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Mabel Steiner Callaway

     Mabel Steiner Callaway was born Sept. 17, 1889 in Bon Secour, AL the daughter of John and Mary Louisa (Smith) Steiner. She grew up in the home of her grandparents William and Mary Kelley Steiner, after the death of her mother, when Mabel was five days old. Her grandparents still had three children living at home, Caroline "Callie", was 15 years old, Eli "Bud" was 9 years old, and Ann was 7 years old. In those days times were very hard, and children learned how to share at an early age. Her grandfather, William, was a farmer, but to supplement their income, he caught oysters part of the time.

     When Mabel was four years old, her aunt, Indiana Steiner Brandt, died suddenly leaving a baby son, Richard "Rich" Brandt, leaving another grandchild for her grandparents to raise, and take care of. With the arrival of Rich, most of Mabel's care was turned over to Callie, thus began a bond that lasted between the two for the rest of their lives.

     Mabel had a pleasant childhood, although the family had very little wealth. She learned to ride a horse at a very young age, and when it came time for her grandfather to grind his sugar cane to make syrup, Mabel was chosen to ride the horse around the cane mill to extract the juice, which was a chore she enjoyed very much.

     The only school in the area during those days was about two miles away, and the children who went had to walk. Mabel did not start school until a new school was built in Bon Secour, when she was 9 years old. She loved school, and being with the other children in the neighborhood. Her best friends were Pauline "Chippie" Plash, and her younger brother John "Boogie", whose parents owned a store and freight boats that ran from Bon Secour to Mobile. When Mabel went to the store Boogie would always give her an apple.

     In the summertime, the Steiner children would go to the south beach to wade in the water, and catch crabs. They always took them home for her grandmother to make gumbo, which was a real treat. Mabel loved to play in the water, although she never learned to swim, she could row a boat as good as any boy.

     The Steiner family belonged to St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which was across the river from their home. The minister in those days only came to preach when he could find the time. He would come down in the evening on the freight boat, so it was decided, that when the minister came the deacon would hang a lantern in the bell tower of the church that night, then all the members would see the light, and come to service the next day.

(1906) Confirmation Class at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Front Row (I to rt.) Mabel Steiner, Angeline Steiner, Maggie Steiner, John (Boogie) Plash. Back Row, (I to rt.) Jacob Steiner, Mrs. John Plash, and Pauline (Chippie) Plash.

     Mabel and Rich were raised as brother and sister, since they grew up in the same home, their love for each other lasted a lifetime. Mabel had another cousin named, Charlie Steiner, who lived nearby and she looked up to him like a big brother. Charlie would take her and her friend, Chippie to all the social affairs in the community. When she had a problem, he was a great friend to talk to.

     When Mabel was around 14, her Aunt Callie married Halbert Childress, and moved to the Lagoon Community, which was across Oyster Bay from Bon Secour. Mabel missed her very much and every chance she got she went to visit. That was not a very easy task, because you needed a boat to row across the bay, or you had to walk around four or five miles.

(1962) L to Rt: Front Row Milton Childress, Callie Childress, Mabel Callaway. Back Row L to Rt: Mary Dukes, Lauana Harbison, Emily Castelin and Eleanor Stockes.

     On one of these visits to Aunt Callie's she met a boy named Joe Callaway. He was the nephew of Uncle Halbert, and she was not too impressed with Joe at their first meeting. After she got home from the visit, she told her cousin, Charlie, about meeting this boy named Joe. Charlie told her that he knew Joe and that he was a fine person. The next time she saw Joe, who just happened to be walking past her house, she remembered what Charlie had said. Soon Mabel's feelings for Joe changed and he was coming to court her. They joined Charlie and Chippie when they would have socials, or they would just take long walks together. As time passed the couples fell in love and were both married. Usually in those days friendships lasted a lifetime. After Mabel married Joe, they moved to the Lagoon Community and she could visit her Aunt Callie whenever she wanted to.

(left to right): Mabel, Bunny, Pete, Mae, Mary, Calvin and Clem Callaway.

     She never talked much about her Uncle Bud and Aunt Ann, but there was also a special feeling between them for the rest of their lives. During the 1920's, Aunt Callie's family, moved to Bayou La Batre, Alabama, which is in Mobile County, but Mabel's family went to visit her once or twice a year, as long as she lived.

Joe and Mabel Callaway on their 60th Wedding Anniversary, February 15, 1968.

     Mabel and Joe were married 62 years when he died on July 7, 1970, and Mabel died on May 5, 1979, at the age of 89 years old. These stories were told to me by my grandmother Mabel Callaway, when I was young and she always called me her "Baby Girl".

     Written 2001 for The Baldwin County Heritage Book.
Submitted by: Jennifer Ryan Kelly, 21 South Bethel Forest Dr., Saraland, AL 36571-2755