The following is an extract, with some paraphrasing, from a report by the Attorney General, Mr. O Mowatt, dated 20th February 1878 which gives a good overview of the court proceedings..
…”the estate of the late Andrew Mercer, of the City of Toronto, which has been adjudged by the Court of Chancery, to belong to the crown, and has thereby become the property of the Province, the said Mercer having died unmarried and intestate, without heir or next of kin.
The estate consists of real and personal estate, valued now at about $140,000 or more. The said Andrew Mercer died on 13th June 1871 at Toronto. At the time of his death, one Bridget O’Reilly , by whom he had had a son, Andrew, twenty years before, now was living with him as his housekeeper. The general supposition was that the deceased was himself illegitimate.. Young Mercer made no claim of being Mercer’s legitimate son at the time of Mercer’s death but did later make such a claim. When the claim was made a trial was ordered which lasted several days. The courts decision was against the claimant. The judge said that he had not the shadow of a doubt that there had never been a marriage, and that Andrew Mercer junior was not the legitimate son of the deceased.
The solicitors for the Province advertised in the London Times (England) ( and in other newspapers in Scotland and Canada), for heirs and next of kin, if any, of the deceased; and steps were taken for getting in and securing the personal estate. Several persons made claim; young Mercer was not among these claimants. He and his mother were allowed to remain in the occupation of the premises on which they had been living with the deceased during his life; and the son was allowed to receive the rents of certain other premises which Mr. Mercer had contracted verbally to buy for his benefit, but had died before procuring to be conveyed.
In August 1875 Bridget O’Reilly and her son Andrew F. Mercer set up, for the first time, the pretence that she had been married to the deceased, that such marriage had taken place a month before the birth of young Andrew, and that the said Andrew was himself the heir of the deceased. It was also pretended that an unwitnessed will of the deceased had been discovered accidentally in an old law book of his, in which alleged will a reference was made to a wife and son, and to them his estate was thereby declared to be given. Suspicion that the will was a forgery led to the case being moved from the Surrogate Court to the Court of Chancery on 1st Sep 1875.
After an exhaustive trial the court decided on 21st Jan 1876 that the said Andrew was not the legitimate son of the said deceased and that the pretended will was not the will of the deceased. There had been no marriage and both the pretended entry thereof in an Old Register and the pretended will were fabrications.
The various claims of others having afterwards been disposed of, the court, on 13th Sep last, made a decree that among other things, that Andrew Mercer died intestate and without heirs. The estate had become vested in Her Majesty. The plaintiff was entitled to $1,000, under an order in council, less certain costs.
The revised statute respecting Escheats and Forfeitures, the Lt. Governor in Council was entitled to award all or part of such estate to anyone having a moral claim on the person to whom the estate belonged. With respect to Bridget, it was judged that she had no moral claim to any portion of the estate. Her bad conduct to Mr. Mercer in his latter years as shown by memoranda which he left among his papers; and the fact that she had somehow possessed herself of $12,000 or more which belonged to him and which she now has, are sufficient to disentitle her to consideration, even if she had not been found to be party to a conspiracy to establish a false will and a false marriage. (She was left in possession of what she now had.) The son got the farm in Etobicoke of 50 acres, which Mr. Mercer, a few months before his death had bought for him at a cost of $2,780.
The property of the deceased was the result of a long life of economy and thrift. All bear record to his having been most just and upright in his dealings, and testify that he was a kind-hearted, humane, charitable and generous man.
The undersigned recommends that out of the residue of the estate the sum of $10,000 be appropriated for the erection of a Provincial Eye and Ear Infirmary in connection with the Toronto general Hospital to be called The Andrew Mercer Eye and Ear Infirmary; a further sum of $90,000 to the erection of The Andrew Mercer Ontario Reformatory for Females.
Signed. O. Mowatt
20 Feb 1878