Richard Wolfe was born in 1802, probably at Templeathea, in western County Limerick. He was the son of Maurice James “Young Maurice” Wolfe and Hanora Harnett Wolfe. (His mother’s maiden name is sometimes spelled Hartnett.) Wolfe had seven siblings: James Harnett (b. between 1780 and 1800), John Harnett (b. 1807), Edmond, Timothy, Mary, Patrick Maurice, and Catherine.
Family oral history—contained in a letter between Wolfe relatives dated August 1956 from Cratloe, County Clare, also known as the “Aunt Dollie” letter—relates how Richard Wolfe and his brother, John, traveled to the United States in 1836 to inquire after their brother, James. James Wolfe had immigrated in 1819, living first in Virginia and then in Monticello, Lewis County, Missouri. When his regular letters home stopped, his brothers went in search of him.
In a letter home dated December 26, 1836, John Wolfe writes that “Brother James Wolfe died in the state of Mississippi the first [of the] year he went to Natchez. The fine learned man. There is nothing grieves Richard [and me] more than to say that we cant see, hear or find our brother alive on his Estate after the bold stroke we made in going to him five thousand miles from home.” John Wolfe and Richard Wolfe remained in Missouri, settling next door to one another in Lewis County.
Sometime around 1837, Richard Wolfe married Ellen Hartnett (or possibly Harnett), a native of Ireland. Her name suggests that she may have been a distant relative, one Wolfe knew in Ireland and who joined him soon after he arrived in Missouri. The couple had five children: Honorah A. (b. ca. 1838), Timothy (b. ca. 1840), Richard Maurice (b. 1841), Ellen (b. ca. 1844), and James (b. ca. 1848).
The federal censuses of 1840 and 1850 indicate that Wolfe remained in Lewis County, where he farmed on land that had originally been his brother James’s. He died sometime before the census of 1860. That year his wife, Ellen, claimed $1,000 in real estate and $970 in personal estate. She eventually moved to Clark County and then, by 1880, Knox County, Missouri. She died there on March 11, 1889. She is buried at Saint Joseph Cemetery in Edina, Knox County.