Richard Wolfe was born on March 12, 1847, in County Kerry, Ireland, the son of Richard Wolfe, a distiller, and Mary Carney Wolfe. He had seven siblings: Margaret (b. 1841), John (b. 1845), Michael (b. ca. 1848), Sarah Elizabeth (b. 1854), Ellen V. “Nellie” (b. ca. 1856), James (b. ca. 1858), and James R. (b. 1863). The first James died sometime before 1862.
Wolfe, his parents, and his siblings emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City aboard the Liverpool on November 10, 1849. They settled in LaSalle County, Illinois, joining other Wolfe relatives there. Richard Wolfe Sr.’s brother John Richard and his first cousin Maurice both emigrated in 1847. (Brothers Richard and John Wolfe shared a grandfather with Maurice Wolfe: James M. “The Barrister” Wolfe.) Wolfe’s brother, Thomas Richard, arrived from Ireland in 1848, while another brother, Maurice Richard, emigrated in 1849, arriving in September. While brother John and cousin Maurice moved on to Clinton County, Iowa, Richard Wolfe Sr. and his brothers Thomas and Maurice remained in Illinois.
Popularly known as “Uncle Dick,” Richard Wolfe Jr. did not marry. The Past and Present of La Salle County, Illinois, published in 1877, identifies him as a “Wholesale and Retail Liquor Dealer” at 36 LaSalle Street in Ottawa. He is describe as a Democrat and a Catholic who “keeps a stock of the finest Imported and Domestic Wines, Whiskies and Cigars.” He was in business for a time with his cousin, Daniel F. Wolfe.
“From a comparatively poor young man,” according to his obituary, “Mr. Wolfe rose to the position of one of the keenest and best known business men of this city, branching out into the real estate field where he became the owner of farms in Illinois, Iowa and Florida.” At the time of his death, Wolfe was on the board of directors of the People’s Trust and Savings Bank in Ottawa, the Ottawa Building Homestead and Savings Association, and the United Telephone Company.
His obituary also described Wolfe as “a simple, unassuming man, loving the humbler walks of life, rather than the fleshpots.”
Wolfe died on June 13, 1921, in the home of his sister, Margaret Wolfe Farrell. His buried at Saint Columba Cemetery in Ottawa.
image: Gravestone of Richard “Dick” Wolfe at Saint Columba Cemetery in Ottawa, Illinois (The VanFleets / Find a Graves)