MELVIN M. WOLFE (1904–1990)
Melvin Maurice Wolfe was born on May 27, 1904, near Lost Nation, Clinton County, Iowa. He was the son of Maurice Buckley Wolfe, a farmer in Lost Nation, and Sarah A. McAndrews. Wolfe had four brothers: Raymond Bernard (b. 1896), Philip James (b. 1898), John Joseph (b. 1901), and James Emmet (b. 1909).
The nurse or midwife (or whomever helped deliver [Melvin] in those days near the dawn of creation) reports that thirty minutes after his birth he said to the assembled doctor, nurses, midwives, family, and friends, “Did you ever hear the one about …?” The story is reported to have lasted sixteen minutes and twelve seconds by actual timing, included three delightful sub-stories, and was told in a marvelous Irish accent which has, unfortunately disappeared among third generation Wolfes.
The 1920 federal census lists the family as farming in Sharon Township, Clinton County, with the help of a thirty-six-year-old domestic servant, Lottie Keyes. Wolfe attended public school in Lost Nation. A newspaper report from 1919 indicated that
Wolfe met with an unfortunate accident Sunday morning when cranking the car. He hurt his arm severely and was brought to town to Dr. McMeel, who found his arm severely sprained. Melvin considers himself fortunate that no bones were broken.
A report from 1927 notes that he had gone to Chicago with a load of cattle.
On August 26, 1930, Wolfe married Frances M. McLaughlin (b. 1900), the daughter of an Irish immigrant, near her home in Otter Creek Township, Jackson County. (Thomas Wolfe called McLaughlin “the most remarkable and colorful lady this writer has ever known.”) The couple had five children: Paul, Robert A. (b. 1935), Patricia, Leo (David), and Richard.
Wolfe farmed his whole life, living just north of Lost Nation’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which he attended. He apparently liked to play cards, winning prizes at a Catholic Ladies Club card party in March 1930; a few months later, the new Mrs. Wolfe also won a card-playing prize from the club. On February 29, 1940, the Oxford Mirror wrote that Wolfe had been taken to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota “for observation” for an unnamed ailment.
Frances Wolfe died on February 15, 1967, and Melvin Wolfe on December 29, 1990. They are buried together at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Lost Nation.