Harley, George W. (George Way), 1894-1966

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Missionary and physician.

From the description of Papers, 1911-1975 bulk 1925-1960. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 16392517

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.

Sources: Obituary, Winifred Frances Jewell Harley, 1895-1979. [Church memorial service program]. Powell, William Stevens, ed.. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 3. 1988.

From the guide to the Harley, George W., 1894-1966 and Winifred J. Harley, 1895-1979, Letters, 1922-1980, inclusive, (Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University)

  • 1894, Aug. 8: Born, Asheville, N.C.
  • 1916: A.B., Trinity College, Durham, N.C.
  • 1916 - 1918 : Teacher, North Carolina high schools
  • 1923: M.D., Yale University
  • 1923, Aug. 4: Married Winifred Frances Jewell
  • 1924: Superintendent, Harrington Hospital, Grenfell Mission, Labrador
  • 1925: Diploma, Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • 1926 - 1960 : Founder and superintendent, Ganta Mission, Ganta, Liberia
  • 1932 - 1962 : Research Associate in Anthropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
  • 1938: Ph.D., Kennedy School of Missions, Hartford Seminary Foundation
  • 1945 - 1946 : Special consultant to Foreign Economic Administration in Liberia, U.S. Dept. of State
  • 1957: L.H.D., Duke University
  • 1960, Apr.: Retired from Ganta Mission and returned to U.S.
  • 1966, Nov. 7: Died, Lancaster, Va.

From the guide to the George Way Harley Papers, 1911-1975, (Duke University. David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Harley, George W., 1894-1966 and Winifred J. Harley, 1895-1979, Letters, 1922-1980, inclusive Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University
referencedIn The W.A. Whitten, Collection, 1962-1991 Liberian Collectionshttp://www.onliberia.org
creatorOf Harley, George W. (George Way), 1894-1966. Papers, 1911-1975 bulk 1925-1960. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Davis, Griffith J. Griffith J. Davis Photographs and Films, 1947-1991 and undated. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf George Way Harley Papers, 1911-1975 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn Warren d'Azevedo Collection, 1935-2001 Liberian Collectionshttp://www.onliberia.org
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Advisory Council on Health corporateBody
associatedWith Bates College corporateBody
associatedWith Bryant, Roscoe person
associatedWith Concord Graded Schools corporateBody
associatedWith Davis, Griffith J. person
associatedWith d'Azevedo, Warren person
associatedWith Donohugh, Thomas S. (Thomas Smith), b. 1875. person
associatedWith Duke University corporateBody
associatedWith Ethel Tulk person
associatedWith Firestone Rubber Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Frederick G. Carnochan) person
associatedWith Ganta Mission corporateBody
associatedWith George Harley person
associatedWith Gladys Beach Veale person
associatedWith Gladys Veale person
associatedWith G. W. Harley. person
associatedWith Harleys family
associatedWith Harley, Winifred J. person
associatedWith Hooton, Earnest Albert, 1887-1954. person
associatedWith Howard Beach person
associatedWith Katherine Somerville person
associatedWith Kennedy Mission School corporateBody
correspondedWith Lancaster, Virginia. person
associatedWith Liberia corporateBody
associatedWith Liberian Humane Order of African Redemption corporateBody
associatedWith Martha Lamberg-Karlovsky) person
associatedWith Martha (Veale) Lamberg-Karlovsky. person
associatedWith Merrimac High School corporateBody
associatedWith Methodist Church corporateBody
associatedWith Methodist Episcopal Church. Board of Foreign Missions. corporateBody
associatedWith Mildred Black person
associatedWith Mrs. Harley person
associatedWith Order of the Star of Africa corporateBody
associatedWith Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. corporateBody
associatedWith Republic of Liberia corporateBody
associatedWith Royal College of Physicians corporateBody
associatedWith Saniquellie Hospital corporateBody
associatedWith Schwab, George. person
associatedWith Trinity College corporateBody
associatedWith Tubman, William V. S., 1895-1971. person
associatedWith United States. Foreign Economic Administration. corporateBody
associatedWith University, Lincoln person
associatedWith W. A. Whitten person
associatedWith William H. Veale. person
associatedWith Winifred Harley person
associatedWith Yale University corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
World War, 1939-1945
Traditional medicine
Tropical medicine
Missions, medical
Mano (African people)
Art, Liberian


Birth 1894

Death 1966


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