Charles Taze Russell was born to Scottish-Irish parents, immigrant Joseph Lytel (play /ˈlɪtəl/) Russell (d. December 17, 1897) and Ann Eliza Birney (d. January 25, 1861), on February 16, 1852 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, USA. Charles was apparently the second of five children, and was one of only two to survive into adulthood.
The Russells lived in Philadelphia, as well as Allegheny, before moving to Pittsburgh, where they became members of the Presbyterian Church. In his early teens, Charles' father made him partner of his Pittsburgh haberdashery store. By age twelve, Russell was writing business contracts for customers and given charge of some of his father's other clothing stores. At age thirteen, Charles left the Presbyterian Church to join the Congregational Church. In his youth he was known to chalk Bible verses on fence boards and city sidewalks to draw attention to the punishment of hell awaiting the unfaithful in an attempt to convert unbelievers.
At age sixteen, a discussion with a childhood friend on faults perceived in Christianity (such as contradictions in creeds, along with medieval traditions) led Charles to question his faith. He then began to investigate other religious views and philosophies, including Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, but concluded that they did not provide the answers he was seeking. In 1870, at age eighteen, he attended a presentation by Adventist minister Jonas Wendell (Geoff here, I have no clue who this fellow is, but he wasn't a Seventh-day Adventist minister). During his presentation Wendell outlined his belief that 1873 or 1874 would be the date for Christ's second coming. He later stated that although he did not entirely agree with the arguments presented by Wendell the presentation itself was sufficient to inspire within him a renewed zeal and re-establish his belief that the Bible is the word of God.