John Whelan Luke (1815-1896) was a native of Berryville, VA who went west to Waterloo, MO, where he was a merchant, first postmaster, and county treasurer. Eight of the documents here relate to Luke's appointment as postmaster. Waterloo, in the far northeast corner of Missouri near the Iowa border, established a post office in 1837. Around this time that Luke established the third store in the town, the general merchant firm of Stephenson & Luke. An insurance policy for the firm is present here, as well as two itemized lists for goods with their wholesale prices; also a handful of receipts relating to the firm, the county, and Luke's personal affairs, and letters from family and friends, some with business content. Around 1841 Luke returned to Berryville, VA, on the far northern border near Winchester. Half of the letters present are addressed to Luke at Waterloo, and the other half are addressed to him in Virginia locales. A letter addressed from Waterloo dated 1 March 1842 discusses the failure of several midwestern banks, as well as payments to claimants in the "Mormon and Iowa Wars": "Times are hard here, and no prospect of improvement. The Cairo Bank failed sometime in the winter, and it is now reported that the State Bank of Ills. has also failed. If that be the case it will be bad enough for Ills. money is the only circulation we have, specie & Mo. paper about 20 per ct premium." Four of the letters mention slaves. Two of these concern purchases, and another discusses them with regard to an estate where Luke had power of attorney. A letter addressed to Luke at Richmond in March 1853 relates news from Berryville: "The free negroes must be removed or worse will be the consequence. They will be more in way every year if not speedily sent off. I am at a loss to know why the bill did not pass."
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