THEODORE C. POLING. With practically every phase of Quincy’s development in financial power, business resources, and the enrichment of its community and institutional life, Theodore C. Poling has been identified during the past forty years. His name in connection with any enterprise has at once given it dignity and has brought to it the sustaining confidence of the best people. No man deserves a more grateful memory and is more worthy of a record for what he has done and what he has stood for in this city.
He was born at Middletown, New Jersey, January 10, 1840, and has been a resident of Quincy since 1870. In Quincy and elsewhere he taught school, and educational work was his chief occupation until he was admitted to the bar in Quincy in 1871. From 1861 to 1864 he was a student of Knox College at Galesburg, and enlisted from there for two periods in the Civil war. He was first a member of Company E of the Seventy-first Illinois Infantry for four months and later re-enlisted in Company C of the One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Regiment under the command of Governor John Woods, the founder of Quincy. Altogether he was in the army for nine months. His brother James K. was killed in battle at Memphis, Tennessee, and another brother, George W., died at home from disease contracted in the swamps of Vicksburg.
One of Mr. Poling’s earliest acquaintances at Quincy and for a number of years his partner in law practice was Hope S. Davis, under the firm name of Goodwin, Davis & Poling. Judge Goodwin died two years later and the firm of Davis & Poling continued until 1885. From that date until the mortgage banking firm of T. C. Poling & Company was organized, Mr. Poling gradually withdrew from the routine work of the legal profession and gave his time and attention to the work of building up a strictly financial business, to which the firm has devoted all its energies for many years.
Mr. Poling is now the oldest mortgage banker in Quincy, and is the head of one of the oldest investment companies doing business in the states of Illinois and Missouri. That this company has invested many millions of dollars without the loss of a single dollar on any loan it ever made is evidence of the skill and care of its founder. The company’s offices are in the Blackstone Building, of which Mr. Poling is one of the owners and builders. It was erected in the ’80s. His business in farm loans extends over a large territory around Quincy in both Illinois and Missouri. Since 1905 his active associate has been his son Theodore Chester Poling, Jr. At the present time their annual volume of business is over $1,500,000 in loans now outstanding.
Mr. Poling has been responsible for the development of some of Quincy’s best known residence and business additions. One of them was the ninety-six acres subdivided and now known as the Poling & Cruttenden Addition.
This city is largely indebted to Mr. Poling for the beautiful Lawndale Addition, where his own handsome home is located. Another property in which he is actively concerned is the Walton Heights Manufacturing Section, of which he and the late John S. Cruttenden, were joint trustees until the latter’s death left Mr. Poling as sole trustee. Mr. Poling’s labors and financial assistance aided materially in securing additions to Quincy’s splendid boulevard and park system.
Of all his business activities Mr. Poling will doubtless be best remembered for his leadership in movements having to do with the most complete and best known expression of Quincy’s community spirit. He has managed the financial affairs of many wealthy citizens and has been entrusted with the settlement of a large number of estates as executor and trustee. It is said that more than $400,000 devoted to charitable purposes passed through his hands as executor or trustee, and this fact is indicated by the county records. He helped raise the money and was the first treasurer of the Building Committee of the local Young Men’s Christian Association. He took a similarly prominent part in the Public Library movement many years earlier. The building and lot on which the library was erected were secured largely through the joint labors and solicitations of Mr. Poling and Mr. J. N. Sprigg. Mr. Poling served as one of the early directors of the library. It was through the earnest appeal made by Mr. Poling and his associates that the handsome Quincy Library of today was built. As financial adviser and as executor of the estates of Charles Brown, Jr., and Anna Brown, he carried to completion their plans to found what is now the Anna Brown Home for the Aged, and has been responsible, in a large measure, for the success of that institution.
Mr. Poling is a trustee of the Blessing Hospital, was many years a director of the Chamber of Commerce, and a willing worker for and contributor to many other public enterprises. Seldom has an appeal for assistance in worthy charities been presented to him in vain. He was a director and treasurer of the original Quincy Gas, Light and Coke Company, and has served as treasurer of the Adams County Memorial Association and the Quincy Cemetery Association. He is active as a senior deacon in the Congregational church. He is also a member of John Wood Post No. 96, Grand Army of the Republic.
Mr. Poling married Miss Ella A. Wharton, a native of Philadelphia, but reared and educated in Payson, Illinois. She was born March 8, 1848. Their oldest child, Florence Poling Nielson, born March 4, 1869, died February 9, 1911. She was the wife of James Nielson. Otho Curtis Poling, the second child, was born June 20, 1871, and is now a resident of Arizona and is the father of two children. Eugene Edwin Poling, born March 23, 1873, died September 28, 1880. Theodore Chester Poling, born January 31, 1885, is his father’s business associate, and is married. Mr. Poling has four grandchildren: Eleanor Poling Nielson; James Poling Nielson, now serving in the United States Navy; Frances E. Poling; and Howard O. Poling.
File contributed by Barbara Freeman
Source: “Quincy and Adams County History and Representative Men” Vol. II, pp. 743-745. Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919.