Marrying Up, an Estate Dispute in 1910 (Things Haven’t Changed Much in over a Century)

Photo credit: The Winnipeg Tribune, November 28, 1912, pg 1.

Originally published on LinkedIn: January 16, 2021

In my personal time, I do a lot of historical research, both as a writer and as a genealogist. While combing through newspaper archives, I came across an estate dispute from 1910 that could be taken from the headlines today. I thought I would share it with you, as most of my connections are from the tax and litigation world. I know some of you are history buffs too.

In 1912, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments regarding the mental capacity of 84-year-old “eccentric bachelor” Michael Fraser, of Midland, at the time he married 35-year-old Hannah Robertson, of Dundas, in January 1910.[1] Fraser’s friends and family were concerned about his $80,000 wealth and the possibility of him falling “victim to the charms of a lady young enough to be his granddaughter.” The plaintiff, Catherine McCormick, a young woman who was a half-cousin of Fraser, would be the heir to his wealth if the marriage was annulled. (Based on an online inflation calculator, the modern amount of wealth would be about CAD$2.1 million).

In the initial Divisional Court case, (24 O.L.R. 222), William Smith, the man who looked after Fraser, stated that numerous people came to the house on the morning on January 13, 1910, and after they left Fraser said “I believe they say there was a wedding here this morning.”[2] He also testified that Fraser was used to drinking two gallons of whiskey a week. His testimony was in McCormick’s favour.

Dr. Ryan, from Rockwood Hospital in Kingston, examined Fraser and concluded that he had “no hesitation…that Fraser was suffering from senile dementia, and that he was not capable of looking after his own affairs.” The court found that Fraser was not of sound mind to take care of his affairs.

Fraser took it to the Ontario Court of Appeal. It was argued that evidence from Frasers’ long-time doctor was not given, nor was any information from his long-time solicitor, long-term friends, nor his new wife.[3] Judges went to visit Fraser at his home and he answered their questions about Hannah and his finances with detail and seemingly sound mind. Extracts of this discussion were read out in court. One Edmonton Journal report alleged that a wedding was going to occur on September 30, 1909, however, it was prevented by “armed control over the defendant and his house.”[4] On June 18, 1912, Chief Justice Sir Charles Moss, Sir William Meredith, and Justice Garrow delivered their judgement that a new trial would be ordered.[5]

On November 23, 1912, Fraser died, and left his estate to his wife. The dispute went on until October 1914, when the case was finally settled, however the details were not made public.[6]

You can read the details of the 1912-1913 case in which the judge ordered a new trial here: Ed. James F. Smith, The Ontario Law Reports: Cases Determined in the Court of Appeal and in the High Court of Justice for Ontario, 1913, (Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1913), pgs. 508-537.

_____________

[1] Special Despatch to The Globe.The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]01 Oct 1910: 10; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]16 May 1911: 8; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]25 Nov 1912: 7; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]24 Oct 1914: 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ed. James F. Smith, The Ontario Law Reports: Cases Determined in the Court of Appeal and in the High Court of Justice for Ontario, 1913, (Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1913), pgs. 508-537.

[4] Edmonton Journal (EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA), Monday, November 25, 1912, pg. 3.

[5] The Ottawa Citizen (OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA), Wednesday, June 19, 1912, pg. 18.

[6] Calgary Herald (CALGARY, ALBERTA, ALBERTA, CANADA), Wednesday, June 19, 1912, pg. 7; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]24 Oct 1914: 6. 

Marrying Up, an Estate Dispute in 1910 (Things Haven’t Changed Much in over a Century)

Originally published on LinkedIn: January 16, 2021

In my personal time, I do a lot of historical research, both as a writer and as a genealogist. While combing through newspaper archives, I came across an estate dispute from 1910 that could be taken from the headlines today. I thought I would share it with you, as most of my connections are from the tax and litigation world. I know some of you are history buffs too.

In 1912, the Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments regarding the mental capacity of 84-year-old “eccentric bachelor” Michael Fraser, of Midland, at the time he married 35-year-old Hannah Robertson, of Dundas, in January 1910.[1] Fraser’s friends and family were concerned about his $80,000 wealth and the possibility of him falling “victim to the charms of a lady young enough to be his granddaughter.” The plaintiff, Catherine McCormick, a young woman who was a half-cousin of Fraser, would be the heir to his wealth if the marriage was annulled. (Based on an online inflation calculator, the modern amount of wealth would be about CAD$2.1 million).

In the initial Divisional Court case, (24 O.L.R. 222), William Smith, the man who looked after Fraser, stated that numerous people came to the house on the morning on January 13, 1910, and after they left Fraser said “I believe they say there was a wedding here this morning.”[2] He also testified that Fraser was used to drinking two gallons of whiskey a week. His testimony was in McCormick’s favour.

Dr. Ryan, from Rockwood Hospital in Kingston, examined Fraser and concluded that he had “no hesitation…that Fraser was suffering from senile dementia, and that he was not capable of looking after his own affairs.” The court found that Fraser was not of sound mind to take care of his affairs.

Fraser took it to the Ontario Court of Appeal. It was argued that evidence from Frasers’ long-time doctor was not given, nor was any information from his long-time solicitor, long-term friends, nor his new wife.[3] Judges went to visit Fraser at his home and he answered their questions about Hannah and his finances with detail and seemingly sound mind. Extracts of this discussion were read out in court. One Edmonton Journal report alleged that a wedding was going to occur on September 30, 1909, however, it was prevented by “armed control over the defendant and his house.”[4] On June 18, 1912, Chief Justice Sir Charles Moss, Sir William Meredith, and Justice Garrow delivered their judgement that a new trial would be ordered.[5]

On November 23, 1912, Fraser died, and left his estate to his wife. The dispute went on until October 1914, when the case was finally settled, however the details were not made public.[6]

You can read the details of the 1912-1913 case in which the judge ordered a new trial here: Ed. James F. Smith, The Ontario Law Reports: Cases Determined in the Court of Appeal and in the High Court of Justice for Ontario, 1913, (Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1913), pgs. 508-537.

_____________

[1] Special Despatch to The Globe.The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]01 Oct 1910: 10; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]16 May 1911: 8; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]25 Nov 1912: 7; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]24 Oct 1914: 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ed. James F. Smith, The Ontario Law Reports: Cases Determined in the Court of Appeal and in the High Court of Justice for Ontario, 1913, (Toronto: Canada Law Book Company, 1913), pgs. 508-537.

[4] Edmonton Journal (EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA), Monday, November 25, 1912, pg. 3.

[5] The Ottawa Citizen (OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA), Wednesday, June 19, 1912, pg. 18.

[6] Calgary Herald (CALGARY, ALBERTA, ALBERTA, CANADA), Wednesday, June 19, 1912, pg. 7; The Globe (1844-1936); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]24 Oct 1914: 6. 


Published by AncestryByAlicia

After obtaining my Master of Arts degree in History, and working on my genealogy for over 13 years, I decided to write about interesting historical matters from not only my family, but other interesting tidbits as well. I also research and present free walking tours in my city, including "Haunted Oshawa" and "Murder and Mayhem in Oshawa." I am currently writing two books. One is a historical account of small-town murders in Ontario. The other is a historical novel about the Royal African Company's James Fort on the Gambia River, 1715-1740.

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