Son of Amos Curtis and Roxanna Cutler (transcript of death record). Some transcripts of James' death record state he was born in Morgan, Vermont. Other records suggest he was born in Charleston (presumably Vermont).
James was working as a shoemaker when he married Lovisa Bowman on March 24, 1862 in Concord, Vermont.
During the Civil War, James served as a Private in Co. K, 15th Vermont Regiment October 22, 1862 to August 5 1863. He later was a member of the Chamberlin Post in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
James was a merchant, shoemaker, and farmer. He moved to Waterford about 1861; the 1890 US Census of Union Veterans notes his residence as West Waterford, Vermont.