Orville Ernest Watson was born in Westfield Center, Ohio, on December 1, 1857, the son of Joseph Watson, a physician, and his wife Eliza (or Ella) Jane Mills. Orville's three siblings were Clarence, Minnie, and Jessie. The Watson family moved to Cardington, Ohio, before 1870, and Orville Watson graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1882. After working as a businessman in Cardington, he entered Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, as a theology student in 1889. Following his graduation in 1892, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was assistant rector for Trinity Episcopal Church. He eventually returned to Gambier, Ohio, where he died on May 17, 1951.