Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Brill-Kelsoe Correspondence, 1878-1889

Finding aid created by
Arthur C. Wolfe, May 2003, Clements Staff, June 2007, and Naomi Herman-Aplet and Meg Hixon, December 2011

Summary Information
Title: Brill-Kelsoe correspondence
Creator: Brill, Ida Kelsoe, 1858-1934
Inclusive dates: 1878-1889
Bulk dates: 1885-1886
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
The Brill-Kelsoe correspondence consists primarily of letters written by James A. Brill to his future wife, Ida C. Kelsoe, while he lived in the Dakota Territory in the mid-1880s. He described his various odd jobs, discussed his active religious life, and expressed his hope that Ida would join him.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2002. M-4221.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Brill-Kelsoe Correspondence, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated material and a newspaper clipping placed at the end.


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.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Brill-Kelsoe correspondence (56 items) consists primarily of letters written by James A. Brill to his future wife, Ida C. Kelsoe, while he lived in the Dakota Territory in the mid-1880s. In his love letters, often 5-6 pages long, he described his life in Watertown, in what is now South Dakota, and frequently requested that Ida join him as he sought to build his life and fortune. He occasionally described his various jobs, including constructing a house and assisting in a shop, and discussed his finances. On June 14, 1885, he told Ida of his plans to construct a house and possibly to rent it to others for around $12 a month, and he attached a floor plan; though he did build the dwelling, he continued to live in boarding houses. Brill, a religious man, frequently commented about his neighbors and about local religious debates, often argued by several competing denominations. In addition to Brill's letters, the collection holds other correspondence addressed to Ida, including a letter from a suitor named Bruce from Bealeton, Virginia (October 23, 1882), and several others from male friends, who often discussed her relationship prospects. A newspaper clipping printing local news items under the heading "Sheridan Sayings" is also included.

Subject Terms

    • Courtship--United States.
    • Dakota Territory--Religious life and customs.
    • Frontier and pioneer life--South Dakota.
    • Watertown (S.D.)--Social life and customs.
    • Brill, James Abraham, 1858-1936.
    Genre Terms:
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-6
     November 24, 1878-May 1889 and  undated
    Newspaper clipping [series]
    Box   1 Folder   7
    "Sheridan sayings"
    Additional Descriptive Data

    An item-level synopsis of the collection is available in the manuscripts division.