Tag Archives: Mabee

Mabee Graves

These are the gravestones of Nancy Mabee Ostrander and her family at Jackson Jackson Cemetery, Norfolk County, OntarioCemetery near Courtland.  Len Fluhrer, a London local history writer, sent me the photos.  He took them while at the cemetery with Kate Ford who is part of the Canada GenWeb Cemetery Project.

Norfolk County map 1877
Click for larger view

Jackson Cemetery is just outside Courtland.  Nearby, on the Otter River, is the site of the Middleton Hotel.  It was owned by James Clark(e) Ostrander with his first wife Nancy Mabee and then his second wife Louisa Maria Haney.  About 1910, the hotel was washed away in a river flood.

If you’d like to see these places on an old map, follow Mr. Fluhrer’s directions:

“Go to the Historical Atlas from 1878 online free from McGill University.  Select Middleton Township from the map.  Click on to view a large version and wait – the map is huge.

Nancy Mabee Ostrander's grave, Jackson CemeteryFollow the Goshen Road into Courtland the cemeteries are on the line of the old road I believe. The name Goshen itself has a hidden meaning to the Quakers, Methodists and Baptists and it connects the faiths to Genessee Conference which dates back to the early Calvinists in the 1600s.

Gravestone of Nancy Mabee James Ostrander childFollow Talbot Street back out of Courtland to the left of the map. Near the bottom you will see Little Otter Creek. John Ostrander’s place is on the right of the map at the river. Go to the very bottom left corner. Follow Col. Bostwicks Road to Lot 8.  At the first cross-roads, that is the Jas. Clark(e) Ostrander hotel.

Mabee’s Corners is still marked on Google Maps.  It’s south of Tillsonburg on 38 Talbot Road leading out of Courtland. On the old map Mabee’s Corners would be almost directly above the Ostrander Hotel on the Talbot Road.”

Seeking information

Dr. Haney's gravestone, Jackson CemeteryMr. Fluhrer, a local history writer,  is also looking for information on the career of Dr. George Haney, a relative and noted physician of London Ontario.  Dr. Haney’s gravestone is in the nearby Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery (853 Colonel Talbot Road, Middleton Township, Norfolk County).  If you wish to contact Mr. Fluhrer, please comment on this page and I will send the information on to him.

United Empire Rebels

A couple weeks ago, I posted the family tree of the Mabees, my paternal grandmother’s Christopher Mabee, Canadian Nationals 2005family.  It’s the family I knew least about, other than there are a lot of them in the Tillsonburg-Courtland area.  And I claim the fabulous figure skater Christopher Mabee, from Tillsonburg, as kin.  Don’t know how he’s related but I believe he must be, so I call him “Cousin Chris”.

Anyway, the internet allowed me to connect my limited knowledge of the Mabees with sources of a lot of information about them.  The thing that I was delighted to discover is that the Mabees came to Canada from the US as United Empire Loyalists.  That makes my entire lineage, both sides of both parents’ families, UEL.

Nancy Hart of Georgia, holding United Empire Loyalists prisonerSo talking with my husband, who was born and raised in the US, about the Loyalists.  His children are Canadian because of the Vietnam War.  I am Canadian because of the Revolutionary War.  Telling him about a Mabee ancestor whom the British hanged as a “spy” for the rebels.  The rest of the family came north to Canada. The American rebels, later known as the government and citizenry of the USA, seized their lands.

So what was that like?  Families divided by political opinion and geography.  For those who left, returning to the US was not an option unless they were willing to risk arrest.  Sounds like the American Civil War, doesn’t it?  Only it was a national border between them in the latter 1700s.

Butler's Rangers, painting by Garth DittrickBlack, white and First Nations – all belonged to the group that the new United States saw as traitors and that Canada called United Empire Loyalists.  All contributed to military efforts against the American “rebels” and all made new communities in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario.

Voluntarily or not, the loyalists had already left their homelands at least once.  Europeans like my ancestors had sought freedom from religious, economic or political oppression in a new land.

One tyrant or a thousand tyrants

Painting of Loyalists landing, Bay of QuintePresumably, my kin in the Mabee, Burwell, Anger and Lymburner families had found that in the beginning.  But when total independence was being discussed and fought for, they preferred political ties with Britain to living in the proposed republic.  “Better to live under one tyrant a thousand miles away, than a thousand tyrants one mile away” was how UEL Daniel Bliss put it.  And, to the north, there was a country/colony that agreed with that philosophy.  So they picked up stakes again and moved to British North America.

UEL version of Union Jack 1707-1801 Double rebels, and divided families.  Family members maybe never saw each other again.  Those who left had to abandon the land and homes they’d built up. They had to homestead all over again in new country.  New generations became American or Canadian, maybe not really thinking much about their connections to the other country and their family there.

UEL military service coronet, for Canadian heraldryFrom New Jersey to New Brunswick and New York to Niagara, those United Empire Loyalists, rebels against the United States of America, are my people.

Mabee’s Corners

My cousin Lynda Sykes wrote this about her visit to Mabee’s Corners many years ago, 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.

Mabee’s Corners now and then

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 country store was on our left – and to our right – were four or five more 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.

Marrying at a crossroads

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.