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Sara Virginia Murphy Harmeyer Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Collection number: MS-166

Scope and Contents

Harmful Content Policy: Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collection’s collection houses materials collected to elucidate the past. We recognize that users may encounter some items within these collections that contain offensive language, viewpoints, imagery or other forms of objectionable content. Such materials document the past and should be viewed within the context of their original time period. Providing online access to these historical materials does not endorse any attitudes, prejudices, or behaviors depicted therein. Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections is committed to upholding the principle of equal and free access to unaltered historical information. (based upon the statement for the Georgia Public Library Service on harmful content)


  • 1942-1984
  • Acquired: 2019-06-06


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical or Historical Information

Sara Virginia Murphy Harmeyer, PhD Nursing Education, Oct.23,1915-Mar 9, 2006, was born in Blakely, GA to a prominent family descended from Revolutionary and Civil War veterans and dating back to 1620’s in Virginia. The Purifoys were farmers, doctors, ministers, and strong homemakers. Her mother’s formal education only went to 8th grade but she was a reader and a writer with strong opinions. Along with world wars and economic events, the Murphy family relocated in response to family issues and inheritance. They joined family in Dallas, TX in 1926. Her father, J.K. Murphy, had had a store in Blakely so he proudly set up an old style general store in Dallas just about the time supermarkets were becoming popular. When the Depression hit the government distributed free cheese just next door to where he was selling it. Economic failure took them to Grand Saline, TX where an uncle allowed them to stay in decrepid out-buildings and to farm. They bought mineral rights to the land but found none. They were cold and sometimes hungry. SVM, however, flourished. She had her own horse and dog and was a very good student, graduating from High School in 1931, age 16. She had aspirations of being an archeologist or concert pianist. The family moved back to Georgia where she was found to be lacking one credit in biology to qualify for Nursing School in Georgia. That summer she worked as a maid in a hotel in South Carolina and studied with a biology teacher who was also working at the hotel. She earned the one credit in 1934 from Wellford-Lyman-Tucapau H.S. In 1937 she became a registered nurse at Capital City School of Nursing in Washington DC. She attended University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for Public Health nursing on scholarship in 1940. She preferred the independence of being a visiting nurse to the intense social environment of a hospital. In 1942 during WWII she was in Navy Nurse Corps in RI where a patient from New Orleans, LA- Edward John Harmeyer, Jr.- charmed her. They eloped in 1943 requiring her to detach from the service and the next years were spent traveling from base to base (S.F., San Diego, Norfolk, Corpus Cristi, Jacksonville, Banana River, Key West) Virginia was always ready to drive somewhere new and she was very good at packing. They kept in touch by mail, as was the habit of all her family members- brother, sister, mother, aunts. Many times during her young adulthood she used Georgia- Blakely, Bluffton, and Barnesville- as her permanent address. Relocating became the family M.O. as she and Ed began their family in 1946 with the birth of their first daughter. No sooner had Ed taken his baccalaureate at LSU (GI Bill) than he was recalled for the Korean Conflict in 1950. Household moves, now with two daughters, included FL and VA. Following that the family would relocate numerous times for Virginia’s education in Louisiana at Northwestern during the summers of 1957 and 59 and Georgia in 1960-61 at Emory. Moves continued for her professional work to Utah from 1964-67 and Kentucky from 1967-72. When she took the position at VSC she was coming home. But she was not done with moving or education. In 1977 at the age of 62 she received her PhD after studying in Austin TX during the summer breaks for years. In her post-professional career she acted out her life’s philosophy. Rather than complain, find a solution and act. In this way she also made the personal political. When her first cousin and stalwart of Blakely life developed Alzheimer’s, she started ACTO, an Alzheimer’s Caregivers respite program. Her legacy continues not only in a nursing scholarship at VSU, but also in her inspiration to students and friends and family to emulate her strength and amazing perseverance.

Note written by Barbara Harmeyer

Biographical / Historical

History of Irving College

Irving College School is located approximately eight miles south of McMinnville, Tennessee on Highway 56. The land surrounding the school is mainly a farming and nursery area.

The school has a very interesting history spanning more than 160 years. During this time, the site of the school has been moved; it has burned down twice; and it has been remodeled and expanded several times.

In 1835, the citizens living in the neighborhood of Morrison’s Crossroads built a large one-story brick school building which became known as Irving Academy. R. William T. Coons was employed to teach, but he left the school shortly to resume his study of Latin and Greek. A prominent citizen was sent to induce T. O. Owens of Wilson County to take charge of Irving Academy. Mr. Owens came and brought several of his students with him. Irving Academy soon became one of the leading colleges in Tennessee.

The school progressed well until near the close of that session. On the night of a weekly debate in 1844, a mob assembled near the house for the purpose of breaking up the debate. Soon after this effort to break up the debating, Irving Academy was burned to ashes. While the ashes were still hot, the neighbors gathered around the smoldering ruins and resolved to rebuild the school.

Isaac Hill, a prominent man in the county at that time, led the way in erecting Irving College. The community was eager for the school to be placed back. Everyone helped financially and manually. The new school, which was said to have been located approximately one-half mile from the first building, consisted of a college hall, ten dormitories, and a brick faculty residence. The buildings were made ready for the fall of 1844.

In 1845, the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee granted S. W. Owens a charter for the incorporation of Irving College. From this time, the school dates its beginning as one of the successful male colleges in Tennessee and of the South. Irving College developed into a greatly enlarged and finely equipped institution of learning with a full corps of highly trained teachers, educated in the best schools in the South and East. At one time, there were seventy-five students in attendance from the state of Alabama.

The course of study included English, Greek, Latin, French, science, mathematics, and dancing. There was a college paper called “The Dispatch”.

Irving College promised to be one of the noted schools of the South, but the Civil War closed its doors. The students from Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas decided to enter the Southern army. The library was divided among the students and they left the school for their homes.

During the war, the buildings were used as a barn for sheep and cattle. Following the war, the buildings were remodeled and some were rebuilt by E. Martin, I. Hill, W. M. Meadows and two Cardwells. Other citizens of the Irving College community and McMinnville helped with the building.

The school at this time was run as a military school under the leadership of Alfred Debard. For a number of years, it was one of the outstanding military schools in the area. It gradually declined and was later sold to E. B. Etter. The school was reopened for both young men and young ladies. After a number of years, E. B. Etter sold the school to the county. Mr. Etter and Warren County operated the school jointly for a few years.

In 1925, the old buildings were torn down the school was built on its present site which Judge P. N. Moffitt exchanged for the old college grounds. Fire again destroyed Irving College in 1928.

After the fire of 1928, a brick structure was built. The brick building was constructed in hope that fire would not destroy the school a third time. There were seven classrooms and an auditorium in the building situated on the “hill.” This building served as a high school and elementary school until 1952.

In 1952, the brick building became the “elementary building” while the high school and junior high gained a two-story classrooms and gymnasium structure. The new buildings came about after a damaging storm destroyed part of the old building.

In 1962, Irving College’s long-time friend, Judge Moffitt, donated land to build the west wing of the high school with its five classrooms and an enlarged cafeteria. Irving College could continue to grow with another grant of land by Judge Moffitt’s widow and daughter.

In 1966, a modern steel-structure building was constructed during the summer months. This building contained four classrooms which were used for the primary grades.

In 1969, the last senior class graduated at Irving College School with the consolidation of Warren County Schools. It then became a kindergarten through eighth grade school.

In 1978, another big change occurred. The old brick building built in 1929, and a part of the 1952 building, were torn down. The remaining part of the building was remodeled with addition of seven classrooms, a modern library, offices, and restrooms.

In 1994, our school campus was enlarged when our school board decided to purchase five acres to add to the west side of the school grounds. This land was to be used to construct a ball field.

In 1995, with the help of parents and community volunteers, a horse riding arena was built on a part of the newly purchased land. Our school building was again enlarged in 1996 with the addition of six more classrooms.

In 1998, a new ball field was constructed on the land purchased in 1994. An additional acre was purchased by the school board to add to the original five acres purchased in 1994. The additional acre would allow a road to be built connecting the softball field and horse arena to Dry Creek Rd.

In 2014, the Warren County Commission authorized three million dollars in order to construct new facilities at Irving College. Construction began in the summer of 2015 on a new gym, two new classrooms and a new cafeteria. Phase II of the construction will include reallocation and redesign of parts of the existing building. Stay tuned!


16.00 Boxes



Arrangement Note

Original, chronological

Source of Acquisition

Barbara Harmeyer

Method of Acquisition


Archon Finding Aid Title
Douglas Carlson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2020-06-19: Revised for DACS compliance by Douglas Carlson

Repository Details

Part of the Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Valdosta State University Archives, Odum Library
1500 N. Patterson St.
Valdosta GA 30601 United States
229-259-5055 (Fax)