Biography of Richard M. Wolfe

Richard M. Wolfe was born November 16, 1849, the son of J. H. Wolfe and Elizabeth Saunders, daughter of D. Saunders, a prominent Cherokee. When Richard was but five months old, his father left for California to search for gold in order, as he said himself, to properly educate his son, but unfortunately he never returned. At the age of seven Richard went to school for three months, and then again in two years later, passed five months at a public school. From the outbreak of the war till its ending he remained at home to take care of his mother and in 1865, when he had almost forgotten the book learning he had acquired, attended school for three terms, dropping off at McGuffy’s fourth reader. He was then 21 years of age, and the only support of his mother and grandmother, so that he was obliged to work in the fields and snatch the brief intervals between crop times to educate himself. Despite his limited opportunities, he was enabled to teach the public school at Tyners Valley soon after he became of age, and the year following became mission teacher at the Moravian Mission, Spring Creek, which institute had but five pupils at the commencement of the term, but increased to fifty-six, before he resigned, in twelve months from the date of his appointment. The refusal on the part of the board to increase his salary, was the cause of Mr. Wolfe’s resignation. He, therefore, devoted his attention to farming for some time, and in November 1872, married Susan E. Shelley, daughter to L. W. Shelley, a district judge, Tahlequah district. He soon, however, returned to teaching at the Tyners’ Valley school, and remained there for two years. In 1875 he was elected clerk of the lower house, but during the same session, being appointed as interpreter, he resigned the former office, and held the latter for four years, till 1879, being once re-elected in the meanwhile. Afterwards he was elected to the senate, and during the term was commissioned to go to Washington as a national delegate. While absent with Chief Bushyhead at the capital, Mr. Wolfe’s mother died (December 23, 1879). He returned in seven months, and was elected to again visit Washington in the years 1881, 1882, and 1890, besides once on a special mission in 1883. In 1880, or thereabouts, Mr. Wolfe was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Judge Rufus Adair on the supreme bench, and received the commission of chief justice. In 1887 he was elected to the senate from Going Snake district, and was re-elected in the fall of 1891. In 1889 he served as attorney for the nation on the citizen commission, until the dissolution of the same. Mr. Wolfe has a family of five children, Jesse B., Mitchell W., Mary J., Alice, Richard and Thomas. He is the owner of 130 acres in cultivation, 100 head of stock and 10 head of horses. He is an able lawyer and practices in the United States courts, as well as the courts of the Indian Territory. Although but forty-two years of age, there are few men in the legislative department of the Cherokee Nation who possess such influence as Senator Richard Wolfe. Yet, with all, in manner and address he is quiet and subdued. Without any apparent aggressiveness, bombast or display, his words weigh heavily and sway many an older member of the senate. It is very possible, therefore, that Mr. Wolfe will fill the highest office in the nation at some future period. The Tahlequah Capital Daily News of November 14, 1891, says: “Mr. Wolfe is an orator who has few equals in his country; he is intellectual and versatile, a profound reasoner and, in the senate, an antagonist worthy of any foe.”


Indian Territory,

O'Beirne, Harry F. and Edward S. The Indian Territory: Its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men. St. Louis. 1898.

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