David Eccles was born in Paisley, Scotland, on 12 May 1849. He was the second son in a family of seven children born to William and Sarah Hutchinson Eccles. William, a half-blind woodturner, and Sarah lived in poverty in the Glasgow area until 1863, when, having converted to Mormonism, they migrated with their children to Utah. They located in the Ogden Valley -- at first in Liberty, then in Eden.
His older brother having returned to Scotland, David, now fourteen, was the principal support for his family, peddling his father's wooden products, and trading. Not doing well in Ogden Valley, the family moved in 1867 to Oregon City, in western Oregon. There David and other family members worked in a newly erected woolen mill. David cut cordwood for the mill for a year, went to the Puget Sound area for six months to work for a lumber corporation, and worked another six months on the California and Oregon railroad. The family returned to Ogden in 1869, hoping the completion of the transcontinental railroad would enable them to find work in "Zion."