Historic Jarvis homestead on White Oak Road (Oka) has
drawn many visitors following publishing of "The Legend
of Mammy Jane," written by Sybil Jarvis Pischke

By Bob Weaver 2013

"Don't spend any energy on anything you can't eat," said Labana Jane Jarvis (1850-1941) a Calhoun woman made famous in a fictionalized historical novel "The Legend of Mammy Jane."

"My grandmother was an amazing woman, having 14 children in the house, working to raise food and saving money to buy more land," said 92-year-old White Oak Road resident Irene Jarvis Gunn, who still lives in the historic Jarvis house.

The Jarvis family reposes on hillside cemetery beside
the homestead, where Labana Murphy Jarvis is buried

"Today, young mothers seemed overwhelmed with the care of a couple children, even with the modern conveniences," Irene said. "Grandmother often repeated the old adage, "Godliness is next to cleanliness."

"I'm overwhelmed every time I think of her, her strength and perseverance," Irene said.

Labana Jane Murphy married Thomas P. Jarvis (1841-1919) soon after he returned from the Civil War. Jarvis had been married previously, having six children with his first wife, she dying shortly after childbirth of the sixth child. She then had eight children with Thomas.

Irene Jarvis Gunn (left) a school teacher with a nearly 40-year career, has maintained the family homestead which was built replacing a log house after the Civil War.

"I'm connected to this place," said Irene, who has a sense of her roots and family every morning she rises.

Irene spent time with her grandmother as a child, recalling her two trips in an automobile. "Uncle Newt came from Ohio and encouraged her to return with him for a visit. When they arrived in Spencer, grandmother say all the people bustling around, and ask him to take her back home."

"Another time she got in a car and and went to the Oka School to vote," she said.

Original Jarvis barn and corn crib

New barn Irene built in the 1970s, designed and built
by a Frenchman who briefly lived in the county

Original double outhouse for privacy,
Irene still does canning at age 92

Long-time teacher Irene, whose parents Spencer and Effie McClain Jarvis are buried nearby, is a person of place, independent and sometimes feisty, whose values are connected to an earlier time.

She donated her parent's Oka country store building to the Calhoun Park, where it has been restored and on display.

"When I become president, they can't take away your property
and lock you up in a nursing home," said Irene Jarvis Gunn

See "MAMMY JANE" AUTHOR DIES - Calhoun Novelist Was 88

Note: The Jarvis family history is well-recorded, the original Jarvis' came to the county about 1843, on several thousands acres of land granted by the governor of Virginia.