James Irvin Wolfe.Few men in eastern Kansas are more widely known that he whose name initiates this article. The leading lawyer of his county, an orator of state wide prominence, author and poet, Mr. Wolfe merits distinctive mention in this publication. He was born on his father's farm on the Hocking river in Athens county, Ohio, Jan. 1, 1863, the son of Charles Walter and Mary Josephine (Young) Wolfe, a grandson of Jacob and a great-grandson of George Wolfe, both of whom were men of influence in their day and community. He is descended from Edward Wolfe, a younger brother of Gen. James Wolfe, who was born in Kent, England, Jan. 2, 1727, and became one of the greatest of British generals. He fell on the Plains of Abraham, near Quebec, in the French and Indian war, but not until the English troops under his command had won a victory that resulted a few days later in the fall of Quebec and the establishment of British authority over the Dominion of Canada. General Wolfe is buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument has been erected to him and a column marks the spot where he fell on the Plains of Abraham. Charles W. Wolfe, the father of James I., was during his active life, a farmer. He became a resident of Iowa in 1863 and in 1870 removed to Bates county, Missouri, where he has since resided.
James I. Wolfe has inherited the ambition and industry of his illustrious ancestor, without the presumption and love of notoriety. He was reared on his father's farm, where he received a common school education, to which was added one term in the normal school at Paola, Kan., after which he studied law in the office of Hon. William J. Stone, of Missouri, now United States senator from that state, and in 1885 was admitted to the Missouri bar. The next two years were spent in the office of his preceptor. In August, 1887, he landed in Burlington, with a capital of $50, immediately began the practice of law, and rapidly worked his way to a high position as an attorney. The "Topeka Mail and Breeze," of July 4, 1902, says of Mr. Wolfe:
"He is a very successful writer, is a forcible and convincing speaker, and one of the ablest and most reliable attorneys practicing at the Coffey county bar. He commands the respect and esteem of the community in a marked degree, and stands high in professional and social circles. As a lawyer he has carried to a successful termination many important and intricate cases, and enjoys a practice equal to any attorney now practicing at the bar in Coffey county."
That was written ten years ago, and in the intervening time Mr. Wolfe has lost nothing of the standing to which he had then attained. His offices and library are among the best in southeastern Kansas, and by close attention to the interests of his clients and a careful preparation of his cases he has added to his reputation and built up an exceedingly lucrative business. He is one of the largest owners of improved business property in Burlington, included in which is the Wolfe Opera House, postoffice and four other business buildings, and has also considerable residence property besides land holdings in Texas. During his residence in Kansas he has always taken an active part in public affairs, but has never yielded to political allurement. He has served two terms as president of the Coffey County Fair Association; four years as a member of the board of education of Burlington; ten years as chairman of the Republican central committee of Burlington; six years as secretary of the Commercial Club and is now (1912) president of the board of trustees of the Presbyterian church of Burlington. He has been favorably received on the Chautauqua platform and has won high recognition as a public speaker throughout the state. Although denied the opportunity of acquiring a college education, he has by study, reading and self-culture, become a well informed man on nearly every topic of current interest. He holds a first grade teacher's certificate for Vernon county, Missouri, showing an average of over 92 1/2 per cent. on all the twenty-five branches required. He has a great fancy for fine horses, and until recently owned one of the best ever brought to Kansas. His principal outdoor recreation now consists of automobiling. He was the first owner of a touring car in Coffey county, and is now using his fifth car in ten years. As a writer he is the author of a number of poems of a high order of merit, which have appeared in various periodicals and of a little book entitled, "Why is a Bachelor." This was first given in the form of a lecture to the Ohio Chautauqua at Waverly, Kan., Aug. 18, 1905, and was so well received that he made some addenda and had it published in book form, which is now in its second edition. A recent publication from the press of the Goldsmith-Wollard Publishing Company entitled, "Dear Old Father," contains one of Mr. Wolfe's numerous poems, which was selected by the publishers as of especial merit for the collection. It is entitled "The Knight of the Old Pants," and is accompanied by a suitable illustration. His most recent effort is entitled "Kansas," and was delivered on Kansas Day, 1912, at Burlington.
Mr. Wolfe is a bachelor. He states "That when he first left home his mother was worried for fear that he would get married before he was able to support a wife; but that now she is scared to death for fear he won't get married at all. However, he thinks he may yet manage to quiet her nerves on this point during her lifetime."Pages 1373-1375 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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