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Published: 5/25/2006

Monroe County: Blink and you'll miss the hamlet of Liberty Corners

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A historic marker that was paid for by St. Luke s and explains the history of Liberty Corners sits
in front of the old church.
A historic marker that was paid for by St. Luke s and explains the history of Liberty Corners sits in front of the old church.
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The old church with marker in front is now a hair spa. The old church with marker in front is now a hair spa.
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It's not a town. Or a city. Or even a village.

It's barely a place.

But Liberty Corners, Mich., does exist.

Head north on Jackman Road until you get to Sterns. You're there.

The mailing address is Temperance, but a sign in front of a shopping strip on the southeast corner tells the real story.

"Historic Liberty Corners," it says.

The source on such matters is Trudy Urbani, past president of the Historical Society of Bedford and author of the recently published Bedford Township history.

Liberty Corners, she said, was established in 1859 - six years before the Civil War ended. It began as a school district, with the one-room Liberty School, in Bedford Township District 9. In 1880, a church was built kitty-corner to the school.

That was it.

"There was never a grocery store or anything else," Mrs. Urbani said.

At the time, four families - the Bibbs, Mays, Hoffmans and Lowes - lived on each of the corners. The school was built on a portion of the May property, and the Bibbs donated land for the church, first named the First Wesleyan Methodist Church of Bedford.

Often in those days, places were named for people. That was not the case for Liberty Corners, whose name origin is not known.

However, there is speculation.

Frank Paine, pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church, which sits on the northeast corner - the old Hoffman property - believes it has something to do with the Centennial and national fund-raising effort for the Statue of Liberty that occurred in the 1850s and 1860s.

"I wonder if there's something behind that," he said.

The Wesleyan church, which is still standing, was built by J.B. Sellick, who also served as pastor. Eventually, the Wesleyans pulled out and the structure became a nondenominational church, called Liberty Corners Community Church. It was directed by the Liberty Corners

Ladies Aid Society, which organized church school classes and recruited visiting pastors.

In 1940, Zion Lutheran Church in Ottawa Lake took over the church. In the 1960s, St. Luke's was built across the street and, according to Pastor Paine, the new church held church school classes in the old church up until 1990. Neal Hopkins, a Bedford Township insurance agent, bought the building, refurbished it, and moved his office there. His wife runs a hair salon and spa in the front.

"Neal has done a great job fixing up the building," Pastor Paine said.

A historic marker paid for by St. Luke's and explaining the history of Liberty Corners sits in front of the old church.

The school building still exists. It has been incorporated into the shopping strip and houses DiVine Realty.

Mrs. Urbani said it's apparent there used to be a small cemetery on the school property. Bones and tombstones were found there some years ago when people were putting in a playground.

Pastor Paine believes it's important for people to know the history of Liberty Corners, which is not on maps but can be found doing a MapQuest search. He also believes the community could take advantage of this history. To that end, the church is sponsoring a Liberty Corners Day on Sept. 17.

"Our community is made up of [many] little neighborhoods. There's no sense of a bigger community," he said.

Last year, a similar event was held but was unsuccessful.

"People were confused about what it was," Pastor Paine said. "This year we'll be more focused. [We're hoping] to create a community identity."

Contact George Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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