Maurice Vincent Wolfe was born on May 31, 1882, in Toronto, Clinton County, Iowa, the son of Richard Carey Wolfe and his first wife, Margaret McGonnegle Wolfe. Wolfe had six full siblings: James (b. 1878), Ellen Calista “Nellie” (b. 1880), Edward Anthony (b. 1884), John Gregory (b. 1886), Catherine W. (b. 1889), and Joseph (b. 1892). He also had five half-siblings by his father’s second wife, Ellen “Nellie” Murphy: twins Richard Joseph and Leo (b. 1903), Raymond F. (b. 1905), Mary (b. 1907), and Robert (b. 1910).
Wolfe registered for the draft during World War I (1914–1918); his card is dated September 12, 1918. The federal census of 1920 records him as living in Liberty Township, Clinton County, with his sister Ellen, her husband Richard White, and their three children. His younger half-siblings also lived on the White farm: Richard, Raymond, and Mary. The census makes no mention of the youngest, Robert, who may have died.
Wolfe married Gertrude Josephine Scanlan, of Lost Nation, on February 8, 1921, in Lost Nation. The Oxford Mirror newspaper, on February 17 of that year, described Maurice Wolfe as “a prosperous farmer near Toronto.” Gertrude Wolfe was the daughter of Irish immigrants who had initially settled in LaSalle County, Illinois, before relocating to Iowa. She was born on April 17, 1890, and her mother died while giving birth. Her father died five years later, and she was raised by a brother and an uncle. She and Maurice Wolfe initially made their home in or near Toronto and had a daughter, Mary Virginia, who was born prematurely on December 17, 1921, and died two days later.
Sometime around 1923, Wolfe left his farm and moved to Lost Nation. In 1926 or 1927, Wolfe worked for a local railroad and lost the sight of his right eye when, according to a newspaper report, “a piece of chisel struck him.” He received a monetary settlement.
By 1927, Wolfe and his wife lived on the north end of Lost Nation. On August 18 of that year the Oxford Mirror reported that Wolfe had disappeared ten days earlier. After several days visiting friends in a cabin on the Wapsipinicon River, Gertrude Wolfe returned home to find a note:
Dear Gertie, I am doing this for the good of both of us. I am going to shoot myself. If there is a God, I hope he is not too hard on me. I still love you, Gertie.
Search efforts did not immediately turn up a body and were abandoned after just one day. At least one sighting of Wolfe was reported, and the paper recalled that Wolfe had disappeared once before, “some years ago.” Another publication noted that he “had been accustomed to wandering about the country.” “Many are of the opinion,” the Mirror wrote, “that Mr. Wolfe has merely departed for an extended visit with his brothers who are living someplace in the far south.”
After Wolfe’s disappearance, Gertrude Wolfe sold their home and personal property and moved to San Diego, California. Then, on November 21, 1927, two high school boys, Russell and Lowell Ellis, discovered Wolfe’s body a mile and a half west of Lost Nation. According to the Davenport Democrat Leader, “The body was crumpled over a shotgun and part of his skull blown away by the shot which ended his life.”
Wolfe is buried in Saint James Cemetery, in Toronto, Iowa. His widow, who returned to Iowa by 1942, is buried next to him.
images: details of the Oxford Mirror, August 18, 1927, page 1, and the Davenport Democrat Leader, August 12, 1927, page 16 (NewspaperArchive.com)