Maurice Richard Wolfe was born in 1802, in Cratloe, County Limerick, Ireland. His parents were Richard James Wolfe, a Catholic farmer, and Johanna Relihan Wolfe.
Wolfe had at least nine siblings: James Richard (b. 1800), John Richard (b. 1809), Ellen (b. ca. 1810), Thomas Richard (b. 1811) Johanna (b. 1812), Margaret Ellen (b. 1818), Edward (b. 1821), and Patrick (b. 1822).
In 1826, he married Johanna Downey in Listowel, County Kerry.
According to a story in the Kerryman newspaper (December 10, 1927), Wolfe owned a racehorse called Dimby, bred by King William IV and winner of a hundred-pound wager over Roller at the Ballyeigh races and festival in 1840. Wolfe owned and bred other horses.
Wolfe’s brother John immigrated to the United States in 1847, his brother Thomas in 1848, and his brother Richard in 1849. Two first cousins, Maurice and Richard Wolfe, came from Ireland in 1847 and 1848, respectively.
Maurice Wolfe sailed from Liverpool to New York aboard the Senator, a 777-ton ship of the Black Star Line, owned by Samuel Thompson; he arrived on September 22, 1849. Listed on the manifest as a farmer, he brought with him seven children: Margaret (b. 1827), Richard Downey (b. 1829), James Downey (b. 1839), Johanna E. (b. 1840), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1842), and Maurice (b. 1848). His son Stephen (b. 1833) had died. Also accompanying the family was Margaret Maher (sometimes Magher or Meagher), daughter of Wolfe’s sister Ellen. He appears to have treated her as his own daughter, and after Wolfe’s death, she was considered an heir to his estate. After settling, with his siblings, in LaSalle County, Illinois, Wolfe had two more children: John Francis (b. 1850) and Edmund Dean (b. 1853).
Wolfe applied for U.S. citizenship on August 13, 1852, at the county court in Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois; his application was granted on March 20, 1855.
Unlike a number of other members of his extended family, Wolfe did not move to eastern Iowa. According to the federal census of 1860, he remained in Osage Township, LaSalle County, where he owned a farm and lived with several of his children and a thirty-five-year-old Irish-born laborer named Charles Egan. He owned $5,000 in real estate and $1,000 in personal estate. Ten years later, he was still in Osage. He owned $4,200 in real estate and $600 in personal estate. His eldest son farmed the adjacent property.
Wolfe died on October 12, 1870, in Osage Township and is buried in Lost Land Cemetery in Eagle Township, LaSalle County, Illinois. He left no will. The value of his estate was estimated to be $2,500.
images: Maurice R. Wolfe (Knockanure Library), Wolfe’s gravestone (The VanFleets / Find a Grave); detail of ship’s manifest for Senator, arriving New York, September 22, 1849, showing Maurice R. Wolfe and family (National Archives)