Maurice B. Wolfe (1855–1928)

Maurice Buckley Wolfe was born in March 1855, in LaSalle County, Illinois. His parents were John Richard Wolfe, an Irish Catholic farmer, and Honora Buckley Wolfe. He had seven siblings who survived to maturity: James Buckley (b. 1843), Patrick Bernard (b. 1848), Johanna (b. 1849), John Buckley (b. 1851), Margaret I. (b. 1857), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1860), 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. John R. Wolfe and his family moved to Clinton County, Iowa, around 1855, likely after Maurice Buckley Wolfe was born. Wolfe’s grandson, Thomas Wolfe, wrote that Maurice was the first Wolfe to be born in Lost Nation, an area of Liberty Township in Clinton County. (A town was established there in 1871.)

John R. Wolfe’s brother, Maurice Richard, who came from Ireland in 1849, stayed in Illinois, while Maurice Wolfe and his family moved to Clinton County in the spring of 1859.

Wolfe married Sarah A. McAndrews, of Lost Nation, on April 3, 1894. Like her husband, McAndrews was the daughter of Irish immigrants. Her parents, Philip McAndrews and Bridget Caulfield, were from County Mayo. Prior to marriage Sarah McAndrews had worked as a teacher. She and Maurice Wolfe had five sons: Raymond Bernard (b. 1896), Philip James (b. 1898), John Joseph (b. 1901), Melvin Maurice (b. 1904), and James Emmet (b. 1909).

Little is known of Wolfe’s life except that he farmed. According to the History of Clinton County, Iowa (1879), Wolfe’s father was the largest landholder in Liberty Township, with 1,100 acres, before transferring some of his holdings to his sons, including Maurice. In 1879, John R. Wolfe owned 840 acres and a Maurice Wolfe 640 acres. This is probably the same Maurice Wolfe who was his son.

Thomas Wolfe filled in the biographical gaps with humor:

The writer knows little about [Maurice Wolfe], but it can be assumed he became a Catholic and a Democrat at approximately the same time. It is possible, however, that he inherited some of his father’s Marxist revolutionary ideas although there is no record of political insurrection in Lost Nation or Toronto during his lifetime. It is well known in Lost Nation, though, that Grandfather Maurice attended his agrarian pursuits in spurts which he called “five year plans.” His favorite tools were the hammer and sickle.

In an e-mail to his niece in 2007, Thomas Wolfe wrote:

Uncle Dan McGinn always claimed that Grandfather Maurice was once a Texas Ranger, but I don’t believe it. He also alleged that he was an excellent shot with a .45 caliber revolver, a gun that is very heavy and difficult to shoot accurately. What he did do was farm, and that’s where his five sons were raised.

Mentions of Maurice Wolfe in the press were few and brief. He is probably the same man mentioned in the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, on May 20, 1898, as having his “place … swept clear of all except the dwelling” by a tornado. “Mr. McAndrews, near by, lost everything and was severely injured.”

A notice in the Oxford Mirror on August 30, 1900, mentioned that Wolfe’s brother Patrick, a district court judge, was visiting. On December 21, 1905, the same paper reported:

While Maurice Wolfe had his team in the lumber yard for some lumber the horses became frightened and took a lively gate toward home upsetting the wagon and badly demoralizing it. The horses came out with but little injury.

The Mirror reported on March 21, 1907, that Wolfe’s father-in-law “accompanied a shipment of cattle to Chicago” for Wolfe.

Sarah McAndrews Wolfe died on October 2, 1922. Maurice Wolfe died at home on January 4, 1928. They are both buried at Saint James Cemetery in Toronto, Iowa.

image: the Wolfe Family, ca. 1923 (left to right: James Emmet Wolfe, Philip James Wolfe, Maurice Buckley Wolfe, John J. Wolfe, Sarah McAndrews Wolfe, Raymond Bernard Wolfe, and Melvin Wolfe)

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