The community was founded in 1792 and is named for Wolf Island in the Mississippi River, which is actually part of Kentucky. According to Missouri folklorist Margot Ford McMillen the name of both the island and the community stem from the large number of wolves that were present in the area in the late 18th and early 19th century. The wolves have long since disappeared from the state, but the place names remain. Wolf Island was once a hideout for criminals. After they left their headquarters at Cave-In-Rock in 1799, Samuel Mason and his gang of river pirates relocated to the Kentucky island.
^McMillen, Margot Ford (1994). Paris, Tightwad and Peculiar: Missouri Place Names. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. p. 2. ISBN0-8262-0972-6.
^Rothert, Otto A. (1996) . The Outlaws of Cave-In-Rock: Historical Accounts of the Famous Highwaymen and River Pirates Who Operated in Pioneer Days upon the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and over the Natchez. Cleveland, Ohio: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN0-8093-2034-7.
Shull, C.A. "The Formation of a New Island in the Mississippi River," Ecology, Vol. 3, No. 3, (July, 1922), pp. 202–206.