Charles Vance Millar and the Great Stork Derby

Charles Vance Millar is definitely one of the more colourful characters in Canada\’s history. Born in Alymer, Ontario 28 June 1854, he was the son of Simon Millar and Sarah Vance. A Toronto lawyer and businessman, he amassed himself a sizable fortune for the time period. Among his smart business decisions was acquiring BC Express Company and gaining the government mail delivery contracts in Northern British Columbia. Upon finding out that the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway would be going through Fort George (now Prince George, BC) he immediately expanded his business to include Fort George. He also managed to buy 200 acres around the area, foreseeing how important the future city would become in northern British Columbia.

He was known for his practical jokes and his belief that everyone had a price to their ethics. A life long bachelor, he died of cerebral hemorrhage in his office at 59 Yonge Street in Toronto on 31 October 1926. It was after his death that Charles Millar became truly famous. Or infamous, depending on how you look at it.

The will that Charles left has become the stuff of legend. Among the unusual bequests he made:

  1. He left a property he owned on Jamaica Island to three men he knew despised each other. He also stated that after the last survivor died, the proceeds from the sale of the property should go to the poor of Kingston, Jamaica.
  2. That every Protestant minister and every Orange Lodge member in Ontario should get a share in O\’Keefe\’s Brewing Company, Limited of Toronto. The joke is not only were the Protestant ministers leading the charge for the Temperance movement, but O\’Keefe\’s was a Catholic brewery.
  3. He gave shares of the Ontario Jockey Club to to two very vocal opponents of gambling, and to the owner of a rival horse racing track.

The final clause of the will initiated \”The Great Stork Derby\”. In the will he stated that the bulk of his estate after the other bequests would be awarded to the Toronto woman who had given birth to the most children in the ten years following his death. By the time the ten year anniversary had passed, this amounted to half a million dollars. That would be a life changing windfall in today\’s time period, let along in 1936, smack in the middle of The Depression. The race to make babies made headlines around the world. At the end of the ten years, and after a prolonged court battle, four women were declared the winners. Each woman had given birth to nine babies, all of which could be proven with government birth registrations. Two other women were each awarded $12,500, because of the murkiness of their claims. One woman had 10 babies, but not all of them were fathered by her husband. The other woman also had 10 children, but 4 were stillborn.

Visit the following links for more details:
Estate Law Canada


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