Charles W. Nibley, prominent businessman and LDS Church general authority, was born in Hunterfield, Scotland, to James and Jean Wilson Nibley on 5 February 1849, the sixth of eight children. The Nibleys had joined the Mormon Church in April 1844, five years before Charles was born. In 1855 the family emigrated to America, and after a five-year stay in the East came to Utah and settled in Wellsville.
Nibley was a rather small and anemic child, and the physical demands of a frontier life were hard on him. Nibley's formal education was limited and fragmented, but he loved books and read voraciously. He was also an ambitious and gifted businessman. His first start in business was as a storekeeper in Wellsville. He soon moved to Brigham City, where he worked for a prosperous businessman named Morris Rosenbaum, who owned a store and a hotel. Impressed by Nibley's business acumen, Rosenbaum soon made the young man a partner. One of Rosenbaum's hotel employees was Rebecca Neibaur. Nibley fell in love with Rebecca and the two were married in 1869.
Nibley, a devout Mormon, entered into plural marriage. In 1880 he married Ellen Ricks, and in 1885 he married Julia Budge. By his three wives he fathered seventeen children, twelve of whom were born on the "underground," that is, while the church was being prosecuted for its practice of polygamy.