1833: Joseph Y. Jordan to Virgil McKnight

The signature on this letter is Joseph Y. Jordan and he does appear in the 1830 Census at Puducah, Kentucky, but nothing else is known about him. From the content of the letter we learn that he was a merchant in Paducah and probably bought supplies upriver in Louisville from the Virgil McKnight & Co.

Jordan wrote the letter to Virgil McKnight (1798-1872), the proprietor of Virgil McKnight & Co., and the President of the bank of Kentucky for 35 years in Louisville, Kentucky. Virgil received some notoriety two years earlier for his efforts to recover a runaway mulatto slave that belonged to him name Ruthe. She apparently made her way on a ferry across the Ohio River and then boarded as a passenger at Jeffersonville, Indiana, on the Wheeling-based steamer, Versailles. McKnight hired an attorney to force the Versailles back from Wheeling for impoundment and after many months of haggling in court, the owners of the Versailles paid McKnight $400 — the value of Ruthe. [Source: I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale on the Underground Railroad, page 127, by Karolyn Smardz Frost]

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Virgil McLight, Esqr., Louisville, Kentucky

Paducah, Kentucky
December 14, 1833

Mr. Virgil McKnight
Dear Sir,

I received your letter some time since reminding me of the balance due on my note in compliance of which I now say to you that I did not write to you previous to your letter on account of my expecting you to write to me and give me an account of the disposal you have made of the articles which I sent you last spring or summer. Therefore, you will please write me and tell me now what disposal you have made or whether any, after which I will remit you the balance as quick as the nature of the case will admit of.

I [do] not think you have any right to complain of my payments, taking all things into consideration. If those that have dealt with me had paid me as well as I have you, I could have paid you long since. Or if you had indulged me with a ____ articles as I requested so as to have increased the sales of the balance. Nothing contributed more to my failure than your conduct in that particular — though, by the by, I am glad you refused me and believe it will turn out to my advantage.

Enough on this subject. I say to you, let me hear from you and I will send you the balance as soon as possible. Don’t sue me or send my note for collection. If you are scared — as you ever have appeared to be seen since I commenced dealing with you — come down. I am ready to make you safer at any time or you can have goods, cash, notes, or accounts until you are satisfied.

Yours respectfully, — Joseph Y. Jordan


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