A city or country owes much to her professional men,
merchants and farmers, for to them is due the steady circulation of money and
trade, without which a place would stagnate, but when a town has grown to any
size then it needs someone who can step in and turn this money to the best
advantage, so that it will be used to advance the corporate growth of the
community, in other words, a capitalist. Such a man is Charles C. Davis. He
started as a poor boy with no prospects whatever; the early years of his career
offered nothing but deadly monotony, with no apparent hope for the future, but,
never allowing himself to become discouraged, believing always that one could
get almost anything if one worked for it hard enough, he was ready to seize the
opportunity when it offered. His chance when it came seemed so small that men
lacking his adventurous spirit and confidence in fate would have refused to
consider it. Not so he, and the result is that he is one of the successful men
of Marion county, and has had a hand in practically every large enterprise that
has been launched in Centralia for years.
Charles C. Davis was born on the 2nd of April, 1855, the son of Thomas P. Davis. His father was a native of Virginia, and left the Old Dominion as a mere boy, coming to Illinois with his parents. They settled in White county, near Grayville, and when the lad grew to manhood he adopted the carpentry trade, and as a carpenter and contractor he soon became well known throughout the county. When Centralia began to grow he moved to what was then a village and built some of the earliest homes in the now thriving city. When the war broke out in 1860 he willingly offered his services and for three years served in Company H of the Eightieth Illinois Regiment. His politics were Republican, but he was content to cast his vote at election time and let others fill the offices. Both he and his wife were staunch members of the Methodist Episcopal church. He married in Belleville, Illinois, Wilhelmina Beal, the daughter of Jacob Beal. The latter was born in Germany, and immigrated to America in 1844, settling in Pennsylvania. He later moved to St. Clair county, where he took up farming and gardening. During the later years of his life he moved to Centralia, where he died. The father of Thomas P. Davis was James Davis, who was born in Virginia, and moved to Illinois while Thomas was quite young. He was a farmer and continued to operate his farm to the day of his death. Thomas P. Davis and his wife had ten children, eight sons and two daughters, of whom Charles was the first born, and of these six sons and one daughter survive.
Charles C. Davis obtained all his knowledge of books from the public schools. His first job was as a brakeman, and by the time he was twenty he had climbed the rounds of the ladder until he had reached the position of conductor. For twenty-one years he followed railroading, and apparently he was never going to do anything else, but somehow the idea came into his head that there was coal around Centralia, and although he knew nothing about coal mining he determined to have a try for it. Giving up his position, he took his small savings and came to .Centralia, where in company with Mr. G. L. Pittinger, who had persuaded him to go into the venture with him, sunk a shaft. They struck coal. This was the beginning of their fortune. After this start the rest came easily, for his mind was peculiarly adapted to the work of a financier, and he seemed to know almost intuitively in what direction the real estate market was going to move. After the lucky strike they sunk another shaft and bought others until they owned the whole coal field around Centralia, then when the value of the property had enormously increased they sold out, and the mines are now owned and operated by the Centralia Coal Company. Mr. Davis is connected with almost every leading financial enterprise in Centralia. He is president of the Pittinger Davis Mercantile Company, which is a store of great importance to the commercial life of Centralia. He is a director and heavy stockholder in the Old National Bank, and for many years he has been a director of the Building and Loan Company. Much of his property consists of real estate, but he always has money to invest in any enterprise that meets with his approval, and much of his income is derived from loans. He is known as a friend to the poor and many of his small loans have been made without interest, for, coming himself from the ranks of those who labor with their hands, he realizes the value of a helping hand. The most successful deals which were carried out by Mr. Pittinger and the subject and which seem to have been made with an intuitive sense of the future were in reality the result of hours of thinking and planning. Mr. Davis' long experience in railroading had given him a keen judgment of men, and from a long study of conditions he is usually able to prophesy how this or that affair is going to turn out.
On May 2, 1877, he married Ella Kell, the daughter of Matthew Kell, who was a prominent business man of Centralia up to the time of his death. Dr. Davis is deeply interested and very active in the Masonic order, believing firmly in the principles of this great institution and he is a past master, past high priest and past eminent commander. He is also a Consistory Mason and a Shriner, and has taken the thirty-third degree. At present he is grand high priest of the state of Illinois. He is a member of the Elks, having been one of the charter members of the Centralia Lodge.
Extracted 07 Nov 2017 by Norma Hass from History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, published in 1912, volume 3, pages 1301-1303.