MARGARET I. WOLFE LANGAN (1857–btw. 1930 and 1940)

Margaret I. Wolfe was born in 1857 in Liberty Township, Clinton County, Iowa. Her parents were John Richard Wolfe, an Irish Catholic farmer, and Honora “Nora” Buckley Wolfe. She had seven siblings who survived to maturity: James Buckley (b. 1843), Patrick Bernard (b. 1848), Johanna (b. 1849), John Buckley (b. 1851), Maurice Buckley (b. 1855), Catherine “Kate” (b. 1860), and Richard B. (b. 1862). Two sisters, Margaret and Catherine, died in infancy.

In 1847, Wolfe’s parents and brother James immigrated to the United States from Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, along with John R. Wolfe’s first cousin Maurice Wolfe and his family. (John and Maurice Wolfe shared a grandfather, James M. “The Barrister” Wolfe.) The families arrived in New York on August 23, 1847, and from there made their way to Chicago and then to LaSalle County, Illinois, where a number of John R. Wolfe’s brothers and cousins settled. John R. Wolfe and his cousin Maurice, with their families, both moved on to Clinton County, Iowa, arriving sometime around 1855.

Little is known of Wolfe’s early years. She may have studied at the Iowa State Normal School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and worked as a teacher. Around 1884, she moved to Deer Lodge County, Montana, where she served three terms as superintendent of the county schools (ca. 1886–1892). The elected position paid $1,250 per year. Wolfe also served as principal of the public school in Granite, Deer Lodge County. Wolfe’s sister Kate, also a teacher, joined her in Anaconda in 1888. A cousin, Edmund D. Wolfe, lived there beginning in 1893.

As superintendent of the county schools Margaret Wolfe presided over a yearly Teachers’ Institute. On November 4, 1893, the Anaconda Standard reported her views on recess:

One of the very best papers of the day was presented by Miss Margaret Wolfe on the all-important theme of ‘School Government,’ in which, among other wise and good suggestions, she strongly condemned the recess, denouncing it as demoralizing to discipline and habits of study, and productive of many evils not balanced by the doubtful benefits that might come from the sort of exercise a band of school children usually take.

On November 28, 1894, Wolfe and her sister were both married at Saint Patrick’s Church in Butte, Montana, Margaret Wolfe to Dr. Daniel Langan, of Clinton, Iowa, and Kate Wolfe to Thomas D. Fitzgerald, of Anaconda. The Wolfe sisters’ brother Richard B. Wolfe served as groomsman at the private ceremony. Dr. Langan was born in County Donegal, Ireland, on February 18, 1836. On September 5, 1865, he married Ellen Purcell, of Clinton County, and the couple had seven children before her death in 1892. Langan and Wolfe had no children of their own. After an extended trip, they settled in Clinton, Iowa.

In January 1898, the Langan home on Fifth Avenue in Clinton was completely destroyed by fire. The Anaconda Standard reprinted an account from the Clinton Herald, describing the event:

The daughter, Miss Blanche [Blanche Irene Langan, b. 1878], was the first to notice smoke. She at once aroused the rest of the family and a general alarm was turned in over the telephone. This was at 15 minutes after 6 [a.m.] By this time the hallways were so full of smoke that the family could not regain their apartments, and had to flee for their lives out into the cold, and make the best of their way through the snow to the nearest neighbors. On account of the heavy snowstorm of Saturday the roads were bad and the horses of the fire department had a long, hard pull through the packed and drifted snow.

Langan carried four fire insurance policies, each for $5,000. When an arbitration board ruled his home a total loss and the insurance companies disagreed, Langan sued. The companies then offered to rebuild the home, and when Langan refused, the suits moved forward. In Langan v. Ætna Insurance CompanyLangan v. Spring Garden Insurance CompanyLangan v. German Alliance Insurance Company, and Langan v. Palatine Insurance Company, a United States federal court ruled for Langan and awarded him the full amount of his policies.

Dr. Langan died on June 13, 1914. The federal census of 1920 indicates that Margaret Wolfe Langan lived in Clinton with her sister Kate, whose husband had died in Montana in 1903. She was still in Clinton in 1930 and is not listed in the census of 1940. She and her husband are possibly buried with other Langan family members at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Clinton.

image: Directory from the Philipsburg Mail, August 25, 1887, page 1