Charles M. Shiels was born in Kingston, Ontario, in the year of Canada’s confederation, 1867. His father, John, was apprenticed to a tinsmith until he started his own business in about 1873. In 1883, Charles, his parents, and his brother, William, and sister, Margaret, all moved to California.
Charles completed his own apprenticeship in plumbing in 1888 and joined his father and brother in business at the family firm, now called John Shiels & Sons. Charles was involved in civic affairs, belonging to as many as eight different fraternal lodges. Like his parents, he was a member of the Presbyterian Church.
John Shiels died in 1911, leaving the brothers to run the plumbing company as Shiels Brothers. William died 3 years later and Charles carried on alone until he took the position of county sealer of weights and measures.