Catherine “Kate” Wolfe was born in March 1860, in Liberty Township, Clinton County, Iowa. Sources differ as to the spelling of her first name. In Wolfe’s History of Clinton County (1911), her brother Patrick B. Wolfe spells it with a k. The 1860 federal census spells it with a c.
Kate Wolfe’s parents were John Richard Wolfe, an Irish Catholic farmer, and Honora “Nora” Buckley Wolfe. She had seven siblings who survived to maturity: James Buckley (b. 1843), Patrick Bernard (b. 1848), Johanna (b. 1849), John Buckley (b. 1851), Maurice Buckley (b. 1855), Margaret I. (b. 1857), and Richard B. (b. 1862). Two sisters, Margaret and Catherine, died in infancy.
In 1847, Wolfe’s parents and brother James immigrated to the United States from Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, along with John R. Wolfe’s first cousin Maurice Wolfe and his family. (John and Maurice Wolfe shared a grandfather, James M. “The Barrister” Wolfe.) The families arrived in New York on August 23, 1847, and from there made their way to Chicago and then to LaSalle County, Illinois, where a number of John R. Wolfe’s brothers and cousins settled. John R. Wolfe and his cousin Maurice, with their families, both moved on to Clinton County, Iowa, arriving sometime around 1855.
Little is known of Wolfe’s early years. She may have studied at the Iowa State Normal School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and worked as a teacher. At some point, she moved to Deer Lodge County, Montana, the home of her sister Margaret, also a teacher. In 1888, she began teaching in the public schools there. A cousin, Edmund D. Wolfe, lived in Anaconda, Deer Lodge County, beginning in 1893.
On November 28, 1894, Wolfe and her sister were both married at Saint Patrick’s Church in Butte, Montana, Margaret Wolfe to Dr. Daniel Langan, of Clinton, Iowa, and Kate Wolfe to Thomas D. Fitzgerald, of Anaconda. The Wolfe sisters’ brother Richard B. Wolfe served as groomsman at the private ceremony. The couple lived on Cherry Street in Anaconda. They had one child, Margaret M., who was born on November 11, 1897.
Thomas D. Fitzgerald, widely known as Judge T. D. Fitzgerald, was born in October 1850 in County Waterford, Ireland, and came to New York as a boy with his family. He worked as a bookkeeper for the Vulcan Iron Works Company in Saint Louis, then lived in Leadville, Colorado. In 1884, he moved to Anaconda, where he worked as a real estate agent and notary public. He served two terms as a justice of the peace (1886–1890) and as the newly incorporated city’s first police magistrate. From 1901 until 1903 he was the county’s public administrator. Fitzgerald also served in the Montana House of Representatives from 1893 until 1895, representing Deer Lodge County. (He was not, as claimed by Kate Wolfe’s brother Patrick, the president of the Montana Senate.)
Kate Fitzgerald continued to teach after her marriage and served on the county school board. A newspaper report in 1895 indicates that she was an incumbent seeking another term. She also was a member of the Woman’s Literary Club in Anaconda. In November 1900 she presented a paper on the “Church and Nation under Edward VI and Mary”; in March 1901, she gave a paper titled “The Influence of the French Revolution on English Literature”; and in October 1901 she lectured on the German poet Heinrich Heine (1797–1856).
On April 8, 1903, Judge Fitzgerald died suddenly in Anaconda of what the Anaconda Standard newspaper described as “an attack of apoplexy, following a severe cold and congested lungs.” He had been visiting nearby mining claims he owned, and “even Mrs. Fitzgerald was not aware that he was afflicted with anything worse than a bad cold.”
Kate Fitzgerald served as executor of her late husband’s estate in Montana before returning to Clinton County, Iowa. By 1910 she lived there with her daughter. By 1920 she was living with her sister, Margaret Langan, whose husband died in 1914. By 1930, Fitzgerald was living in San Diego, California, with her daughter, who was working as a hospital nurse. She was still there a decade later.
Fitzgerald died in 1947, although the exact date and place are unclear. She is buried with her husband and daughter at Saint James Cemetery in Toronto, Clinton County, Iowa.
images: Judge T. D. Fitzgerald (Anaconda Standard) and Fitzgerald stone at Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Iowa (Michael Kearney / Find a Grave); the Wolfe family accounted for by the 1860 federal census, dated August 4, 1860; advertisement from the Anaconda Standard, May 6, 1892, page 6