Maurice Wolfe was born sometime around 1800, possibly at Knockanasig, County Kerry, Ireland. Some records indicate his name as Maurice Morris. He was the son of Maurice James Wolfe, a Catholic farmer, and Helen (sometimes Ellen) Dore. He had five siblings: John (b. ca. 1794), Edmund Maurice, Richard (b. 1795), Bartholomew (b. 1809), and Michael (b. 1813).
Little is known of Wolfe’s early life. He married Ellen Catherine Carey on February 14, 1830, at Lixnaw, County Kerry, Ireland. He was living at Tournageehy, Listowel, County Kerry, at the time. Witnesses to the event were Patrick Mcauliff and Edmund Carey. (Carey’s surname, according to the marriage records, was probably Kearney. Possibly through a transcription error, her name became Carey upon immigration to the United States.) Maurice and Ellen Wolfe had eleven children: James Carey (b. 1831), Ellen (b. 1833), Maurice Carey (b. ca. 1835), John Carey (b. 1839), Mary Ann (b. 1842), Thomas Carey (b. 1843), Margaret (b. ca. 1845), Johanna (b. 1847), Richard Carey (b. 1848), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1851), and Bridget Veronica (b. 1854).
In 1847, Wolfe immigrated to the United States in the company of his wife, children, and his first cousin John Richard Wolfe and his family. (Maurice Wolfe and John R. Wolfe shared a grandfather, James M. “The Barrister” Wolfe.)
Wolfe and his family arrived in New York from Liverpool on August 23, 1847, aboard the Cornelia, a relatively large ship (1,040 tons) built by Brown and Bell of New York and part of the Black Star Line. Owned by Samuel Thompson, Black Star ran eighteen ships between Liverpool and New York in 1847, sailing every six days. John F. French was the ship’s master.
Wolfe traveled from New York to Chicago, where he stayed long enough for his son Richard to be born in October 1848. He then moved to LaSalle County, Illinois. John Wolfe’s brother Thomas Richard emigrated from Ireland in 1848 while his brothers Maurice Richard and Richard left in 1849. Maurice Wolfe’s own brother, Richard, came from Ireland in 1848. They all settled, at least initially, in LaSalle County.
The federal census of 1850 places Maurice Wolfe in Deer Park Township, LaSalle County, and five years later, an Illinois state census has him farming in Richland/Eagle Township. Wolfe’s cousin John moved to Liberty Township, Clinton County, Iowa, around 1855. Maurice Wolfe, along with his family, relocated to the same place in the spring of 1859.
Maurice Wolfe spent his remaining years farming in Clinton County. By 1879, when the History of Clinton County, Iowa was published, John R. Wolfe owned 840 acres and a Maurice Wolfe (possibly John Wolfe’s son Maurice Buckley, but also possibly his cousin) 640 acres.
Ellen Wolfe died on August 14, 1857, and Maurice on April 1, 1879. They are buried at Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Iowa.
image: Maurice Wolfe’s gravestone, Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Iowa (Ken Wright / Find a Grave): Detail of ship’s manifest for Cornelia, arriving New York, August 23, 1848, showing Maurice Wolfe and family (National Archives)