Edward “Don” Wolfe and William A. Wolfe (courtesy of Ann McClary)

Edward “Don” Wolfe and William A. Wolfe (courtesy of Ann McClary)

WILLIAM A. WOLFE (1889–1967)

William Anthony Wolfe was born on April 21, 1889, in Peoria, Illinois, the son of Edmund Dean Wolfe and Margaret Estelle Mooney Wolfe. His siblings included Johanna Irene “Generna” (b. 1887), Edward “Don” (b. 1891), Richard (b. 1896), and Maurice Eugene (b. 1897). Richard died as an infant.

Wolfe was the grandson of Irish immigrants who had left County Kerry for LaSalle County, Illinois, in the 1840s. His father owned a hardware and general store in Peoria before moving, in 1891, to Superior, Wisconsin, where he operated Wolfe & Maher Grocers with his nephew, Maurice E. Maher. In 1893 he moved his family to Anaconda, Montana, a copper mining town.

By 1910, Edmund Wolfe and family had moved to Deer Lodge County, Montana, and on or about September 5, 1911, he and his son William purchased about 200 acres there from C. M. and Lottie Hansen with the intention of starting a dairy farm. They soon organized a business they called Big Four Dairy. In 1913, the two bought 1,100 acres of land in Idaho, where Edmund Wolfe and another son operated a stock ranch.

W. A. Wolfe remained in Deer Lodge, and on June 8, 1920, he signed a license to marry Nancy Virginia Cudd, a native of River Falls, Wisconsin, and resident of Great Falls, Montana. According to a subsequent report in the Montana Standard newspaper of Butte, friends had been surprised by the wedding, “although those who knew [Wolfe] well were aware of the fact that he made frequent trips to [Great Falls], camouflaged under the name of ‘business.’” The couple had two children—William Wellington (b. 1921) and Maurine “Bess” (b. 1928)—before Nan Cudd Wolfe’s death on March 24, 1930. W. A. Wolfe married Nellie M. DeKalb in 1942.

In 1922, Wolfe became caught up in the highly publicized trial of the state prison warden on corruption charges brought by the governor. A supplier of milk and swill, or animal feed, to the prison, he was forced to deny on cross-examination that he was in the process of negotiating with the governor for the sale of his dairy farm to the state. “He admitted, however, he wanted to sell to the state his dairy heard and lease the ranch,” the Anaconda Standard reported on April 20.

The 1930 census confirms that Wolfe continued to operate his dairy farm, that he had no schooling but was able to read and write, that he owned his own home but not a radio set. On July 17 of that year he won a Republican Party primary election for Deer County sheriff, beating Frank E. Hughes by a vote of 692 to 150. On July 22 he filed a campaign expense report of $46.20. When general election votes were cast on November 4, he lost to the Democrat, L. C. Boedecker, 1,509 to 1,128.

Wolfe died in Tucson, Arizona, on September 4, 1967, and his wife on October 6, 1988. They are buried together in Lewistown Cemetery, in Lewistown, Montana.