My cousin Lynda Sykes wrote this about her visit to Mabee’s Corners many years ago, after reading about my ‘sighting’ of 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.
Ever 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. 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.
We’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. And Pa in a straw hat smoking a pipe. It was a scene straight out of Dogpatch! Tarpaper shacks with junk strung everywhere. Omigod!!!
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.
Marrying at a crossroads
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 three 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.