by Paul Goddard
Through the years in Indian Territory, Robert Wallace Officer’s work-load increased, and his health decreased.
In 1892, he was advised to move to Florida because of rheumatism./1 Refusing this advice, he continued to travel to his preaching points, and in 1895, he was involved in a wagon accident. During this accident he broke his leg and dislocated an ankle./2 Later, Mrs. Officer reported to Daniel Sommer that her husband was suffering from some paralysis./3
Sometime at the turn of the century, Mrs.Officer died. Since Robert did not write any reports in 1900, perhaps this is the year that she died./3 In an article published on June 11, 1901, Officer announced that he was moving back to Texas: “My promise to the few faithful ones in West Texas is due. I said when the Indian Territory was settled up I would go to them and build up a mission in west Texas. My promise is due, and my address is changed from Atoka, Indian Territory, to Turkey, Texas.”/4
After he moved to Texas, Officer continued to receive letters questioning his character. In 1903, he denied making a speech at the digressives’ convention in Amarillo, Texas, stating, “From the time M. Gorman of Missouri and M.L. Wilson of Texas, came to Indian Territory to help us in that field such reports have been afloat. In regard to me being employed, I cannot meet the calls I have. Concerning contributions being stopped, I only say I am in for the work regardless of contributions. The swarm of flies with the “f” let off did us much harm in Indian Territory in hindering the work there.”/5
G.H.P. Showalter came to his defense and rebuked those who were gossiping about Officer saying, “Those who suspect that a brother is not sound in the faith should always investigate before they severely denounce that brother as a heretic.” This rebuke did little to stop the attacks against Officer, and the accusations soon appeared in the Firm Foundation.
In a 1906 issue of the Firm Foundation, T.A. Holland commented that Officer was telling people that, “…all that hell-fire stuff is raw-hide and bloody bones to scare people into the church…”
Adding to this article, G.A. Trott, one of the editors of the Firm Foundation, wrote, “R.W. Officer is simply an Adventist in teaching. Get Brother Charlie Nichol to Turkey (Texas) and expose his foolishness, and I will warrant his power to mislead the people will be gone in that country.”/6
Officer answered these charges urging the brethren to question his friends, but he never denied the charges./7 Again in 1909, another article appeared in the Firm Foundation stating that Officer was preaching for the digressives in Detroit Texas. The anonymous writer stated, “Brethren, please do not allow this man to be passed off upon you any longer for a loyal gospel preacher.”/8
Joe S. Warlick reported that Robert Wallace Officer was living in Arkansas in 1926. With the exception of Warlick’s report, very little is known about Officer beyond 1909./9
Traveling with Graham McDonald in 2004, Scott Harp located Officer’s grave at Turkey, Texas. On his tombstone, his death date is engraved as August 23, 1930. Likewise, a bronze plaque has been attached proclaiming him to be a Methodist Circuit Rider./10
Several times throughout Officer’s life, he was accused of being unfaithful. In his early days he always replied, but for some reason late in life, he discontinued defending himself. Perhaps he was guilty of some charges and perhaps not.
One article he wrote earlier in 1896 sheds light upon the this unanswered question:
“I don’t think our papers should be converted into wrangling mediums. This would be the result, and the matter perhaps we wish to correct, would become worse and worse until all who are not involved in the effort to ‘untangle the hank,’ would become disgusted, and all the rest splintering the ceiling with their hind feet, and beating the air with their forefeet as words with stingers in them were being shot from the tongue which should be tamed. No use to try to clear muddy water by stirring it up. Christianity is first, from the human side, and individual appropriation of divine things. Our life in the light of truth is not dependent upon conditions of time. To be a Christian, is to become connected with eternal conditions, therefore, eternal life.”/11
1/ Robert W. Officer, “Indian Territory,” Octographic Review 35 (November 22, 1892), 3.
2/ Robert W. Officer, “Indian Territory,” Octographic Review 38 (July 16, 1895), 3; and (July 23, 1895), 3.
.3/ G.H.P. Showalter, “Tidings From Texas,” Octographic Review 48 (January 17, 1905), 8.
4/ Robert W. Officer, “Off to West Texas,” Octographic Review 44 (June 11, 1901), 3.
5/ Robert W. Officer, “An Open Letter,” Octographic Review 46 (March 3, 1903), 3.
6/ T.A. Holland, “Letter,” Firm Foundation 22 (September 11, 1906), 5. According to William Wallace, Daniel Sommer felt that Officer had gone over to the the teachings of Charles Taze Russell. See, William E. Wallace, Daniel Sommer, 1850-1940 (Wallace, 1969), 244-245.
7/ Robert W. Officer, “Letter,” Firm Foundation 22 (November 13, 1906), 5.
8/ “Crumley-Aylor Debate,” Firm Foundation 25 (December 21, 1909), 5.
9/ Joe S. Warlick, “Notes and Reports,” Gospel Guide 11 (June 1926), 4.
10/ Scott Harp preaches for the Church of Christ in Buford, Georgia. He is also the webmaster for RestorationMovement.com. The above picture was taken by him.
11/ Robert W. Officer, “An Open Letter,” Octographic Review 39 (August 11, 1896), 6.