Gravestones of James Downey Wolfe at Saint Columba Cemetery in Ottawa, Illinois (Har27x / Find a Grave)

JAMES D. WOLFE (1839–1923)

James Downey Wolfe was born on March 1, 1839, in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. He was the son of Maurice Richard Wolfe, who bred horses and came from a Catholic farming family, and Johanna Downey Wolfe. He had eight siblings: Margaret (b. 1827), Richard Downey (b. 1829), Stephen (b. 1833), Johanna E. (b. 1840), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1842), Maurice (b. 1848), John Francis (b. 1850), and Edmund Dean (b. 1853).

Little is known of his early life. Wolfe, his parents, and his siblings immigrated to the United States in 1849. They sailed from Liverpool to New York aboard the Senator, a 777-ton ship of the Black Star Line, owned by Samuel Thompson; they arrived on September 22, 1849. Maurice Richard Wolfe’s brother John immigrated to the United States in 1847, his brother Thomas Richard in 1848, and his brother Richard in 1849. They all settled, at least initially, in LaSalle County, Illinois. James Wolfe’s family bought land there, as well, and stayed.

On May 27, 1890, Wolfe married Mary Matilda Curtin in Ottawa, LaSalle County. Witnesses to the marriage were John Curtin and Maggie Curtin. The couple had two children: Margaret (b. 1893), and Johanna Josephine M. “Josie” (b. 1895).

Wolfe farmed in LaSalle County and by 1900 had retired and was living in Ottawa with his family. His wife, Mary, died unexpectedly at her Ottawa home on December 21, 1911. According to the obituary published in the Ottawa Fair Dealer, “Her daughter Josephine, who had been sleeping with her, when awaking in the morning noticed a peculiar look on her mother’s face and putting her hands on her found her to be unconscious.”

James Wolfe died on February 19, 1923, at the home of his daughter, Margaret Wolfe Finnerty, in Streator, Illinois. He and his wife are buried together at Saint Columba Cemetery in Ottawa.