Mabee’s Corners

My cousin Lynda Sykes wrote this about her visit to Mabee’s Corners, after reading about my ‘sightingof the road sign for it.  She graciously gave me permission to post it.  Lynda is the editor and collaborator of Charles Kipp’s WWII memoir Because We Are Canadians.

Mabee's Corners sign, Norfolk Co. ONEver since I can remember anything, I remember Grandma telling me many times with great pride how her family came to found Mabee’s Corners, which I vaguely knew was somewhere down around near Tillsonburg.

Grandma told me that her great-great-great (I don’t remember now how many “greats”) grandparents got married on the three-way crossroads of Mabee’s Corners.  There was nothing there at the time – just the intersection of the three roads.  She said the bride came from one direction, the bridegroom came from another direction, and the preacher came from the third direction.  They all met at the intersection and the preacher married them there at the crossroads.  After they were married, the young couple was looking for a place to settle, and so they decided to settle at that same crossroads.  And thus, they founded Mabee’s Corners.  Real romantic story, right?

I never saw Mabee’s Corners until I was a teenager, dating Wayne.  One Sunday, he and I were out driving and we were coming into Tillsonburg, kinda through the ‘back door’ from the south.  I saw this road sign that pointed to Mabee’s Corners, so many miles down the road.  I got all excited, and asked Wayne to turn around and follow that road.  As he did, I’m telling him with great pride about how my ancestors founded Mabee’s Corners, and relating Grandma’s romantic story to him.

Today, Mabee’s Corners looks very different from what it did then, almost 50 years ago.  Then, it was just a three-way stop.  It’s only in the last 20 years or so that they opened up what used to be barely a cowpath to make a fourth road running to the south, thus making it into a four-way stop.  Today, all the roads in the south country are paved, and several modern, tidy homes have been built in Mabee’s Corners.

Back then however, when I was happily telling Wayne Grandma’s wonderful romantic story, it was very, very different.  And it was March, when everything looks particularly bad and dirty and scrubby at best.

shack near Ky. Jefferson Davis monumentWe’re driving along, getting closer and closer to Mabee’s Corners, and we start seeing all these dilapidated tarpaper shacks along the road.  I remember one place in particular that had a sagging front porch with mud and junk everywhere.  Chickens roosting on the railings, while Ma and Pa Kettle (or maybe Mabee – haha!) sat in rocking chairs, with Pa in a straw hat smoking a pipe.  It was a scene straight out of Dogpatch!  A few yards more, and we found ourselves at the ‘famous’ three-way crossroads.  A very rundown, seedy-looking country store was on our left – and to our right – were four or five more filthy tarpaper shacks with junk strung everywhere.  Omigod!!!  It was “Hillbilly Central”!

Needless to say, I was stunned!  I had always wanted to see this place.  Wayne looked at me with such a smirk on his face and he started to laugh, “So this is the place your ancestors founded, eh?  Well, it looks like they’re still here.”  Well – we laughed and we laughed and we laughed.  It was at such odds with the romantic story I had just been telling.  For years and years, even after Mabee’s Corners got cleaned up, we could never drive through it on the way down to Judy and Fred’s without laughing.

Years later, after Grandma passed away, Mom found a newspaper clipping amongst her papers and keepsakes.  It was an article about the Mabee family, but it also gave some history regarding early pioneer culture and customs in this area.  It described the practice of marrying at a crossroads, like Grandma’s ancestors did.

Normally when a couple plans to marry, in order for the union to be legal, they either have to have their marriage certificate for at least Beverly Hillbillies, armedthree days before the marriage date or have the banns read aloud in church for three Sundays before the blessed event.  However, back then, if one was in a hurry, there was another way.  If neither of those two criteria had been met, a marriage could still be considered legal if 1) the marriage took place at midnight, 2) the bride and groom were attired in their nightclothes and 3) the marriage took place at a crossroads.

SURE SOUNDS LIKE A PREMISE FOR A SHOTGUN WEDDING TO ME!  Needless to say, this article pretty much obliterated whatever romantic notions I had left regarding my ancestors’ founding of Mabee’s Corners.

Doesn’t it make ya’ wonder if great-great-great-great-great-grammy was knocked up, and that great-great-great-great-great-grandpappy wasn’t too thrilled about marryin’ her?  But bless their hearts!  I guess we all turned out all right anyway.  All I can say is, “Thanks,” and I hope life wasn’t too hard for them.

And those are my stories about Mabee’s Corners.

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13 thoughts on “Mabee’s Corners”

  1. I’m a Mabee that grew up in the area. Just 3 miles south of Mabee’s Corner. My family have been long time residents of this area. The parcel of land where my brother Cliff lives was the Mabee homestead that my Great-Great Grandfather built. The barn is gone, two Tobacco Kilns still stand on the property on the North Road of the former Houghton Township. My Grandfather George lived just North of our house (where my mother Shirley (Vernon) Mabee still lives). There are more Mabee’s in the area than a lot of people knew. I now reside in Port Rowan where there are other Mabee’s as well.

    1. Hi Scott, it’s nice learning more about Mabee’s Corners and who lived where. Your grandfather and my grandmother were brother and sister, I see. On my Mabee photo page, there are some pictures of him and your grandmother. I hope your mother is well, and thanks for writing.

  2. I went to see Mabee’s Corners for the first time today. Wow there’s is even a side road named Mabee’s Side road . Well it was really kind of overwhelming as this is most likely the home of my ancestors my last name is Mabee . I was hoping to find a little trinket business card or something with the name and address but no such luck. I did go down the road about a mile and a half and found the cemetery and there were many graves of the Mabees. So I guess there must have been a fairly large settlement of Mabees at one time. Now that leaves me wondering how many Mabees still live in the area?
    Sure would be fun to have a Mabee reunion there.

    1. Hi Karen, glad you made it to Mabee’s Corners. I don’t know how many still live there or in the area. I don’t know if there have been family reunions there. It’s a good idea. Maybe we’ll hear from a Mabee who can answer these questions for us?

  3. Hi there!

    Interesting article. Mabee’s Corners is one of the most beautiful, magical places in Norfolk County. I grew up on the North, West corner directly across from my Grandparents who spent most of their lives living there. The sandy, nutrient rich farmland was dedicated to tobacco for over 50 years and you can still find fields of it there along with corn and soybeans. I have the Happiest childhood memories growing up there and I still visit several times a month. It’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature, relax and appreciate how beautiful our world really is.

    1. Hi Stacey, you’re right. That area, north of Lake Erie, is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, the countryside, towns and villages. Both sides of my family lived around where Elgin, Oxford and Norfolk Counties meet. Rediscovering it with adult eyes was one of the things I’m happiest about having done.

  4. Hi. When I was about 14, my Dad moved us to one of Matt Dean’s tobacco farms at Maybees Corners – year 1946 – as a sharegrower. At that time the store had a pool table, few groceries and gas pumps. Soon it was sold to another man who made it mostly groceries. My younger brothers attended the local school and later attended Tillsonburg High School. I have many memories of that place and some of the local families — Davies, Vandendriechie-(probably misspelled),people on the corner that I babysat for. A year or so later Dad moved to another of Matt’s farm that was a concession south – (very swampy).
    I know well tobacco work; pulling plants, planting, hoeing, topping, suckering. handing leaves, tying and stripping in the barn.
    I don’t know if this part of my life is of any interest to anyone — and I also met my husband of 50+ years –(deceased) there.
    If anyone lived there at that time, it would be nice to swap experiences.

    jlw Saskatchewan, April, 2015

    1. Hi J – thanks for writing. My mother worked in tobacco one year, said she quickly decided to never do it again. When I wanted to, because it was good money, she said you do not want to do that! She always laughed at Stompin’ Tom’s song Tillsonburg, said he knew what he was singing about. Thanks for sharing your memories of that and of Mabee’s Corners.

  5. For the mist part my grandmother says the store is the same. Their bedrooms on the 2nd floor, store in the middle and porch and kitchen in the little section to the right.

  6. That seedy-looking store at mabee’s corners was built and run by my great-grandfather. My grandmother lived in the house by the store and says she pumped many a gas tank as a girl. It had been sold before she was grown and they bought a tobacco farm down the road. I drive by the store twice a year for family reunions and I don’t believe i’ve ever seen the place as seedy. I’ll keep a good eye out for it next time.

    1. Hi Krista, thanks for telling us about the store. The link you sent for the picture doesn’t seem to work. I’d love to see it. I had no pictures, past or past, to use for this story. The building in the picture is not in Mabee’s Corners, it’s just one I found online that seemed to convey the sense of what was written. Thanks for writing and anything you want to add to fill out the story would be greatly appreciated.

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