Skip to main content

Isely family papers

Call Number: RH MS 7


Correspondence and family records from the Christian H. Isely family, Swiss immigrants who settled in Brown County, Kansas soon after the area opened for settlement.


  • Creation: 1849 - 1943


Language of Materials

English, German

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Christian Isely (1828-1919)

Christian H. Isely was born in Switzerland in 1828 to Christian and Barbara Otzenberger Isely, immigrating to America with his family, which included siblings Jacob, Henry, Elizabeth, and Barabara, at an early age. They settled in Holmes County, Ohio in 1831.

In 1849 Christian Isely began working his way west, teaching and working as a carpenter in St. Joseph, Missouri and exploring the Kansas-Nebraska territories after they opened for Euro-American settlement in 1854. In 1861 he married Elise Dubach (1842-1936), also a Swiss immigrant.

Christian and Elise remained in St. Joseph until 1872 when they moved to Fairview, Brown County, to farm with Christian's brothers Henry and Fred. Christian and Elise had 11 children, 8 of whom survived to adulthood: Adolph, William Henry, Mary Alice, John Calhoun, Lydia Jeanette, Olivia Grace, Frederick Benjamin, Charles Christian, James Walter, Bliss, and Dwight.

Christian H. Isely died in Wichita in 1919.

Biography of Henry Isely (1841-1904)

Henry Isely was born near Winesburg, Ohio in 1841. He grew up and married Sophia Hochsttetler there, enlisting at the age of 21 with the 67th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1862. He remained in the army until the end of the war.

Following the Civil War, Isely moved to St. Joseph, Missouri and taught school. By 1867 he was settled in Brown County, Kansas with several acres of farmland. He was involved in local Brown County politics, elected clerk of Walnut Township in 1872 and clerk of Brown County in 1873. He also served as representative for the county in the State Legislature from 1881-1883. By 1903 Isely had become President of the Fairview State Bank.

He and Sophia had one child, William F. Isely. Heny Isely died in 1904.


.5 Linear Feet (434 items in 1 document case + 1 oversize folder, 1 volume)

Scope and Contents

This collection includes the correspondence and family records of the Christian Isely family. The principal correspondents in this collection are Christian H. Isely, the second of six children born to Christian and Barbara Ogenberger Isely; Henry Isely, the youngest of the six children; and J. G. Abele, who married Elizabeth, the eldest child.

Christian's letters generally date from 1849 to 1859. (Translations only of his letters are in the collection.) Henry's letters generally comprise the period from 1860 to the 1870s, and J. G. Abele and Elizabeth's letters generally date from the 1880s. A brother, Frederick, is often the recipient of letters.

The records of school attendance were maintained by Henry as principal of the Woodburn Seminary in St. Joseph, as are the business records. Many of the letters in the collection are written in German. While they discuss family affairs, there is also considerable information about current events in the locale of the correspondents, including, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, New York, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Physical Location


Physical Location


Physical Location

RH MS D276

Physical Location

RH MS Q419

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Jim Smith, 1966. Purchase, Jim Smith, 1966. Gift, Annemarie Ostrowski, 1967. Gift, Wichita State University, 1988.

Related Materials

Isely, Elise Dubach and Bliss Isely. Sunbonnet Days. Caldwell, Id.: The Caxton Printers, 1935. Located at Kenneth Spencer Research Library at RH B1036.

Wichita State University's Special Collections and University Archives and the Kansas Historical Society's State Archives Division both have extensive manuscript and photographic holdings from Isely family members. Consult those institutions' websites and staff for additional information about their holdings.

Guide to the Isely Family Collection
Isely family papers
Finding aid compiled by jma, 1973; lgg, 1973. Finding aid encoded by mg, 2004. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2017; mwh, 2019.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Isely Family Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 7, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States