Col. John Dyde
1795 - c1875

From: "Montreal History and Gazeteer to the year 1892"
By Rev. J. Douglas Borthwick, John Lovell & Son, Montreal 1892
(photo by William Notman, 1863. collection: McCord Museum)


COL. JOHN DYDE was the son of the late Robert Dyde, of London, and was born in 1795, at Altona, in the Duchy of Holstein in Denmark. The French Revolution was then at its height, and his father being compelled to come to Paris, where he had large business relations, sent Mrs. Dyde to Altona, a town on the River Elbe, which was soon after taken possession of by the French, under whose flag the Colonel was born. Mrs. Dyde disguised as a sailor, with her young son concealed in a clothes basket, escaped to Hamburg and afterwards reached Paris, where her husband, with many of his countrymen, was a prisoner, for having too openly expressed opinions hostile to the powers that were. He was subsequently released, and in the spring of 1810 came with his family to New York, and in 1813 moved to Boston. 

In 1814, the family came to Montreal, and he was at once installed in the Militia, subsequently becoming Sergeant Major and Ensign and Adjutant. In 1817, he obtained a situation in the North West Company, and then set out for the Red River Country, going as far as the Rocky Mountains. In 1819, he returned to Montreal. In 1822, he married Eliza Holt, daughter of W. J. Holt, a veteran officer who had been taken prisoner at Saratoga while serving under Burgoyne. He afterwards made two voyages to the West Indies, and was twice shipwrecked. After suffering great hardships, he arrived in 1829 in New York and immediately came to Montreal, where he had been given up as lost by all but his wife.

In 1831, he went to Quebec as Inspector of Ashes, and was subsequently made manager there of the Towboat Company, retaining his place as Inspector. In 1833, he was appointed Lieutenant and Adjutant of the Garrison Artillery. In 1835, in addition to his other appointments, he received the position of Manager of the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company. At the outbreak, in 1837, of the political troubles he raised the Company of Grenadiers in twenty-four hours after the order had issued to raise a regiment of a thousand strong, The Loyal Quebec Volunteers, and thus became senior officer. The rebellion having been apparently quelled, the "Loyal Quebec Volunteers" were on the 1st of May, 1838, disbanded, and he returned to Montreal, and received the situation of Inspector of Ashes. In November the rebellion having again broken out, he was transferred to the Montreal Light Infantry, and served with them till the troubles were over. In 1845, during the Oregon difficulty, he organized the Montreal Light Infantry in three weeks.

In 1850, he acted as Magistrate with the Troops in suppressing the fearful riots in Griffintown, when 207 houses were burned. In 1855, at the reorganization of the active militia, he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the Montreal Rifles, now the Prince of Wales Rifles, and on his promotion to command the brigade was presented by the Regiment with a magnificent testimonial. In 1860, he was appointed Commandant of the whole active Force in Montreal, and subsequently received the high rank which by special clause in the Militia he held to his death, that of full Colonel. In 1861, during the " Trent " difficulty, the Force was through his efforts and the loyalty of the citizens raised in a few days from 1,000 to 4,000 men. 

His eldest son Robert Dyde, who was Major of the Light Infantry, fell a sacrifice this year to disease contracted in the service, his second son Charles Dyde having previously died from the effects of the climate while serving in India in the 14th Light Dragoons. In the same year, 1861, he was President of the First Rifle tournament held in Canada; he was also President in 1863 of the Grand Rifle Tournament held in Montreal, " grand " because no tournament since has equalled it in splendor or success. He was President also for some years of the St. George's Society of Montreal

In 1866, during the Fenian difficulties, he commanded the Second Brigade, the First being composed of all the Regulars, the Second of all the Volunteers. In 1868, by the provision of Sir George Cartier's Militia Bill, his connection with the force was, much to his regret, unexpectedly severed after fifty-four years of uninterrupted service. He was, however, by special privilege allowed to retain his rank. On the 25th of March, 1871, he was presented by the Volunteer Force with a magnificent full length portrait of himself, painted by the late well-known artist, Mr. Bell-Smith, sen. So great was the number of persons present on the occasion that the ceremony became a perfect ovation. The hall was densely packed, and hundreds were unable to gain admittance. His sixty years service in the Military Force of the country did not impair his vigor. 

To the last he was fond of all athletic pursuits, and was a keen curler. On one occasion he had the honor, at his Lordship's special invitation, of playing a single-handed match with the Governor General, the Earl of Dufferin, who had been a pupil of the Colonel's in curling. After a most eventful life and beloved by all classes of the citizens, he died at the advanced age of eighty years a few years ago.


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