Mary Agatha Wolfe was born in 1834, in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. Her parents were 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), John Edmond (b. 1837), and Patrick (b. ca. 1844), the latter’s relationship remaining unconfirmed.
Wolfe and all of her 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.
Census records indicate that by 1860 Wolfe was working as a seamstress in Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois. In 1866, she entered Saint Joseph’s Convent in Ottawa, run by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order founded in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831. She joined the order in 1869 and worked as a teacher. In 1870, the federal census indicates that she was the convent’s bursar, but by the time of her death she had led the order in both Streator and Lacon, Illinois. She was popularly known as Mother Mary Agatha.
Wolfe died of consumption at Saint Xavier’s Academy in Ottawa on June 9, 1897, and is buried at Saint Columba Cemetery in that city.
image: Saint Joseph’s Convent, Ottawa, Illinois