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John Whelan Luke Papers


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections


John Whelan Luke (1815-1896) was a white farmer, business person, local politician, and trader of enslaved people who was active in Virginia and Missouri in the mid 19th century. Born in Berryville, Virginia, Luke moved to Waterloo, Missouri, around 1837, where he served as postmaster of Waterloo and county treasurer of Clark County, and established a general store called Stephenson and Luke with his business partner Joseph Stephenson. After being fired as postmaster, Luke sold his shares in the store and returned to Berryville to farm in 1841. After returning to Virginia, he was an active participant in the sale and trade of enslaved people. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1851, where he served one term, and was a member of the Berryville Presbyterian Church.

Consists of a group of documents and correspondence recording the activities of John Whelan Luke (1815-1896) as a store owner, postmaster, and county treasurer in Waterloo, Missouri, from 1838 to 1841, and as a farmer and trader of enslaved persons in Berryville, Virginia, in the 1840s and 1850s. Materials pertaining to Luke's 1839 appointment and subsequent dismissal as postmaster of Waterloo, Missouri, include postal forms, an 1840 application for a new post office in the town of Suray, and an 1841 notice that he would be replaced as postmaster due to his failure to render accounts and reply to correspondence. Also present are an insurance policy and letters related to stocking Luke's general store, Stephenson and Luke, as well as manuscript receipts related to his work as county treasurer. Correspondence includes letters received by Luke in both Missouri and Virginia. Most are from friends and family, with some additional business content. Four of the letters from Luke's time in Virginia document his role in selling enslaved African Americans. These pertain to his role in facilitating the division of estates and making deals with other traders of enslaved persons, including the sale of a child named Walton in 1852.

Purchased from William Reese Company in 2020 (AM 2021-28).

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The collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in February 2021. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in February 2021.

No materials were separated during 2021 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Delafield Fund.
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Collection is open for research.

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Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1837-1853. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Waterloo Post Office Documents, 1839-1841. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Clark County Treasurer Documents, 1840. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Stephenson and Luke Business Documents, 1839-1841. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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