JOHANNA DOWNEY WOLFE (ca. 1810–1886)

Johanna Downey Wolfe (courtesy of Ann McClary)

Johanna Downey Wolfe (courtesy of Ann McClary)

Johanna Downey was born around 1810 in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland. Little is known about her early years. She married Maurice Richard Wolfe, who bred racehorses and came from a Catholic farming family, in Listowel in 1826. The two emigrated to the United States, sailing 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. With them were seven children: Margaret (b. 1827), Richard Downey (b. 1829), Stephen (b. 1833), James Downey (b. 1839), Johanna E. (b. 1840), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1842), and Maurice (b. 1848). Also accompanying the family was Margaret Maher (sometimes Magher or Meagher), daughter of Maurice Wolfe’s sister Ellen. He and Johanna Wolfe appear to have treated her as their own daughter, and after Maurice Wolfe’s death, she was considered an heir to his estate. After settling, with several of her husband's siblings, in LaSalle County, Illinois, Johanna Wolfe had two more children: John Francis (b. 1850) and Edmund Dean (b. 1853).

Maurice Wolfe died in 1870, leaving no will. His widow petitioned the court for his estate:

Petition of Johanna Wolfe In the matter of the Estate of Maurice Wolfe deceased for Letters of Administration. Charles Gilman Judge of the County Court of LaSalle County, in the State of Illinois. The Petition of the undersigned, Johanna Wolfe respectfully represents that Maurice Wolfe late of the County of LaSalle aforesaid, departed this life at Osage in said County on or about the 12th day of October A.D. 1870, leaving no last will and testament as far as your petitioner knows or believes. And this Petion further shows that the said Maurice Wolfe died, seized and possessed of Personal Estate estimated to be worth about Twenty five hundred dollars. That said deceased left surviving him your petitioner his widow and Richard D. Wolfe, Margaret Meagher, James D. Wolfe, Catherine Wolfe, John F. Wolfe and Edmund Wolfe his children, as heirs, That your petitioned (being the widow) believing that the said estate should be immediately administered as well for the proper management of said estate as for the prompt collection of the assets, by virtue of her right under the Statute she therefore prays that your honor will grant Letters of Administrion to herself in the premises, upon her taking oath prescribed by the Statue and entering into bond in such sum and with securities as may be approved by your honor. Signed Johanna Woulfe 14th day of November 1870.

Johanna Downey Wolfe died on June 19, 1886, in Eagle Township, LaSalle County. She is buried with her husband in Lost Land Cemetery there.