John Mercer, one of the sheriffs longest in office in the Province of Ontario, is a descendant of a very ancient English family, whose progenitors went to England from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and settled near Hastings, county of Sussex; members of the family still holding property there.
Our subject was born in the city of London, May 16, 1816, his father being Robert Mercer, a timber merchant. The maiden name of his mother was Sarah Hathaway Treacher. He was educated at a private school in Kent, where Lord Beaconsfield was once a pupil; in 1833 accompanied the family to Canada, they settling on a farm at Amherstburgh. In those days immigration was much more of a task than it is now. The family were thirteen weeks on the Atlantic Ocean, nearly two days on the Hudson river, six days on the Erie canal, and two days on Lake Erie. Twenty-seven years afterwards the mother of our subject visited England, and was just as many days in making the whole trip, as she was weeks in 1833, in crossing the ocean.
In 1835 Mr. Mercer and family, twelve in all, went to Windsor. Our subject spent two years in Philadelphia, Pa., returned to Windsor; became postmaster there about 1840 the first officer of the kind in the place, being deputy collector of customs at the same time; was deputy sheriff of the Western District including Essex, Kent, and Lambton counties, from 1840 to 1851; and on the division of the counties removed to Chatham, Shiretown of Kent, and in 1853 was appointed sheriff, an office which he has held for nearly twenty-seven years, discharging its duties with great acceptance to the community.
The sheriff at that time was George Wade Foott, from the city of Cork, Ireland. and at one time sheriff of that city. He immigrated to Canada about 1836; became sheriff of the Western District in 1840, and held the office until 1848. He resides at Thornbury four miles below Chatham, a beautiful country seat; and in 1875 he and his wife had their golden wedding. Mrs. Foott was a daughter of Sir Anthony Perrier, of Cork. Mr. F. keeps an “open house” all the year round, and dispenses hospitality with a munificence becoming a prince.
Sheriff Mercer is truly, we may say intensely, loyal to the Crown of his native country, in politics calling himself a “Tory,” and glorying in the name. In religious belief, he leans towards Unitarianism, but attends the Episcopal church.
After being in Canada half-a-dozen years, Sheriff Mercer returned to England, and on the 15th of June, 1839, at Norwood, near London, was joined in wedlock with Miss Bathia Sarah Morrison, a playmate of his early years. There are four children, all married and settled in life, two daughters and two sons. Bathia S., the eldest of all, is the wife of Rev. F. G. Elliott, pastor of the Episcopal church, Sandwich; Ellen Morrison is the wife of A. G. McWhinney, of the Post Office Department, Ontario; Robert is the governor of Kent county jail, and Harry is deputy sheriff of the same county, both residing at Chatham. Mrs. Mercer died March 17, 1879. She was an exemplary christian mother, a member of the Episcopal church, and her death was a great loss to the family.
Sheriff Mercer has long been a resident of Ontario; is well read in its history; and is a ready and interesting converser.