John Wolfe was born in 1845 in County Kerry, Ireland, the son of Richard Wolfe, a distiller, and Mary Carney Wolfe. He had seven siblings: Margaret (b. 1841), Richard (b. 1847), Michael (b. ca. 1848), Sarah Elizabeth (b. 1854), Ellen V. “Nellie” (b. ca. 1856), James (b. ca. 1858), and James R. (b. 1863). The first James died sometime before 1862.
Wolfe, his parents, and his siblings emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City aboard the Liverpool on November 10, 1849. They settled in LaSalle County, Illinois, joining other Wolfe relatives there. Richard Wolfe Sr.’s brother John Richard and his first cousin Maurice both emigrated in 1847. (Brothers Richard and John Wolfe shared a grandfather with Maurice Wolfe: James M. “The Barrister” Wolfe.) Wolfe’s brother, Thomas Richard, arrived from Ireland in 1848, while another brother, Maurice Richard, emigrated in 1849, arriving in September. While brother John and cousin Maurice moved on to Clinton County, Iowa, Richard Wolfe Sr. and his brothers Thomas and Maurice remained in Illinois.
John Wolfe married Johanna Dillon, a native of LaSalle County, on June 6, 1876. The couple had three children: Johanna “Jennie” (b. 1880), John (b. 1884), and Richard William (b. 1887).
The federal census of 1880 identifies John Wolfe as a farmer in LaSalle, but by 1900, he worked as the foreman of the buffing department at the Western Clock Company plant in LaSalle. He worked there for twenty-eight years.
Johanna Dillon Wolfe died of a stroke at her home in LaSalle on November 15, 1918, and John Wolfe of pneumonia at Saint Mary’s Hospital, LaSalle, on March 27, 1919. On the day John Wolfe Sr. died, John Wolfe Jr. landed in New York from having served overseas during World War I (1914–1918).
John and Johanna Wolfe are buried together at Saint Vincent Cemetery in LaSalle, Illinois.