Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Engineers

Edited by
Rod Millard

DENNIS, John Stoughton , b. 22 Oct. 1856, Weston Ont.; d. 26 Nov. 1938, Victoria, B.C. He was the son of John Stoughton Dennis (d. 1885), whose arrival in the Northwest with a survey party helped precipitate the Red River Rebellion (1869), and, as Canada's first surveyor-general, was responsible for mapping the Northwest. He followed his father's career as a surveyor and soldier. Educated at Trinity College School, Upper Canada College and the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ont., he began his career in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories and was commissioned a Dominion Land Surveyor and a Dominion Topographical Surveyor. In 1879, he joined the Hudson Bay Company as a surveyor and engineer, and worked on western irrigation works. In 1883, he went into private practice in Winnipeg surveying town sites in the Northwest. He commanded the Dominion Land Survey Intelligence Corps during the 1885 Riel Rebellion. Joining the Department of Public Works in 1897, he became deputy minister and chief engineer of the Northwest Territories and was responsible for implementing the Irrigation Act. In 1903, he joined the Canadian Pacific Railway and, in 1917 was appointed to the position of Chief Commissioner of Colonization and Development. He retired in 1930. A militia colonel, he was head of the Canadian mission in the United States (1916-17); served on the British-Canadian Mission, and was the director of transportation and intelligence on the general staff of the Canadian Brigade in Serbia. In 1918, he was chairman of the Serbian Trade Commission. A member of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, he served on its council in 1906 and 1911, was elected vice president (1907) and president in 1917. Created a CMG and decorated for his service during the Riel Rebellion and the First World War, his engineering and surveying work greatly facilitated the settlement of the Northwest during the Laurier era.

Mike Wong