Daniel F. Wolfe was born around 1832 in County Kerry, Ireland, the son of Richard Wolfe, a Catholic farmer, and Mary Foley Wolfe. He had ten siblings: Margaret (b. ca. 1826), Mary (b. 1826), Maurice (b. 1828), Mary Ellen (b. 1829), Patrick (b. 1830), Richard (b. 1836), John Maurice (b. 1838), Bridget (b. 1839), Edmund (b. 1840), and Richard J. (b. 1844). The first Richard died before 1848, and Bridget before 1847.
Wolfe immigrated to the United States in the company of his parents and siblings, traveling in steerage class aboard the Thomas H. Perkins. They arrived in New York from Liverpool on September 29, 1848. The family settled in LaSalle County, Illinois, joining relatives there.
In 1870, Wolfe was living in Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois, and working as a distiller and the proprietor of a liquor store. Either then or subsequently, he was business partners with his cousin, Richard Wolfe, running a wholesale and retail liquor store in Ottawa. He lived with his sister, Margaret Wolfe Fanning. Sometime after 1877, Wolfe moved west to the Dakota Territory, where he ran a saloon in the town of Miller. On November 14, 1882, he was murdered by a close friend, William McComber.
According to a report published in the Wheeling (West Virginia) Register on November 16, Wolfe was driving in a buggy with McComber near Wessington, Dakota, when the two were observed to have separated, with one remaining in the buggy and the other going on foot. “A little while after,” the paper reported, “some farmers in the vicinity, noticing that the prairie was on fire, went to put it out, and found Wolfe dead in the midst of the fire with a bullet through his head.” Authorities speculated that McComber had set the fire to destroy evidence of the shooting. The report continued:
From Wessington the murderer drove to St. Lawrence, and, with no apparent thought of the blood upon his hands, engaged in a game of cards. From there he went to Miller. The sheriff, ascertaining the facts in the case, went to arrest him. On entering the house where he was, the sheriff said: “Mr. McComber, I have come to arrest you on a very grave charge.” “Are you an officer” said McComber, cooly. The sheriff handed him his commission. McComber took it in his left hand (his right hand in his pocket), read it slowly and carefully through, remarked that it appeared all right, and then, suddenly drawing his revolver, said, “I’m a gone coon,” and shot himself through the head, dying in fifteen minutes.”
According to the paper, Wolfe had a large sum of money and was killed for it. It described McComber and Wolfe as “intimate friends.”
Wolfe is buried with his parents at Saint Columba Cemetery in Ottawa, Illinois.
image: detail from the Wheeling (West Virginia) Register, November 16, 1882, page 1