Sol Smith Russell was born in Brunswick, Mo. , the son of Charles Elmer Russell, keeper of a small country store, who had been at one time an itinerant physician and preacher, and of Louisa Mathews, daughter of Edwin Mathews, a teacher of music in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was named for the actor, Sol Smith, who was his uncle by marriage. During his boyhood and youth, he lived with his parents in St. Louis, Mo. , and Jacksonville, Ill.