John Edmond Wolfe was born on November 22, 1837, in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. He was the son of Edmond Maurice Wolfe, a Catholic farmer, and Margaret Sullivan. Wolfe had three and possibly four siblings: Richard Edmond “Dicky Ned” (b. 1824), Ellen J. (b. 1832), Mary Agatha (b. 1834), and Patrick (b. ca. 1844), the latter’s relationship remaining unconfirmed.
Wolfe and all of his siblings except for Dicky Ned Wolfe immigrated to the United States, but the circumstances of their travel is unclear. They probably were accompanied by other relatives, and during the 1840s many Wolfes left Ireland and settled first in LaSalle County, Illinois, and then in Clinton County, Iowa. These included John Wolfe’s cousins Maurice Wolfe and John R. Wolfe, who sailed together on the Cornelia in 1847; Thomas R. Wolfe, who sailed the James H. Shepherd in 1848; Richard Wolfe, who took the Thomas H. Perkins in 1848; Maurice R. Wolfe, who took the Senator in 1849; and Richard Wolfe, who sailed the Liverpool in 1849. All these men shared a descent from Maurice J. “Old Maurice” Wolfe.
Wolfe’s obituary states he came to the United States in 1850 and settled in Clinton County, Iowa, in 1858. Other accounts have him arriving in Iowa a year earlier. Whatever the case, in the federal census of 1860 he is identified as a wagon maker living in Liberty Township in the household of Aurell Grovener, a hotel keeper. He probably lived briefly in LaSalle County, Illinois, become coming to Iowa, and his sisters remained there.
On November 8, 1863, Wolfe married Margaret Mills, a native of County Mayo, Ireland, in DeWitt, Iowa. The couple had at least nine children: Edmund (or Edmond) Mills (b. 1864), Anthony Mills (b. 1866), Mary Mayme (b. 1868), Maurice Vincent (b. 1874), Patrick Joseph (b. 18714), Cecelia Ellen (b. 1877), Ellen Vita “Nellie” (b. 1879), John (b. 1883), and Arthur Gerald (b. 1885).
In 1870, Wolfe is identified by the census as a farmer living with his wife, children, and his wife’s sister, Celia Mills, who worked as a domestic servant. The History of Clinton County, Iowa, published in 1879, attributes to him 320 acres of land valued at $30 per acre. By 1900, Wolfe had retired to DeWitt, where he died on March 30, 1918. His wife died on January 16, 1938, and they are buried together at Saint James Cemetery in Toronto, Iowa.
image: Gravestone of John E. Wolfe, Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Iowa