James Abraham Brill was born in Lehew, West Virginia, in October 1858, the son of John Henry Brill and Elizabeth Ann Reid. He courted Ida Cordelia Kelsoe (b. August 1858), a native of Capon, West Virginia, both before and after his move to Watertown, South Dakota, in 1878. While in the Dakota Territory, he worked in a shop and constructed a home, hoping for Ida to join him. The couple married in Hampshire, West Virginia, in April 1887, and soon moved to Fern Hill, Washington, where their son, Clyde, was born in April 1890. Ida died in Tacoma, Washington, in 1934, and James in 1936.