillery as a second lieutenant. On 1 March 1863, eight days before reporting to duty, he married a former Braintree student, Nancy Isabel Arnold (1844–1916). The couple would later have four children, including Ruth Burleigh Dame Coolidge (1880–1951) and Olive Arnold Dame Campbell (1882–1954).

During the war, Lorin served in New Orleans, La., and saw action in the Arkansas expedition and the fall of Mobile, Ala. He was promoted to first lieutenant before mustering out on 4 August 1865. After the war ended, Tufts College honored Lorin by granting him an M.A. Over the next eleven years, Lorin served as the principal of high schools in several Massachusetts towns, including Lexington (1866–1867), Nantucket (1867–1869), and Stoneham (1869–1876). In 1876, he became the principal of Medford High School in Medford, Mass., a position he held for 27 years. In addition to administering the high school, he taught Latin and Greek.

Lorin was an avid botanist as well as an educator. During the 1880s, he served as president of the Middlesex Institute, and published several articles about New England flora. He is best known for his two books, Typical Elms and other Trees of Massachusetts, published in 1890 with an introduction by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and The Handbook of the Trees of New England, with ranges throughout the United States, co-authored with Henry Brooks and published in 1902. In recognition of his scientific achievements, Lorin received an honorary doctorate of science from Tufts in 1895. Literature, writing, and history were also of keen interest to Lorin. To earn additional income, he wrote for newspapers and magazines, often under pseudonyms including J. Gerry, J. M. Arnold, and Viator. Lorin was a member of the West Medford Reading Club and the Medford Historical Society. From 1895 to 1903, he served as a trustee of Tufts College and sat on its Executive Committee. Lorin belonged to the First Parish Unitarian Church in Medford and founded the Unitarian club connected to the church. On 27 January 1903, he died of a heart attack. In 1912, nine years after Lorin’s death, Isabel purchased Hinckley Farm on Hinckley Lane—the Dame family had been renting the farmhouse since 1903.

Ruth Burleigh Dame Coolidge (1880–1951), the third child of Lorin and Isabel, was born in Medford, Mass. She attended Medford High School where her father was principal. After graduating in 1898, she entered her father’s alma mater, Tufts College, where she was a member of the Delta Sigma sorority and the Tower Cross Society. She also served on the editorial board of the Tufts literary magazine, The Tuftonian. Ruth was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in four years with both a B.A. and an M.A. After graduating in 1902, she taught in the public schools including Medford High School. Ruth married Richard B. Coolidge in 1908, and they had three children: Ruth Alden (June) (1912– ); William Bradford (1916– ); and Olive Dame (1920–2008). Ruth worked as a writer and journalist. She penned articles for magazines and newspapers, specializing in pieces about colonial Massachusetts. She also wrote several historical pageants: The Pageant of the Royall House (1915); The Pageant of the Mystic (1930); and The Pageant of the Centenary of Medford High School (1935). Ruth’s love of history led to her membership in many historical organizations including the Royall House Association and the Nantucket Historical Association. In the 1930s, she served as president of the Medford Historical Society for four years and of the Bay State Historical League for two. She was also a member of the Medford Shakespeare Club, the First Parish Unitarian Church and the Medford Girl Scouts. Ruth and her family summered in Nantucket at Hinckley Farm. On 20 September 1951, at the age of 70, Ruth died of a heart attack while vacationing on island.

Olive Arnold Dame Campbell (1882–1954), the youngest child, was born in Medford, Mass. She attended Medford High School, where her father was principal, and like her father and her sister Ruth, she studied at Tufts College where she helped write and edit The Tufts Weekly and The Tuftonian, Tuft’s literary magazine. On 21 March 1907, she married John C. Campbell (1867–1919), President of Piedmont College in Demorest, Ga., and the couple had two daughters, Jane and Barbara, who died in infancy.

In 1908, John C. Campbell received a grant to survey the people and living conditions of the Southern Mountain Region of Appalachia for the Russell Sage Foundation, and Olive assisted him with his work. During their travels, Olive began to document the ballads sung in the Southern Mountain Region with connections to English and Scots-Irish folk songs. With Cecil J. Sharpe, a British musicologist, she later published a compilation of ballads, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. John and Olive moved to Asheville, N.C., in 1913 when John became secretary of the Russell Sage Foundation’s newly established Southern Highland Division. Upon his death in 1919, Olive assumed his position, and in 1921 completed John’s unfinished work, The Southern Highlander and his Homeland. After touring folk schools in Scandinavia in 1922 and 1923, Olive established the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C., which she directed for over 25 years. Olive summered on Nantucket at her cottage, Cachalot, where she entertained many nieces, nephews, and family friends. She died on 14 June 1954.

Discerning a need for more space for her relatives, Olive gifted 22,000 square feet of land to her niece, Olive “Oggy” Butman (1920–2008) and her husband, Robert “Bob” Butman. Eventually, the Sea Chest—the summer cottage at 12 Hinckley Lane—was built in 1950.

Olive and Bob Butman lived outside Philadelphia, Pa., where the latter held a job at the Naval Field Station. Because the couple was short on money, instead of meeting regularly with the builder, Lewis C. Edgarton of The Colonial Craft Shop on island, many of the decisions surrounding the cottage were made via U.S. mail. Near the end of the building, Edgarton had a heart attack and supervised the construction from the Nantucket Cottage Hospital. When he passed, his son finished the project. Having studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Robert did most of the interior finish work and much of the electrical wiring of the cottage. The house has since undergone two renovations.

Hinckley Lane is a short sand road that leads from Cliff Road to a path that goes down to the beach. For many years, the path led both to the ocean and to Sachem Springs, a freshwater spring popular with Nantucket residents.

In 1948, the town voted to pave Hinckley Lane, but this order was not carried out. Upon the petition of Hinckley Lane’s residents, the selectman voted to suspend hard surfacing. The struggle over repaving the street so that the beach was publically accessible continued through 1954. The issue resurfaced in 1972, when a year-round resident of Hinckley Lane did not like the street’s condition and submitted a warrant article asking for paving. In 1986, the Hinckley Lane residents formed the Hinckley Lane Association under the leadership of Bob and Olive Butman and William Hance. The primary purpose of this group was to provide maintenance for the lane so that residents would be able to resolve differences among themselves.

Scope and Content

The Dame, Coolidge, and Butman Family collection includes a diary written by sisters Olive (age 14) and Ruth (age 16) Dame, during a summer in Siasconset, Mass., when living on Bloomingdale Farm. There is also a sketchbook kept by Olive Dame that includes images of many Nantucket farms as well as family portraits. The collection also contains an album of algae examples, collected from the shores of Nantucket, Mass., kept by Lorin Dame, and presented to his wife.

The addition of 2018 includes materials pertaining to the building of the Sea Chest and the history of Hinckley Lane such as letters, notes, legal agreements, and articles. Materials document the struggle between the private residents of Hinckley Lane, who sought private beaches, and the town, which wanted beach access for all. Folders are arranged chronologically.


Series 1: Dame Family Collection, 1869–1994.

  • Box 1 Folder 1 Typescript of Bloomingdale diary, 1896, 1994
  • Box 1 Folder 2 Olive Dame Campbell sketchbook, 1901
  • SV-541/1 Lorin Dame album, 1869

Series 2: Addition of 2018, 1950–1989.

  • Box 1 Folder 3 Sea Chest build: Correspondence, 10 March–15 August 1950
  • Box 1 Folder 4 Sea Chest build: Invoices and receipts, May–August 1950
  • Box 1 Folder 5 Hinckley Lane: History, 1948–1990, undated
  • Box 1 Folder 6 Hinckley Lane: Correspondence regarding fence, 30 August 1932–4 October 1934, undated
  • Box 1 Folder 7 Hinckley Lane: Mail petition, September 1929–January 1930
  • Box 1 Folder 8 Hinckley Lane: Correspondence regarding paving, 8 August 1949–9 March 1950
  • Box 1 Folder 9 Hinckley Lane: Warrant article regarding resanding, 25 February 1950
  • Box 1 Folder 10 Hinckley Lane: Articles on the County Commissioners, December 1952, June 1979
  • Box 2 Folder 11 Hinckley Lane: Article on hearing, 5 December 1952
  • Box 2 Folder 12 Hinckley Lane: Correspondence with lawyers, 4 April 1952–8 August 1953
  • Box 2 Folder 13 Hinckley Lane: Letters from Richard Coolidge, 18 December 1952–30 July 1953
  • Box 2 Folder 14 Hinckley Lane: Letters opposing paving, 19 December 1952–28 July 1953
  • Box 2 Folder 15 Hinckley Lane: Article on petition, 11 March 1953
  • Box 2 Folder 16 Hinckley Lane: Article on hearing, 8 August 1953
  • Box 2 Folder 17 Hinckley Lane: Articles concerning beach privilege, 21 November 1953, undated
  • Box 2 Folder 18 Hinckley Lane: Correspondence regarding layout, 10–18 June 1954
  • Box 2 Folder 19 Hinckley Lane: Article concerning Right of Way Committee, 16 January 1954
  • Box 2 Folder 20 Hinckley Lane: Correspondence regarding paving threat, 28 May–24 August 1954
  • Box 2 Folder 21 Hinckley Lane: Article on street as public way, 10 April 1954
  • Box 2 Folder 22 Hinckley Lane: Articles and correspondence on paving, 1969–1972
  • Box 2 Folder 23 Hinckley Lane: Correspondence regarding stairs, November 1969, December 1986
  • Box 2 Folder 24 Hinckley Lane: Articles and correspondence concerning legal status, September 1969–January 1970
  • Box 2 Folder 25 Hinckley Lane: Article and letter concerning developments, 1970
  • Box 2 Folder 26 Hinckley Lane: Updates, 1979
  • Box 2 Folder 27 Hinckley Lane: Conservation Commission, 22 August 1985
  • Box 2 Folder 28 Hinckley Lane: Petition, circa 1986
  • Box 2 Folder 29 Hinckley Lane: Civic League, 1990, undated
  • Box 2 Folder 30 Hinckley Lane: Articles, notes, and plan, 1989, undated
  • Box 2 Folder 31 Hinckley Lane: Marshall Gardiner postcard, “Road to the Spring”, undated

Items Separated

  • Separated Volume (SV-542/1)

Processing Information

Processed by Sarah Helm, September 2015. Addition of 2018 processed by Sarah Lerner, October 2018.

Finding aid written Alison Barr, July 2018, with additional description by Sarah Lerner in October 2018.

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