On February 16, 1943, Charles Officer, 88, dean of the Council Bluffs realtors and a pioneer resident of Council Bluffs, was found dead at his desk, still wearing his overcoat. His wife, Edith, told the coroner that he had left home a short time earlier.
The next day, a Nonpareil story gave the details of his life. He was born on March 18, 1854, in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 1856, he came to Council Bluffs via steamboat with his parents. They left the boat at Wray’s building, south of Council Bluffs, about where Lake Manawa is today. Years later, his sister Julia reportedly gave Lake Manawa its name which, in the Indian language, means “Beautiful”
His parents, Thomas and Elizabeth (Pusey) Officer, had been friends with Abraham Lincoln when they lived in Illinois. When Lincoln visited Council Bluffs in 1859 to check on some property he had received as collateral on a loan, the Officers entertained him in their home.
Charles attended public schools in Council Bluffs and graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1878. While in Pennsylvania, he married Margaret Boyle.
He returned with his wife to Council Bluffs and went to work as a paying teller at the Officer & Pusey Bank, founded by William Pusey and Charles’ father, who was senior partner. H.H. Field, in his “History of Pottawattamie County,” writes that he stayed at the bank until 1900, when the bank was discontinued, and turned his attention to the real estate, loan and insurance business.
The Nonpareil tells the story of how the real estate business grew during the late nineteenth century:
“It was during the boom years of 1886-87 when realtors stayed open until midnight selling property direct from a company map, that he became interested in real estate.
“He purchased two lots at the location of Eighteenth Street and Broadway and before he could obtain final deeds to the lots, he sold them for $900 – more than twice the purchase price.
“He and seven other business men incorporated and purchased forty acres of land in the western portion of the city for $40,000 in gold and before they could resell at a profit the boom ended suddenly.
“Those in the enterprise took their share of the property and a few years later Officer sold his lots for $30,000, realizing a profit of nearly $20,000.
“The real estate business proved too inspiring for Mr. Officer and he resigned his position at his father’s bank and started a real estate company in 1901 with offices at 419 West Broadway.” He later moved his office to 128 S. Main St.
Margaret Officer died in 1927 and, in 1930, Charles married Edith (Brock) Beardsley. He had a stepson, Richard, and two stepdaughters, Jean and Virginia.
In politics, he was a Republican but never sought political office. He attended the First Presbyterian Church. His parents were among the thirteen original members who organized the church in 1856.
The story continues: “It was their residence, now used by the Cutler funeral home*, that was called, ‘Preachers Hotel.’ There was hardly a visiting minister or missionary who failed to stop at the Officer home.”
The bell for the first church was donated by his mother. Elizabeth Officer. It was later given to the courthouse where it sounded the hours of the tower clock for several years.
The Officers are buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery.
The nomination of the Willow/Bluff/Third Street historic district provides a description of the house. It retains the original narrow clapboard siding, hipped roof with eave overhang, hipped dormers with exposed rafter tails, porch with paired and tripled round ¾-height columns on brick piers, original multi-pane over single pane and fixed pane windows, and a rounded bay on the front porch.
*Now part of Cutler-O’Neill Meyer-Woodring.
– Preserve Council Bluffs acknowledges the following sources of information for this series: National Register of Historic Places nominations, the reference department of the Council Bluffs Public Library, the auditor’s office of the Pottawattamie County courthouse, Council Bluffs Community Development Department, homeowners, family members and individual research.
Mary Lou McGinn can be reached by email at email@example.com.