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Harley, George W., 1894-1966 and Winifred J. Harley, 1895-1979, Letters, 1922-1980, inclusive: A Finding Aid

Peabody Museum Archives
Harvard University



Descriptive Summary

Repository: Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University
Call No.: 986-13
Location: Peabody Museum Archives
Title: Harley, George W., 1894-1966 and Winifred J. Harley, 1895-1979, Letters,
Date(s): 1922-1980 (inclusive )
Creator: George W. Harley and Winifred J. Harley
Quantity: .1 linear feet(1 folder)
Abstract: This collection consists of 32 items, mostly letters written by George and/or Winifred Harley to their friends and family and primarily to Gladys and Bill Veale, the donor's parents. The early letters describe the Harleys' work at the Ganta Mission in Liberia.

Processed by:

Patricia H. Kervick, Associate Archivist; October 2011

Acquisition Information:

These papers are a gift of Martha Lamberg-Karlovsky, the daughter of Bill and Gladys Veale, to whom the majority of correspondence is addressed. They were donated to the Museum in 1986.

Access Restrictions:

Restrictions on access: none.

Use Restrictions:

Restrictions on use: none.

Historical Sketch

George Way Harley, Methodist missionary, physician, blacksmith, geographer, anthropologist, and researcher was born in Asheville, North Carolina on August 8, 1894. Harley's father was a Methodist minister and from an early age Harley aspired to become a missionary. After graduating from Trinity College, Durham, N.C. in 1916, Harley taught high school science in the North Carolina high schools. In 1923 Harley earned his M.D. from Yale University and interned at Hartford Municipal Hospital. On August 4, 1923 Harley married Winifred Frances Jewell,who was raised in Merrimac, MA. After graduating from Bates College and teaching high school, Winifred studied at Yale University where she met George.
After studying at the Kennedy School of Missions (Hartford Seminary Foundation) and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, in 1925 George Harley traveled with his wife to West Africa and founded the Ganta Mission, Ganta, Liberia. Here the Harleys remained involved for the next thirty-five years.
At Ganta, Harley built a hospital, dispensary, church, school, as well as a leper village and two "sick villages." He also conducted research, and his study of native medicine formed the basis of a thesis published as Native African Medicine by Harvard University Press in 1941.
Harley's interest in religious beliefs led him to collect over 1,000 ceremonial African masks, many of which can be now found at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University where Harley had served as Research Associate in Anthropology.
Winifred Harley fully participated in most of the mission, treating the sick, teaching, and studying the Mano people and their medicinal herbs and plants. She served as a medical technician, accountant, paymaster, banker, preacher, hostess, and mother to three sons.
In 1960 the Harleys retired from Ganta Mission and returned to the United States where they settled in Merry Point, Virginia. Here they participated fully in the life of the Bethel Methodist Church, as well as in the work of local historical societies and civil rights groups. In 1966, George suffered a fatal heart attack. His ashes were flown to Liberia where they were buried near the cornerstone of the Ganta Church.
After George's death, Winifred moved back to New England to her son's home in Harvard, MA. She usually spent the winter months with her other son, Eugene, in Atlanta, Georgia. During her time in Harvard, MA, Winifred continued her study of botany and wrote a book about her life's work with George (A Third of a Century with George Way Harley in Liberia, 1973). In the last months of 1979, she suffered a series of strokes and passed away on December 31.


Scope and Content Note:

This collection contains 32 items, mostly letters; the papers are arranged chronologically.