Richard James Wolfe was born on May 5, 1843, near Ballybunion, in County Kerry, Ireland, the son of Richard Wolfe, a Catholic farmer, and Mary Foley Wolfe. He was baptized on October 14, 1843, with the Reverend William Bricand and Mary Moloney serving as sponsors. Wolfe’s gravestone shows a birth year of 1844.
Wolfe had ten siblings: Margaret (b. ca. 1826), Mary (b. 1826), Maurice (b. 1828), Mary Ellen (b. 1829), Patrick (b. 1830), Daniel F. (b. ca. 1832), Richard (b. 1836), John Maurice (b. 1838), Bridget (b. 1839), and Edmund (b. 1840). The first Richard died before 1848, and Bridget before 1847.
Wolfe emigrated to the United States in the company of his parents and siblings, traveling in steerage class aboard the Thomas H. Perkins. They arrived in New York from Liverpool on September 29, 1848. The family settled in LaSalle County, Illinois, joining relatives there.
In 1871, he married Catherine “Kate” Maher in LaSalle County. Wolfe and Maher were cousins: her paternal grandfather, also Richard James, was the brother of her husband’s paternal grandfather, Maurice James. The couple had six children: Richard James (b. 1872), Charles A. (b. 1877), Mary (b. 1879), Katie F. (b. 1884), Bartholomew “Bart” (b. 1886), and Evelyn C. (b. 1891).
Wolfe worked as a farmer, at some point purchasing 160 acres on section 33 of Eagle Township and later another 80 acres in section 32. He also bought for his son James a farm belong to the Maher family, bringing the family’s total holdings, as of 1906, to about 400 acres.
Mr. Wolfe has made all of the improvements upon the home place, has set out all of the trees, which add so much to the attractive appearance as well as value of the farm, has built a fine, large residence and various outbuildings necessary for the shelter of grain and stock. His success is due to diligent effort and strict attention to business. He has been very prosperous, especially in breeding and handling Percheron horses, and in this connection is widely known, having bred some of the best stock produced in this part of the state.
Percheron horses were a French breed of draft horse originally imported to the United States in 1839 and successfully bred with American draft horse stock.
By 1920, Wolfe lived with his son, Richard, in Dimmick. He died in LaSalle County on May 25, 1927. His wife, Kate, died on February 19, 1932, in Streator. He and his wife are buried at Lost Land Cemetery in LaSalle County.
images: Gravestones of Richard J. Wolfe and Kate Maher Wolfe, at Lost Land Cemetery in LaSalle County, Illinois (Ann McClary / Find a Grave)